Goshen News, Goshen, IN

March 28, 2013

Sentence for illegal gun use seems reasonable


— An Indiana lawmaker has a good suggestion for tackling the thorny issue of how to reduce gun violence.

Republican Sen. Brent Steele has proposed the General Assembly rewrite the state’s sentencing statutes to allow prosecutors to seek, and judges to impose, a mandatory enhanced sentence for criminals convicted of crimes involving guns. Steel is proposing a five-year additional sentence for the gun violation. That sentence could not be reduced and no parole could be granted to those convicted of the offense.

This seems to be a common-sense idea that many others states have already adopted. Gun violence cannot be tolerated, and using a gun to hold up a store or threaten a neighbor should be treated as the extremely serious crime it is. Anyone using a gun to commit a crime is in fact making an implied threat of murder to their victims. For far too long Indiana legislators have ignored that frightening threat made to victims who look into the barrel of a gun while they hand over cash.

We don’t know how much deterrence this law will be to those bent on violent behavior, but it will allow the state to separate offenders from society for a longer time, adding a few more years of protection to the public.

While Steele’s sentencing proposal is ample, we would suggest state lawmakers go one step further and adopt the federal sentencing options. Those options include the five-year enhancement, plus a 10-year enhancement for the use of illegal weapons, including sawed-off shotguns. The federal law also includes a 30-year enhancement for criminals using a machine gun in the commission of a felony. And state lawmakers should also consider making the gun violation a consecutive sentence, meaning the five years would be served after any other sentence imposed.

Our reporter Maureen Hayden reports today that Steele has long been a gun rights advocate. We think his proposal is in lock-step with the belief of most gun owners that those who use guns to frighten, intimidate, assault and rob Hoosiers should be treated harshly. Steele’s proposal rightly punishes criminals while doing no harm to the rights of law-abiding Hoosiers to purchase and use firearms.