Tougher Gun Penalties for Felons

May 25th, 2012 by admin

The Pennsylvania state House passed legislation this week that would increase penalties for convicted felons accused of possessing firearms. The bill now goes before the Senate, where it is likely to pass.

Gun laws are usually hotly debated, with lines drawn in the sand between those who say firearms shouldn’t be restricted any more than absolutely necessary and those who say restricting guns will keep people safer. But only seven representatives voted against this latest measure.

“There’s no empirical evidence that it will reduce gun violence,” said Delaware County Democrat Greg Vitali.

“These are the guys that prisons are built for,” countered Montgomery County Republican Todd Stephens. “And you know what, we have an obligation to protect our citizens.”

The law would require a minimum five year prison sentence for any convicted felony possessing a gun. Current laws require such a minimum sentence only if the felon commits a new crime while in possession of the weapon. In addition, if passed, the new law would designate a felon in possession of a firearm as a “crime of violence,” increasing penalties for second and third offenses.

Once you are convicted of a felony, you are not allowed to possess a firearm. This is just one of many different sanctions that convicted felons face. The commonly held belief is that “these are the guys that prisons are built for,” that all felons are somehow inherently dangerous, whether they were convicted of a violent felony or not.

The truth is, a large number of Pennsylvania felons are not violent individuals. Many were convicted of drug offenses or white collar crimes— the sort of things that don’t make you a danger to the physical safety of others. But this doesn’t stop society and certainly lawmakers from believing you are somehow less deserving of equal treatment under the law.

Your designation as a “dangerous criminal” begins long before you are even convicted. From the moment you are arrested, people are prejudging you. The cops, the prosecutor, even your neighbor, friends and family can turn their backs when you are accused of a crime. If the offense is a violent one, the alienation is only worse.

Like the disdain, the penalties also begin before you have your day in court. From your arrest to pretrial detainment, it’s difficult to feel like a fair trial is possible when you are accused of a criminal offense.

The key to overcoming all of this is to avoid a conviction whenever possible. We may be able to help. Contact our offices today if you are facing criminal charges—whether they are for a violent felony or a misdemeanor drug charge. We can offer a free consultation and some insight into your options.