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Five-Year Prison Term for Armed Felons Proposed in Pennsylvania

After being convicted of a serious violent crime in Pennsylvania, offenders are prohibited from ever again owning a firearm. Even after release from prison and satisfactory completion of all other aspects of their punishment, these individuals can be criminally prosecuted simply for possession of a gun. But, some Pennsylvania lawmakers are saying that current sanctions for felons caught with a firearm are too light. A new bill working its way through the Pennsylvania legislature aims to sharply increase the potential punishment for former offenders charged with possession of a gun.

Pennsylvania House: Stronger Penalties Would Deter Crime, Encourage Testimony

House Bill 2231 was introduced by State Representative Todd Stephens and was passed by the Pennsylvania House early in the summer of 2012. If enacted, the measure would change current law by requiring a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence for previously convicted felons found with a firearm. Under current Pennsylvania law, those caught violating the firearms ban typically end up serving probationary sentences or relatively short prison terms. The new bill would force offenders to serve a complete five-year prison term without eligibility for any form of conditional release, including parole or work release. Many lawmakers feel that such a heavy penalty would cause some felons to reconsider using a gun in future crimes. In addition, the new bill would create leverage for prosecutors looking to pressure offenders into testifying against other lawbreakers: when otherwise facing a five-year prison sentence, a plea deal that includes cooperating with prosecutors may look more appealing. To become law, House Bill 2231 still needs to be passed by the Pennsylvania Senate and approved by the governor. It is unknown when the Senate will vote on the measure, but it is expected to receive bipartisan support.

Gun Violence Drops, But House Bill 2231 Still Likely To Take A Toll on Some Gun Owners

Despite media coverage to the contrary, gun-related violence has been on a downward trend for several years in Pennsylvania and across the country. Fewer crimes are being committed, and guns are involved in fewer of the crimes that are committed; in Pennsylvania, for instance, as a percentage of all murders by weapon type, those involving firearms dropped by two percent from 2009 to 2010. Will this new gun law further reduce violent crime in Pennsylvania? It’s an uncertain prospect, but some legislators seem to think so. While the impact on crime remains uncertain, one thing this bill is sure to do is up the ante for those accused of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Even seemingly innocent use of a gun, like for hunting or personal protection, can subject someone who has already paid his or her debt to society to further punishment. If you’ve been accused of a serious gun crime, you need to take strong and immediate action to protect yourself and your future. Talk to a Pennsylvania weapons charges lawyer today to learn more.

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