Pennsylvania is considering a mandatory-minimum five-year prison sentence for any convicted felon caught with a gun, says the Philadelphia Daily News. State law already requires convicted felons who are armed when they commit new crimes to be imprisoned for five years. This new proposal would require the same penalty even if the convict committed no crime other than gun possession. It also would classify that offense – as well as other firearm crimes such as straw-purchasing and illegal transfers – as “crimes of violence,” increasing penalties for subsequent arrests.
“This bill will go a long way toward being a disincentive to people to carrying a gun illegally on the streets of Philadelphia,” Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said. “Right now, there is no real disincentive for that to happen. It’s going to make a lot of people think twice.” The bill was overwhelmingly approved by the House in May and is pending in the Senate. Mark Bergstrom of the state sentencing commission told a Senate hearing yesterday that the bill could put thousands more people in state prisons. Of 550 cases of convicted felons caught with guns in 2010, 438 were carrying their guns loaded, which typically means a stiffer penalty, he said. Still, nearly a quarter of them – 124 – were sentenced only to probation, diversionary discipline or short stints in county jails.