The last time New York state's gun laws were tightened, public service posters proclaimed, “Guns=Prison.” In 2006, says the New York Times, the mandatory prison sentence was increased to 3.5 years from one year. In 2011, fewer than half the defendants arrested for illegal possession of a loaded gun in New York City went to prison. John Feinblatt, the mayor’s criminal justice coordinator, said, the prison rate formerly was 28 percent, and added, “We’ve made a lot of progress.”
The fact that only half the suspects arrested wind up in state prison also demonstrates that the prerogatives of prosecutors and judges still create a lot of wiggle room, particularly in cases that are weaker or have mitigating circumstances. Feinblatt said the laws had a “gigantic loophole”: prison sentences are mandatory except where the interests of justice would dictate otherwise. “You could drive a Mack truck through that,” he said.