There's Always Room to Be Tougher on Crime


Today the House of Representatives is expected to pass the Gang Deterrence and Community Protection Act, part of the congressional response to January's Supreme Court decision making federal sentencing guidelines advisory. Many of the provisions deal with violent crimes, but Families Against Mandatory Minimums points out at least two that would increase penalties for drug offenders.

The bill would increase the mandatory minimum sentence for possessing or carrying a firearm in connection with drug trafficking from five to seven years (a penalty that currently is triggered only if the weapon is "brandished"). It also would make anyone involved in a drug trafficking conspiracy subject to the extra sentence if someone else who played a role in the conspiracy had a gun.

I assume one goal of the special firearm penalties is to reduce violence by discouraging drug dealers from carrying guns. But it's the war on drugs that encourages them to be armed in the first place. First the government creates a black market; then it penalizes people who defend themselves against the violence that inevitably accompanies black markets.

In any case, the combination of drug laws and anti-gun provisions already produces outrageously onerous sentences, even for people who own guns but never fire or brandish them. Each time a defendant carries a gun counts as a separate offense; second and subsequent offenses are subject to a 25-year mandatory minimum; and the sentences are served consecutively. It's hard to see the rationale for the proposed change, even from the perspective of a hardline drug warrior. If the idea is that sentences can never be too long, why only a two-year increase? Why not double the sentence, or triple it? Why not consecutive life sentences? Presumably because that would leave no room for future penalty increases aimed at proving legislators' toughness on crime.

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  1. GADACPAC? What type of acronym is this? Wait…you mean they aren’t using some sort of catchy acronym to sell their stupid law? That in itself is news…

  2. Say “GADACPAC” out loud, and you sound Australian. Crikey!

  3. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Supreme Court gets out the commerce clause stick for the new crimes (following on Lopez and VAWA), but I’m not optimistic.

  4. Don?t these people also understand that making the penalties so harsh only increases the danger for police officers and other citizens? For example, rape isn?t a capital crime for a bunch of reasons, but one of them is that if rape was a capital crime, there would be a lot more dead rape victims, since there is little incentive to keep the victim alive. If the crime for carrying a gun is 25 years, this law makes it far more likely that a gun will be used. If I know that I?m going to jail, essentially for life, due to harsh penalties. Then why not take the small chance at freedom by shooting your way out. Besides unjust, this law is just plain stupid.

  5. the House of Representatives is expected to pass the Gang Deterrence and Community Protection Act

    Well, if Congress is passing a law then I have no doubt that the problem will be solved soon!

  6. Mo,

    Has stupidity ever prevented laws like this from hitting the books? It usually requires jurisprudence to whittle them down from “friggin’ ridiculous” to “mildly outrageous.”

  7. SPD,
    I?ve long given up my na?ve belief that laws should make sense and the punishment should fit the crime. I?m just venting some frustration.

  8. Isn’t one definition of “insanity” doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results?

    Oh. This is the government.

    Never mind.

  9. Mo,
    It’s not about the punishment fitting the crime. It’s about the fact that some people should be removed from society.
    The problems are these questions:
    Should they be removed by killing them or putting them in jail?
    Who should determine who?
    Who defines “crime”?
    Is drug possession “crime”?
    Is gun possession “crime”?
    And so on…

  10. It’s not about the punishment fitting the crime. It’s about the fact that some people should be removed from society.
    The problems are these questions:

    Congress, that’s who.

  11. You know, I have a novel idea. How about they stop passing any new laws at all? Or how about they take it even a step further, and start going through the books, looking at what is already law, and start repealing a bunch of the bullshit they’ve already burdened us with!?!

  12. Lowdog,
    Laws are like traffic signals: a “doing something; not standing there” reaction that makes society less efficient.

  13. What’re ya’ Ruthless, an anarchist? 😉

  14. All the more reason to end our Drug Prohibition.

    Imagine if the Mara Salvatrucha had to put on suits & ties, have their tattoos lasered off and sit around in a cubicle, being Ground Down by Walmart’s Sam’s Choice Ganja buyer.

  15. “What’re ya’ Ruthless, an anarchist? ;)”

    Ya think?

    P.S. I had a bad experience opening a “peaceful anarchist” site on Google. Seems Commies are to the word, “anarchist,” as termites are to wood.
    Had to shut down my experiment.
    Jeff Murphy, aka PintO’Stout, can witness for me.
    Hallafuckinleujah. Praise goddess.

  16. Stupid shit like this is the reason rapists and murderers are let out early, because the prisons are full of “gun toting” pot smokers serving mandatory minimums.

  17. steve,
    You are right.
    Now ponder what DNA and Susan Sarandon are doing to justice.
    “Just” justice is “rough” justice.

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