Criminal Justice

743 Years and 3 Months. 117 Years. 51 Years. Why Are These Men's Sentences So Long?

For possessing a gun while committing a crime—even when no one is killed—too many defendants are slammed with sentences decades or even centuries longer than justice demands.

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When Dorian Bandy, a 30-year-old bank research analyst, goes to visit her boyfriend, Charles Scott Jr., at the federal correctional institution in Terre Haute, Indiana, she passes through a metal detector. Officers pat her down. They point a flashlight in her mouth and ask her to move her tongue from side to side, checking for contraband. Her two young daughters and Scott's granddaughter also have their mouths inspected by guards. When she sits at a table with the man she's been with for 12 years, there are rules. 

"Sometimes you can hold hands…sometimes not," Bandy tells Reason. "No open-mouthed kissing or anything like that." 

Bandy says that the kids adore him. "He's a beacon of light. Really funny, loves kids. They love him a lot."

Scott has spent 22 years in prison. He was sentenced to 51 years for allegedly taking part, when he was 22, in three robberies with a group of other men, during which he had a gun. The federal statute 924(c) imposes mandatory minimum sentences in offenses involving a firearm. Federal law requires that the lengthy sentences for possessing a gun while committing a crime be served back-to-back instead of concurrently, even though state laws tend to be much more lax: In Indiana, where Scott was caught, robbery is punishable by one to six years in state prison, with a recommended time of three years. Scott's original offense, the robberies, account for a little more than six years of his sentence—the other 45 years were from the 924(c) charges. Scott's draconian sentence is actually lighter than others snagged under the same statute—there are people sentenced to centuries in prison because of 924(c) even if their underlying crimes would have earned them far less time than multiple human life spans.

As of 2016, 14.9 percent of the federal prison population—or 24,905 people—was incarcerated due to a firearm offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty, according to the Federal Sentencing Commission. Criminal justice reform advocates believe the law wrongly conflates gun violence and crimes where the perpetrator carries, or even just owns, a gun.

"Mandatory minimums around firearms are some of the most frustrating cases," says Kevin Ring, the executive director of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a criminal justice reform organization. "In a country with 340 million firearms, the idea that someone is not going to happen to be in possession of a gun if they commit a crime…the law does not distinguish between someone who uses a gun to commit a crime, and someone who happens to be a gun owner. It's a frustrating, stupid law."

Scott did have a gun during his part of the robberies. But he didn't shoot his firearm. No one was physically hurt. Nevertheless, he got half a century in prison. In contrast, murderers get far less time; the average sentence for murder is slightly over 20 years

Although Scott and his family hope for federal clemency, his case isn't a neat fit for today's political climate. Democratic lawmakers brand themselves as advocates for gun control, and so don't have a lot to gain from showing mercy to people who break gun laws. Most Republicans still tend to campaign on tough-on-crime platforms that don't leave a lot of room for second chances. 

"For Democrats, mandatory minimums for guns can be a plan B for gun control," says Ring. "And for Republicans, for too long, people resisted the idea that people who own guns…some of those people sell drugs. To fend off gun control, they like to hammer people who have a gun when they commit a crime." 

Although President Joe Biden has walked back his tough-on-crime rhetoric, his reform proposals are hardly radical. His main pitch was support of former President Barack Obama's clemency initiative, which freed a record number of people but overlooked thousands upon thousands of eligible inmates, including Alice Marie Johnson, whose case further scrambled political alignments when Obama's successor Donald Trump granted her freedom.

"It's an inconsistent, schizoid view," Ring says. "The left looks at guns like the right looks at drugs—they don't know what to do with it."

 

 * * * 

 

Scott's brother, Carl Buggs, is also serving half a century in prison after being caught with a gun while selling cocaine to police informants. The brothers were incarcerated soon after a family tragedy; a car rammed into the family van, killing their little sister on the spot. "Before we could properly grieve and process the loss from our little baby sister being killed in a tragic accident…our family was further torn apart," their other sister, Saraya Scott, says. "Just soon after, our only two brothers were ripped from our lives and sentenced to 50-plus years in federal prison under a law that has since changed." 

The FIRST STEP Act reduced penalties for drug and gun offenses, but it doesn't apply retroactively. Prisoners like Scott must rely on the federal clemency process, a labyrinthine and opaque system where the president decides to grant freedom only after the Department of Justice (DOJ) deems a petition worthy of landing on his desk. 

Scott and Bandy thought Obama would grant Scott clemency, their hope buoyed when Scott didn't receive a letter of denial. But clemency didn't come. Four years later, in the final days of the Trump administration, the family once again hoped for a reprieve, since, once again, they didn't get an official denial. "We had hope up until the last hour of his presidency that he would get his relief…both fell through," Bandy says. 

"When I was looking for a chance at clemency from Obama first, then Trump second, I was real hopeful," Scott says. "I knew I had put the work in, I felt like my sentence was one that fit the terms 'unjust and draconian' and made me a perfect candidate for a second chance," he adds. "I spent hours in front of the television looking at names of those I didn't know, celebrating their success but praying for my own." 

Tammy Allison, a clemency reform advocate who served as senior DOJ attorney under the last three presidents, points out that 924(c) stacks charges in a way that obfuscates the severity of the original crime.

"In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court held [in United States v. Davis] that 924(c) was unconstitutionally vague," says Allison, one of the few black members of the National Rifle Association; she's currently running for office as a Democrat in Texas' 6th Congressional District. "This is a separate firearm 'offense' on top of an offense when there's a 'crime of violence or drug trafficking.'" Allison says she supports gun rights because she needed a firearm to feel safe from an abusive ex-husband. Another black woman, Marissa Alexander got 20 years in prison after she discharged a gun in a warning shot to her abusive husband, who had threatened to kill her. She was released on a plea deal after three years. 

Data show the federal clause is used disproportionately against people of color. According to the Federal Sentencing Commission, in 2016, black offenders who got mandatory minimums accounted for 52.6 percent of people sentenced under 942(c). In cases where the Armed Career Criminal Act (which allows for enhanced sentencing for repeat offenses) applied, black offenders made up over 70 percent of mandatory minimum sentences.

After failing to get clemency under multiple presidents, it's hard for Scott—who has had a spotless disciplinary record in prison—not to lose hope. "When it fell through and I didn't get it, I was broken. I felt that everything I was doing was in vain, I felt that I would never get the chance not because I wasn't deserving but because I didn't know anybody famous, or I didn't have enough money to make a big enough noise to be heard, and this was just another time where privilege wins and disadvantage loses."

 

 * * * 

 

DeVon Moss worked in a bank for years, so she understands that some grocery store employees, convenience store clerks, and bank tellers might be traumatized by robberies. "Absolutely I can understand how petrified a person could be, that this trauma would be with them," she explains. But she still doesn't think a person should get a virtual life sentence for a crime in which no one was physically hurt.

Moss runs a nonprofit devoted to highlighting cases where gun charges were stacked, leading to decades—in one case, centuries—in prison. Her site, Mercy Me 924(c), profiles people serving long sentences because gun charges were stacked on top of their original crimes. 

Marcus Major was sentenced to 743 years and three months, after his involvement in a string of robberies. He was convicted of 30 robberies—which is a lot, but seven centuries in prison seems excessive, given that no one was killed (he did wound a liquor store clerk who survived). Major got 24 counts of violating 924(c) in addition to six charges of discharging a gun. Moss had been collaborating with Major's mother to bring light to his case, but his mother died of cancer last year.

Ian Owens, who helped launch Mercy Me 924(c) with Moss, was charged with four robberies, a carjacking, and five counts of violating 924(c). Even though no one was hurt, he was sentenced to 117 years in prison. Adam Clausen, found guilty of robberies and carjackings after a seven-day jury trial, got 213 years in prison, thanks to stacked charges from 942(c). The site profiles 16 cases of virtual life in prison for 924(c) stacking. There's no telling how many cases there are at the state level. 

 

 * * * 

 

Michael Thompson, 70, is lucky in the sense that his 40–60 year sentence was commuted by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, last December. He came home at the end of January, meeting his grandson for the first time. But he's profoundly unlucky in the sense that he spent 26 years in prison, for a pot crime in a state where the drug is now legal, because he was a gun owner—even though he wasn't armed when he sold the drug to a police informant.

Thompson's clemency petition was denied by outgoing Governor Rick Snyder in 2016. It took a massive campaign, employing the likes of left-wing activist Shaun King and reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, to promote Thompson's bid for freedom. Until his case got widespread attention, Thompson didn't even have a lawyer. 

"Well, they stack the charges on you. Doesn't matter if the guns have nothing to do with it," says Thompson, who had a spotless disciplinary record on the inside and counseled younger inmates. He can no longer do that, since the conditions of his parole forbid contact with incarcerated people, including friends he's had for decades. 

"It's more proof the system is broken. Truly broken," he adds. "And, the ones who could do something about it, the politicians…they don't care."

"They can be cold when it comes down to showing humanity to another human being."

NEXT: The CDC Thinks 2-Year-Olds Should Wear Masks in Schools, Even If Everyone Else Is Vaccinated

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  1. As a libertarian, I believe that people convicted of violent felonies can do justice toward their victims and society by paying a fine, either lump sum or monthly installments will do.

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  2. Wow! This story is a real tragedy. How can we, as a society, discourage people from committing crimes? Better yet, why do we even need to define certain behaviors as criminal?

    1. Think of all the money we would save if we released all the prisoners.

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      2. Chicago is letting everyone go, it is not working out for the taxpayers. Nine convicted felons on electronic monitoring have already committed murder this year. What will they do when they are out? Rob people. Kill people, then make unwanted crotch droppings for the taxpayers to pay for. They love the gangster lifestyle. There were 4000 shootings in Chicago last year, each one will cost the taxpayers $55,000 in services . That doesn’t include long term care, unemployment, welfare, social security, etc. Currently, Chicago is only convicting 10% of the murderers. There are a lot of murderers running around free in Chicago. Yesterday, 15 people were shot in one incident. Nobody wants to pay for prisons. But we need them.

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      1. Herbold is insane to propose that legislation, and she is of course a hypocrite in that she will see those crimes differently should she be the victim. And, in theory at least, we have judges to make judgement calls in those circumstances. I do think the the poor are treated differently by the criminal justice system, though. Without a competent lawyer to simply guide one through the process, it’s almost impossible to make good decisions that result in fair punishment / restitution. Two defendants with the same charges will often end up in very different places at the end of the process.

    2. Because they violate the liberty of others.

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  3. “He was convicted of 30 robberies …”

    A serial robber who obviously had no compunctions about shooting people if he had to.

    Reason really knows how to pick the sympathetic cases.

    1. At this point, the tone of the articles they choose to publish isn’t an accident.

      Those sentences are what permanent incapacitation of the incorrigibly violent looks like, in a society that no longer kills repeat armed robbers, nor exiles them away from civilization. Reason appears to have joined the MSM viewpoint that: It is more important for some violent piece of shit to get a 10th second chance, than it is for ordinary citizens to be safe in their persons and property.

      1. As I mentioned in a prior thread, this is why Federal crime prevention programs such as Project Exile were so successful. The Feds do not screw around when it comes to criminal prosecutions they take an interest in. There is practically no parole in the Federal system, and inmates typically serve 85 percent or greater of their sentences. Moreover, Federal penological institutions are frequently far away from large cities, and are AIUI, and the article states, a royal pain in the ass for people to visit.

        All of which gets around, in the career criminal community. I’m not surprised that sentences are lengthy, albeit the last time I looked at the Guidelines, 360 months was the max, besides Life sentences. So, I wonder how someone stacked up a 743 years sentence.

        1. “So, I wonder how someone stacked up a 743 years sentence.”

          Multiple charges, each with their own sentence to be served consecutively rather than concurrently. This is explained in the article.

          1. Let me rephrase for Jay.
            It is mind boggling that someone got charged, convicted, and sentenced to the maximum possible sentence for at least 20 armed robberies at once! Unless there are rather severe extenuating circumstances or the robberies were all trivial shoplifting that was hopelessly overcharged, a criminal that prolific should not be let back out on the street.

            1. Well yeah, Ben. I’m not complaining about the result—other than now we have to feed and house the guy for the next 45 years or so—but it doesn’t usually happen this way.

            2. The long sentence isn’t from the armed robbery charges. It’s the separate gun possession charges.

          2. Yeah, but it’s weird.

            Stacking individual sentences for individual convictions isn’t normally done in federal sentencing, (AFAIK, though I’m certainly not a lawyer, nor practice federal criminal law) which is an arcane art all on its own. There are (were) rules about how to combine offenses within the same criminal episode, or how to handle an offender with multiple criminal episodes. I mean, drug guys like the head of the Gulf Cartel didn’t catch this kind of time.

            1. Again, this is explained in the article.

              The federal statute 924(c) imposes mandatory minimum sentences in offenses involving a firearm. Federal law requires that the lengthy sentences for possessing a gun while committing a crime be served back-to-back instead of concurrently

              Federal law required that sentences for the multiple charges for gun possession on top of and separate from the armed robbery charges be served consecutively.

              1. It gets worse, see my comment way down below. Robbery is a state crime, not a federal one. The reason the federal law was applied? Commerce Clause. Rob a grocery store that sources goods out of state? Federal gun laws apply. Whether it’s a private homeowner or mom-and-pop store who doesn’t do business out of state or a petty criminal, fuck the little guy.

        2. That is exactly what happened in Chicago. When the Feds showed up, crime finally dropped. They know that they will have to do the sentence. Unfortunately, the Feds were called off and the murder spree is back in top gear.

      2. Here is Chicago’s most recent. The #9 means that this guy was the ninth person on parole to kill someone in the city so far this year.

        #9: On bail for five burglaries, man set fire to home, killing girlfriend and 10-year-old girl, prosecutors say

        Does anyone think of the victims?

        1. Usually, not the writers at Reason.

        2. Burglary means the guy broke in when no one was home and the gun was immaterial and it sounds like his 2 murders were because of arson. I agree that Chicago shouldn’t be pussy footing around with his sentencing.

          At the same time, they pride themselves on snatching people up for weapons convictions and I wouldn’t hold up Chicago as some shining example of gun regulations’ efficacy in preventing crime.

    2. He said he was sorry. That should be enough.

    3. I agree that not all of these cases seem equivalent. The 30 robbery guy maybe sounds like a hardened criminal. But then there is the guy who “spent 26 years in prison, for a pot crime in a state where the drug is now legal, because he was a gun owner—even though he wasn’t armed when he sold the drug to a police informant.” That sounds like a travesty. Pot crime (sounds like not a real crime). Pot now legal (acknowledgement that it wasn’t in fact a real crime, but no retroactive remedy). Wasn’t armed (cool). Gun owner (perfectly legal). To the extent that any of this is even mostly true, we are a long way from a fair criminal justice system.

  4. My Uncle is one of some approximately 7,000 people doing hard time for owning a gun whilst blowing, without authorization from a Government-Almighty-certified physician, upon a cheap plastic “lung flute”! FREE the Lung Flute 7,000, I say! $FreeTheLungFlute7000

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    1. And how often do you show up for the conjugal visits?

  5. Scott did have a gun during his part of the robberies. But he didn’t shoot his firearm. No one was physically hurt. Nevertheless, he got half a century in prison.

    How long should an armed robber serve? I’d prefer as little time as possible before meeting his end on the gallows but what does Ms. Ganeva think?

    Also, if Indiana guidelines are for 1-6 years what were the circumstances resulting in Scott being sentenced to federal time?
    I might have some sympathy if it was 1 in a hundred dumb luck but the article doesn’t explain why most Indiana robbers do so much less time.

    1. Also, if Indiana guidelines are for 1-6 years what were the circumstances resulting in Scott being sentenced to federal time?

      Given the scant details from the article (robbery, no one harmed) it sounds like he either robbed the wrong place (like a post office instead of a gas station), the wrong people (like robbed a donut shop full of federal cops), or chose the wrong crowd to commit a robbery with (robbed somewhere with someone on the FBI’s most wanted list).

      The real question is, why do Seattle protestors trying to set a federal court house on fire do so little time, because they didn’t have a gun?

    2. “How long should an armed robber serve? I’d prefer as little time as possible before meeting his end on the gallows”

      So you want to give robbers a reason to kill their victims. If there is no distinction in sentencing between murder and lesser crimes, why leave any witness alive?

      However, these stacked sentences mean that, in a justice system where few murderers are ever executed, there is very little distinction.

  6. If I recall, a lot of those firearm enhancement sentences came at the behest of the ‘wrong within normal parameters party’ because guns baaaaad.

  7. I have a suspicion that there might be something connecting these cases – how many of the convictions are the result of trials and how many the result of plea bargains? You know the government doesn’t like it when you make them go through all the hassle of a trial, they’ll throw the book at you for playing that shit. Just confess your crime (whether you did it or not), take your beating (whether you deserve one or not), and let them chalk up another win (whether they won or not), and they’ll go a lot easier on you. Hell, you can agree to testify against some other random jackass you’ve never heard of in your life and maybe you won’t do any time at all!

    1. I have a suspicion that there might be something connecting these cases – how many of the convictions are the result of trials and how many the result of plea bargains?

      Far be it from me to question your reading comprehension, but there is something connecting these cases, 924(c).

      Who the fuck pleads down to a 743 yr. sentence or even a 117 yr. one? If it is/was a plea deal, what could possibly be so fucked up that you would have to plead down to a life sentence? Hint: It’s not the plea deal.

    2. Remarkably similar to their approach to elections

    3. The Constitution states all criminal trials will be jury trials so how does the DOJ have an almost 100% conviction rate? Plea bargains after stacking charges and defendant hears how long he will cool his heels in the pen. One firearm can be used in one trial with numerous violations such as concealed, brandishing, menacing, a felon in the vehicle with you, under the influence while carrying, owning the firearm while committing a crime 2 years prior, conspiracy of any sort, etc. While corruption at the DOJ is rampant, exculpatory evidence is with held, charged with a crimes that are not crimes. Article here is showing not sympathy for criminals but the tyranny of the judicial system. It does not mention that 1000 DOJ lawyers were ordered by a judge to attend ethics 101 classes.
      That cruel and unusual punishments due to firearms takes us a step closer to the outlawing of guns and we are ruled at gunpoint as it is. Laws are arbitrary and political vote-getters. Nevada had laws in 1970s era that one arrested for selling marijuana would be facing a life sentence.
      Read Sydney Powell’s book…

  8. Marcus Major was sentenced to 743 years and three months, after his involvement in a string of robberies. He was convicted of 30 robberies—which is a lot, but seven centuries in prison seems excessive, given that no one was killed (he did wound a liquor store clerk who survived). Major got 24 counts of violating 924(c) in addition to six charges of discharging a gun.

    Uh…. 743 years is life but this guy shouldn’t be consuming air much less go free.

    1. Don’t worry. He’ll be let out when his medical care becomes too expensive for the prison system to want to hang onto him.

      Or he won’t. And having been convicted of 30 armed robberies, that’s a good thing too.

    2. “(he did wound a liquor store clerk who survived)” – – –
      Convicted of 30 robberies – –

      So he was doing more than “just carrying a gun” during a robbery. He was shooting the gun, attempting to kill people. 800 years is necessary to be sure he actually serves a life sentence.

  9. Prosecutors love possession charges. So easy.

  10. More hand wringing this morning in Philly over teen age gun deaths.
    What’s funny is that no one seems to be suggesting a solution other than putting cops on every block. That may be kind of hard if “defunding the police” takes hold. In any case, what exactly do they hand wringers want? I doubt they want random stops of young men “for being black.” None seem to be calling for an end to the drug war. Even without a drug war, there is always going to be killings for “looking at my girl” or “dissing my mother” or some other violation of the cultural honor code.

    1. “[W]hat exactly do they hand wringers want?”

      The want it to stay over there, and not creep its way over here, to them. The progressive approach to exercising control over the collapse of any civic structure is much the same as a controlled burn to control a forest fire. They understand that the problems causing the collapse cannot be fixed, only mitigated against and somewhat contained. If a city is in collapse, give it room to burn; give the people room to destroy.

      https://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2015/04/25/baltimore-mayor-gave-those-who-wished-to-destroy-space-to-do-that/

      Let the people destroy themselves in the hope that, with time, they will no longer retain the capacity to pose a threat to anyone else.

    2. Fewer innocent bystanders if we bring back dueling.

    3. I never carried a gun when I was a kid. I had one. I would have really liked to carry it with me at all times. The reason that I never carried a gun is because the Chicago cops often searched young men walking down the street. Back then, they would hammer you for a gun charge. For that reason, I never carried. On a positive note, there were very few shootings back then. Nowadays, the cops aren’t searching anymore so everyone is carrying. The shootings never stop.
      There is no perfect answer. Someday, Americans will have to face the fact that certain areas require extreme measures or they will be a daily bloodbath.

      1. Already 107 people have died in Chicago so far this year, mostly black (source: Chicago Tribune). In contrast, there were 14 unarmed black people shot by police in 2020… in the whole country. (Yes that BS needs to stop, but… what is BLM doing to help the lives in Chicago that matter?)

        People and politicians have lost all sense of balance. We have ideological idiots for leaders. 50 years of left-dominant political leadership in places like Chicago has resulted in disaster after disaster. Their sh*t doesn’t work.

    4. You are guessing and practicing sophistry plus gleaning info from media that reports crap that nobody cares about because it is vague and useless. Philly has no high watermark for ideals and fairplay. The city burned down scores of homes to harass the Move people not tomention the children machine-gunned as they fled the fire. Just like Waco, Ruby Ridge and other FBI stacked decks where human life is valued or devalued by “special” agents annointed by the king of comic book characters J Edgar Hoover.
      Then you have Jesse Jackson and his ilk telling young blacks that they are doomed and have no future because of “systemic racism”. Their fathers long gone thanks to the war on poverty (single parent black family is at 80%, mother is married to government) and they are hunted in the war on drugs, the only business they are drawn into since they are of curse doomed but nobody will slap the fuck outta Al Sharpton for preaching the doom and gloom the same as Jackass Jackson does. The white patriarchal oppressors college kids blame for the etc etc. Yes defund the police and make them be police not paramilitary and stop crime which is their job and drugs are not living thing you can wage a war against. Police have not stopped crime at all but citizens do if they are armed. One year of a cop salary used instead to buy as many handguns as it can then those guns given to citizens to carry will have more impact on stopping crime than that one cop would have.
      Prison does not deter crime either.

  11. This law does not go after gun owners, it goes after people who have guns while the commit crimes. This is about personal responsibility, if you want to commit a crime, leave the gun at home, or willingly face the consequences.

    1. Tell that to the guy in NJ who got prison time for having a pistol and ammo in his car WHILE MOVING TO A NEW APARTMENT.

      This happened when Christie was in office, but as always, Fuck Phil Murphy.

      1. that one dude transferred a Revolutionary Era rifle across the Ben Franklin into NJ and was arrested and/or forfeited the gun or something

      2. I agree that’s an injustice, but, how many centuries did he get?

    2. RTFA. Thompson didn’t have a gun in his possession at the crime/time of arrest.

  12. This is the gun control I can get behind.

    Law-abiding citizens should be able to acquire and use any firearms they wish. Criminals who use firearms should be removed from society for a very long time.

    The 743-year sentence sounds silly, but all that means is that the criminal will actually stay in jail. Compare that to leftist states where a murderer is sentenced to 30 years and gets out in five to kill again. I’ll take the former, thanks.

    1. But what about the example of the guy who “spent 26 years in prison, for a pot crime in a state where the drug is now legal, because he was a gun owner—even though he wasn’t armed when he sold the drug to a police informant.”. Emphasis on ‘wasn’t armed’. I think that is where the author has muddled things a bit, using examples where the person shot someone, but luckily no one was killed along side examples where the suspect wasn’t even armed, but happened to have a gun somewhere else. These are two very different things. Article well written, but some of the examples don’t really work.

  13. Wow, if you skip the part about Major, this is an actual and relatively-balanced libertarian article.

    Again, aside from Major, no excuses made for felons who actually perpetrated violence, reasonably objective about the disparity with those who did commit violence, and defending a God-given right as outlined in the Constitution. Despite the comment about POC, there’s even a decent rail against victimocracy.

    And, of course, it’s not written by a regular member of the Reason staff.

    1. Look, if you’re going around committing robberies, and carry a gun, then the only reason you haven’t shot somebody is dumb luck. Your carrying it demonstrates that you were planning on shooting somebody if the occasion arose.

      I’d agree, however, that the murderers getting less time is a serious injustice.

      1. Look, if you’re going around committing robberies, and carry a gun, then the only reason you haven’t shot somebody is dumb luck. Your carrying it demonstrates that you were planning on shooting somebody if the occasion arose.

        I disagree but I do agree that there’s a lot of middle ground and that, IMO, is part of what makes it such a good libertarian article.

        Your assertion requires several assumptions, some of which turn anti-gun control and even anti-hate crime arguments on their head. Namely, that guns are strictly offensive weapons, that they are somehow exceptionally offensive, that inanimate objects automatically confer intent, and, chiefly, because it’s a federal law (and they supposedly confer intent) is a violation of due process. IMO, the federal legislation isue is the key point. If some judge/jury, (or less preferentially) state or circuit wants to throw the book at armed felons as some sort of personal or unspoken policy, have at it. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-EVrYOadz8Don't bring your firearms to Big Whiskey looking for trouble; understood Little Bill.

        In the spirit of the middle ground, I’ll take stances I don’t usually take; the guy arrested for armed robbery without hurting anyone at 22 isn’t the same man at 22. Maybe he was lucky he didn’t hurt anyone, but if 22 yrs. isn’t enough to convince him he wasn’t then likely another 60-80 won’t either and executing him for armed robbery without hurting anyone seems a bit cruel and unusual. But, again, in the spirit of middle ground; I agree that a law mandating a doubling of the sentence for the underlying crime(s) (no stacking) would be better and might make more sense. I’d still prefer to see a court judge making the decisions on a case-by-case basis rather than the legislators and DAs, dictating to juries and judges.

        Main thesis aside, I appreciate Moss’ assertion regarding (self-)victimization. Yes, I would assume getting held up absolutely sucks. Yes, it can be traumatic. However, the trauma isn’t permanent, it isn’t worse than lots of other traumas that people fully recover from, and locking someone up in jail for the rest of their life becaue of your hurt feelings won’t make it right.

        1. In the spirit of the middle ground, I’ll take stances I don’t usually take; the guy arrested for armed robbery without hurting anyone at 22 isn’t the same man at 22.

          At 44.

          So many typos, so few edit buttons.

        2. I will grant you that 924 (c) is very Draconian on drug possessors and users who own weapons, but that only underscores the need to legalize drugs andto pardon, and erase all records for, all who are incarcerated for drugs. It does not justify legalizing the possession and use of weapons in the commission of a violent crime.

          1. Agree that so much of the problem is the drug war, and so much good will be done for society if/when it is ended. As for “It does not justify legalizing the possession and use of weapons in the commission of a violent crime.”, I suppose it depends on how one defines ‘possession’ in this case. And I think this is where the law has gone awry – defining ‘possession’ far to liberally or maybe far to conveniently for the prosecutors / judges who want to be ‘tough on crime’. ‘Use’ is clear cut, ‘possession’ less so.

          2. It does not justify legalizing the possession and use of weapons in the commission of a violent crime.

            So, in your mind, should possession be a crime or not? If someone robs a bank and the cops find dope in his getaway car, should their be an additional charge for the dope? If not, then why should their be if the cops find a gun in the getaway car? The underlying crime is the same and I haven’t indicated that either the dope or the gun played a part in the robbery, so how do you justify the disparity/inconsistency? It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find a number of violent robberies where the robber would admit or claim to be violent or out of control because of the drugs they were on. Why shouldn’t that carry an extra penalty if carrying a weapon that you don’t use in a robbery does. Robbery is already illegal, shooting people is already illegal, making an extra-special violent-but-not-violent class of robbery because of guns, and not drugs, is about hate crime, your feelz, and gun animism.

        3. Let’s see:

          1. I’ll agree that I don’t, constitutionally, see a basis for the federal government to be prosecuting this. Absent the crime happening in D.C., federal territories, or land the federal government purchased with the permission of a state legislature, crimes like these are supposed to be a state matter.

          2. No, obviously guns are not just offensive weapons, or inherently offensive. But if you’re carrying a gun while robbing people, YOU have decided to carry it in an offensive role. Who are you going to defend yourself against? Your victims? The police come to arrest you?

          3. Possession in the course of a crime should not be constructive, of course. You should have to have actually been carrying during the crime. And it should not be a victimless crime.

          But robbery is not a victimless crime, and I’m fine with coming down on robbers like a ton of bricks.

          1. Who are you going to defend yourself against? Your victims? The police come to arrest you?

            Maybe you don’t live near Chicago or Gary, where something north of 70% of all shootings are between felons who know one another. Moreover, as the article points out, a felon transferring a gun in your (presumably a non-felon) hand is itself a crime. Handing it back to them is a crime and probably has a decent chance of getting you killed. In virtually any other context, 924(c) would be recognized as an end-around maneuver in favor of gun control. What’s next? No guns in the commission of misdemeanors? No pocketknives in the commission of a felony (or not, Freddie Gray)?

            You should have to have actually been carrying during the crime. And it should not be a victimless crime.

            I would say brandishing. If nobody knows you have a gun when you commit a crime or if you never pull it or threaten anyone with it, then the gun is immaterial.

            But robbery is not a victimless crime, and I’m fine with coming down on robbers like a ton of bricks.

            I didn’t say it wasn’t a victimless crime, and I agree about punishing them. I’m just saying that if you’re coming down on them like a ton of bricks, you’re doing so as a statement and that statement should have a laser-like focus on the robbery. 924(c) is the opposite of that, it’s essentially converting every felony committed in the presence of a gun into a hate crime.

            1. No mention of how many firearms are stolen from vehicles operated and left parked or firearms misplaced by agents of the FBI every year. This includes automatics as well.
              The problem is not guns and sentences but crime, criminals and and why they commit crimes. Laws only provide for punishment. Sentences only lock up a few at a high cost to taxpayers while new criminals are born everyday. Society fails to see the actual cause and uses crime rates to push gun control. They do not give a goddam hoot about people, just control the lower-downs and keep them out of sight and off their lawns. Sociopaths they are and criminals generally are as well along with judges. None see others as humans. Period.
              Police put on a firefight over a drug bust but more so over a damn bank robbery, paper currency that the fed prints and loans to government for a fee. Illegal drugs make money which police seize and spend while housing is short, schools are not teaching, jobs have moved away, corruption at every level of government, cities bankrupt, wage stagnation, high tech spying and tracking everyone while you are now you are your own cashier at Walmart. Walmart buys from communist China and will not sell you a rifle or ammo…Convictions are the rule and justice is not served but starved (see Kamala Harris). ..Reason misses the point too often and comments are not thought out.

          2. I’m fine with coming down on _all_ robbers like a ton of bricks. But why should threatening the victim with a gun instead of a knife or axe multiply the sentence by several times? In the first example cited, the guy was sentence to 3 x 17 years for three robberies with a gun that was never fired. But if he had brandished an axe instead, he would have only served 6 years. 17 years for one armed robbery does not strike me as excessive, although I’m not sure about consecutive sentences when they stack up to effectively life. (If your sentence for robbery is the same as for murder, why leave any witnesses alive?) But only 6 (or 2) years because you robbed with a different deadly weapon is BULLSHIT.

  14. how are you supposed to protect your pounds without a gun?

  15. But to be sure, those pesky ‘insurrectionists’ rotting in jail with no charges and no bail deserve every minute and then some. And sending in armored SWAT units to arrest them is not only neccessary, but may even being going light on those terrorists.

  16. What about the guy being charged for 10 years over a meme? Probably a more sympathetic case.

    1. Reason stayin’ further away from that than they did the kid who got expelled for passing out bananas at a campus BLM protest.

      1. The ACLU says you’re just a TERF, dammit.

  17. Want to use a gun as your tool of the trade for being a criminal? No problem, just move to Chicago. They seem to let them out after a day or two of being apprehended, for the nth time.

    When the Chicago police superintendent [Gary Snyder] and then Gov. Emmanuel, proposed mandatory sentences for criminals using guns, “a contingent of Black IL legislators opposed it as being ‘a recipe to lock of more Blacks and Latinos” [Chicago Tribune, 10/15/15].

    No, it will be the so called law abiding gun owners who will go to jail; much more appealing target, given the politics

  18. He was sentenced to 51 years for allegedly taking part

    Allegedly? Is there some doubt as to whether he participated in a string of armed robberies? Because it sounds like he was convicted of taking part in those robberies.

    1. Not only that. Did the guy hold a loaded gun to someone’s head, or, was he a kinder gentler robber who had asked nicely for money. He just happened to have a gun on him.

      1. Perhaps he kept the getaway car idling outside a bank and never threatened anyone with the gun in his pocket. If he knew what was going to happen inside the bank, he is just as guilty as the guys who went into the bank. But whether he was carrying a gun or not makes no difference to his guilt.

        Nor should it make any difference to his and the others’ guilt if they used knives and axes instead of guns to rob the place.

  19. As Richard Prior so famously observed after performing in one: “Thank God we got penatentaries!”

    “Why did you have to kill everyone in the house?!?!”

    “…They was home?”

    1. Oh, I get it. It was such a hot place to rob there in bedlam that he thought they were another gang of robbers — rivals!

      1. Eh, no. The joke was that the man was so hardened and psychopathic that he killed for the same reason that George Mallory wanted to climb Mount Everest: Because the victims were just there. Hence, the reason Richard Prior said: “Thank God we got penitentiaries!” (There, I spelled it right.)

        You see, Richard Prior is a comedian and…

      2. Or perhaps it was because he knew that due to robbery laws like these (and death penalty laws that ensure that almost no one is executed except for the mentally deficient with a bad public defender), if caught he would probably serve as much or more time for robbery as for murder. So kill all the witnesses, and maybe they won’t catch you…

  20. Wait wait wait, did I read wrong, or is a 30yo dating a man that’s been in prison for the last 22 years? And forces her two young daughters to come with her?

    Just fucking put her down already.

    1. When she sits at a table with the man she’s been with for 12 years, there are rules.

      Man Sentenced To 51 Year Mandatory Minimum For Not Hurting Anyone; Women And Children Hardest Hit.

      1. So she started “seeing” him when she was 18? Way to go. You grabbed up a full-on loser basically as soon as you could Dorian?

        1. A decade after he’d been convicted. I suspect Dorian’s father, if he was around, wasn’t a very good role model. The way the article describes him as being good with the kids you have to wonder if they’re even his.

  21. Reason has jumped a whole pool of sharks on this one. There are a whole Hell of a lot of better arguments and cases for criminal justice reform than these.

    1. I disagree. Again, aside from Major, this article does a pretty good job of selectively identifying or highlighting crimes where no one was harmed. It’s a bit of a breath of fresh air relative to the usual “Sure, he’s a repeat offender who killed a handful of people in cold blood, but should we really keep him in jail?”

      1. Well, robbery and carjacking victims don’t know at the time or in advance whether or not they will be harmed.

        Hell, when the very word “carjacking” entered into our culture’s lexicon, it traumatized me enough to lock my car doors right in the driveway when I first got into my vehicle and I still do it today!

        Yeah, no, fuck these “harmed no one” thugs!

        1. Carjacking terrifies me too. The way those gutter urchins handle weapons is scary. Their willingness to stick a gun in someones face for a “joyride” is telling. Chicago stopped charging carjackers as adults, now they have multiple carjackings daily. A kid can pull 8 carjackings without getting serious time. They have 350+ carjackings already in 2021 so far. Wait until it warms up.

        2. Well, robbery and carjacking victims don’t know at the time or in advance whether or not they will be harmed.

          You don’t know in advance of getting into your car that you won’t be plowed under by someone asleep at the wheel of an 18-wheeler either. So, exactly how many laws should we have to pass to make you feel comfortable?

    2. I appreciated the elucidation of what has been adding years to these ingrates’ otherwise feeble prison sentences.

      (Well, y’know, better a few life terms in public reformatories than getting shot dead to rights by a gun or fang.)

  22. “For Democrats, mandatory minimums for guns can be a plan B for gun control,” says Ring. “And for Republicans, for too long, people resisted the idea that people who own guns…some of those people sell drugs. To fend off gun control, they like to hammer people who have a gun when they commit a crime.” — This seems like the crux of the problem — the criminal justice system is designed to be neither just nor to keep people safe, but rather virtue signal around some politicized issue. Given the immense power of the state to use violence against its citizens, this is a huge problem, and is destroying lives in the process.

    1. the criminal justice system is designed to be neither just nor to keep people safe, but rather virtue signal around some politicized issue.

      In these cases, it’s not the criminal justice system. 924(c) is a federal statute, the issue is the courts’ hands have been tied by virtue-signalling lawmakers.

      1. Fair point. I suppose I was referring to the politicians (Ds and Rs) rather then the ‘system’ as a whole, but my language was a bit sloppy. Appreciate the correction Mad.

  23. People are living longer. They may make parole?

  24. It’s also worth noting that much of the text of section 924 is devoted to explicit sentencing guidelines regarding the import and transfer of firearms (without any direct or underlying crime) and weapons possession pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act.

    So, if you’re pro-2A and/or anti-Drug War, the bulk of 924 should weigh heavily on those sensibilities. Unless you think there’s a real problem with importing guns that aren’t used in crimes, straw man purchasers, or having the right to defend your property if some weed just happens to be growing on it. In which case you might want to reconsider your choise to identify as pro-2A/anti-CSA.

    1. Imagine getting to the end of Randy Weaver’s trial and thinking “He really deserved a 6-yr. mandatory minimum sentence too.”

      1. Now there was a real victim of the “justice” system, not these punk-asses in this story!

  25. Why is a 30-year-old woman the girlfriend of a man who has spent 22 years in prison? Seriously?

    1. He’s a catch.

    2. Limited pool of suitable bachelors?

    3. Does a black woman have any better options? No white, Asian, or Hispanic men want them.

    4. If a woman feels she _must_ have a man, there are advantages to one that’s in prison for life. For a woman who can’t break out of the poor-any-color-trash culture she was raised in[1], it is quite likely that any man she can get will beat her, steal her money, and rape and pimp out her daughter. If you can’t get along without “having” a man, it might be better if your man is never coming home.

      [1] There are women prone to picking such partners even when they don’t come from a subculture and have much better choices. For instance, my stepdaughter…

  26. That guy convicted of coin-clipping by Edward I back in 1278 is just about to complete his 743-year sentence.

  27. I think we may be talking about license here.

    For example, if licensed to carry, you make a promise not to abuse the group privilege. If instead right to carry, you ensure that you vouch that you have your responsibilities sorted out and won’t cause any needless trouble, because you know you will be accountable; and you won’t be flaunting that right without consent or property right to display.d

    Therefore, for penalties of license to be more severe than penalties of right, it goes to show that whatever choice you make had best be held sacred according to the sort of compact that you recognize as the valid one. There is no room for second chances, so far as anyone need be concerned without looking twice.

    When offender offends the majority that licensed the privilege, they pay the cost in doing time that shows that the political efforts were unappreciated & disrespected.

    1. I think I agree with what you’re saying but it’s a bit of a word salad.

      You have a human right to carry a gun. You don’t have a human right to rob someone, gun or otherwise. When you convert the gun rights to a permission, you still can’t rob anyone and now the authorities have to punish you additionally and specifically for breaking their trust and violating the conditions or assumptions under which they gave permission.

  28. “743 Years and 3 Months. 117 Years. 51 Years. Why Are These Men’s Sentences So Long?”

    Because we have a prison industrial complex to support.

  29. Cocaine selling with a gun in your possession is quite different from pointing a loaded gun at someone. That by itself doesn’t warrant a long sentence

  30. Sorry, no sympathy for violent black criminals who prey on law abiding whites.

  31. Some of the comments are asking what it is that binds these cases together. It is not 924(c), which is only one manifestation of the problem. At a higher level, the problem results from: 1) the perversion of the Commerce Clause; and 2) federal prosecutors.

    The first is a court-created oddity that allows federal jurisdiction to be asserted for nearly everything. A bodega robbery can go federal if the store closed briefly because the closure interfered with the interstate market for alcohol. No kidding, that actually happened. The list is endless. If Congress were to confine the Commerce Clause to its original intent, much of the absurd abuses would go away due to a lack of federal jurisdiction.

    In any competitive hierarchy, promotions are based on productivity measures such as the number of widgets produced per hour. Prosecutors are gauged by numbers such as time/case, average sentence lengths, conviction percentage, etc. (plea agreements are preferred). It is prosecutors, not courts who bring multiple and often overlapping charges. Their oaths are to the Constitution and the rule of law, but their incentives are to win. Unfortunately truth and justice can not be quantified.

    Veritas.

  32. Here’s a thought: If you don’t want to receive a “draconian sentence,” don’t carry a gun while committing a robbery. Better yet, don’t commit the robbery at all.

    1. Here’s a thought, RTFA. One of them was sentenced because he owned a gun that wasn’t in his possession at the time of the crime and another shot her abusive husband “in self-defense”.

  33. I’m going to jump in and comment as a gun enthusiast.
    Chicago, and now New York are showing what happens when you give armed criminals a slap on the wrist and release them immediately.
    Crimes committed by criminals using guns increase.

    Like most other law abiding gun owners, I want all the armed criminals given sentences of centuries in jail.
    I think people who commit 30 robberies, or shoot their victims (even if they only wound them), should be removed from society permanently.
    I’m perfectly happy to pay taxes to support keeping these people in prison until they are old and feeble.

    I carry my gun everywhere I go to protect myself from people like those in this article.

    1. Chicago, and now New York are showing what happens when you give armed criminals a slap on the wrist and release them immediately.

      Setting aside that these are federal laws and apply, supposedly equally, in Chicago, NYC, Peoria, or Poughkeepsie and applied back when both cities were more crime infested; Chicago doesn’t slap gun owners on the wrist. Or, rather, Chicago routinely slaps gun owners, legal or otherwise, in the face without cause. It’s illegal to own a weapon without a license in IL, no other crime necessary to go to jail. I’ve posted it before but, at one point former COP Gary McCarthy sad ‘[sic] Guns are so valuable that gangs shoot members who lose guns so gangmembers tend to get in shootouts with police, we need to be tougher on people who lose guns to prevent the cycle’. Which is effectively saying we should be executing legal gun owners who lose a gun because that’s what the gangs do.

      I agree that 30-robberies-and-two-shootings felon needs to go to prison. Even then, 743 years is complete nonsense. Especially compared to murderers who get out in 20. Do you carry your gun to protect yourself from them? They would seem to be the bigger threat empirically.

  34. So GOP superstition about plant leaves voids the Second Amendment, and Democrats clinging to laws against slaves owning guns also void the Bill of Rights? Izzat it? Whatever happened to a right being a moral claim to freedom of action, or modification of the Bill of Rights requiring a 2/3 majority at a Constitutional Convention?

  35. If this article was meant to serve as an example of the government as overstepping reasonable bounds in the pursuit of its misguided anti-firearm agenda, it missed the mark by a mile (or twenty). These were actually great examples of the kind of people who society needs to have taken off – and kept off – the streets so that civilized people can go about their lives. According to a story about the conviction of some of the subjects of this Reason article published by the Northwest Indiana Times,” … the robberies… were described as well-coordinated and conducted with a variety of firearms.” (Reference here: https://www.nwitimes.com/uncategorized/gary-man-sentenced-for-robberies/article_10b8596e-9678-5042-8456-fc0553186993.html)
    Further, according to that same article, “…The four men were reputed members of a street gang…Investigators believed the…gang was responsible for numerous shootings and other crimes at the housing development. ‘This was a reign of terror that this gang put their own community through,’ Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Stewart said.”
    Then later in the Reason article we learn that “…it’s hard for Scott—who has had a spotless disciplinary record in prison—not to lose hope.” Apparently, he is currently in the appropriate environment for him, given that his behavior pre-incarceration was found by a court to be far less admirable.

    There are plenty of examples where the Democrat-led legislative and executive branches of our government are mounting unreasonable attacks against legitimate ownership of firearms. This isn’t it. Nor does it establish a sympathetic basis for reducing the sentences of criminals who have been found guilty of preying on their fellow citizens on multiple occasions.

    1. legitimate ownership of firearms

      So you acknowledge that there is a class of firearm ownership that is, by itself, inherently illegitimate? That people who never fire a gun in anger should have their guns taken from them? I’m sure your position on red flag laws is consistent with the notion that some people who own guns without hurting anyone with them are doing so “illegitimately”.

    2. Holy Fuck!:

      Investigators managed to prosecute the men in U.S. District Court after showing the robberies affected the interstate commerce needed to supply Ralph’s Foods, Value Mart Foods, The Store and Loco’s Barber Shop.

      “Libertarians support using the Commerce Clause to expand federal gun control legislation.”

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