Bill to increase penalties for felons possessing guns moves forward

Published: May 12, 2020

By: Paige Daniel, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE—A Senate committee voted 4-1 Tuesday to forward a bill that would designate possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a felony as a crime of violence.

Currently, the minimum sentence for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon is five years. Changing the possession of a firearm by a felon to a crime of violence would ensure harsher penalties, such as lengthier jail sentences.

Mike Ronats, executive director of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, cited statistics showing that between 25% and 48% of murders involving firearms are committed by felons.

According to the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, there were 436 homicides committed with firearms in the state in 2018. This means between 109 and 210 of the murders were committed by felons.

“The decision that we make today is not just about this crime,” Ronats told the Senate Committee on the Judiciary C. He added: “It’s about how that crime affects the other crime, the larger picture, and that being homicide.”

Sheriff Mike Tregg of St. John the Baptist Parish is also a proponent of the bill, which was proposed by Sen. Bodi White, R-Baton Rouge.

“I have too many young men dying,” Tregg said. “I intercept their social media. They’re fascinated with guns. Children, 15 years old. I’m only here today to ask you guys to strengthen what we’re doing so we can send a message before they commit that crime.”

Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, opposed the bill, stating that it was “chipping away at criminal justice reform.” Carter also questioned its urgency, saying violent crimes have gone down and that the bill would add to the state’s corrections costs.

“We are going to be facing undoubtedly an unprecedented deficit because we have so many unknowns,” Carter said.


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