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Gun Offender Registry, And No More Concurrent Sentences for VUFA
I have transmitted this letter to all Senators and Representatives in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. If you agree, please contact your own legislators over your respective districts:


RE: Gun Offender Registration System and What Pennsylvania Can Do after Newtown:

Dear Senator (or Representative):

I am a resident and homeowner in Kensington, a neighborhood in Philadelphia where gun violence is not an uncommon occurrence. I also possess a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms (“LTCF”). I do own and possess firearms. I have been a firearms owner and user since a very young age, as I grew up in the State of Texas with a military family who were similarly so inclined.

I am also a member of the National Rifle Association (“NRA”) and the Gun Owners of America (“GOA”). I come to you as a registered Democrat and a resident of Philadelphia who lives close to the epicenter of the gun violence issue.

The tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut breaks my heart. There are no words to describe the terror, the pain and the emotional agony the parents endured last Friday. It’s a feeling that nobody, not even other parents, could begin to comprehend with such a tragic loss.

Naturally, nationwide there has been a huge outcry. ‘Something must be done’. As the facts have coalesced, we have learned the following about the shooter:

Adam Lanza, the 20 year old shooting suspect, may have suffered some form of mental illness

Nancy Lanza, the mother of the shooter, was the individual who acquired all the weapons in the Lanza household. According to news reports, she obtained all the firearms legally. However, given the reports of a .223 cartridge-capable Bushmaster Assault Rifle being rumored to have been the primary firearm used in the massacre, it may not square up with the state of Connecticut’s ban on Assault Weapons.

Not much else that is concrete and verifiable has been learned beyond this and it is subject to wild conjecture.

The reason why I’m writing you is to discuss the form of gun violence that follows us around every day. The nation is reacting to a type of heinous crime that is difficult to prevent and interdict today, not the vast majority of gun violence that affects us as Pennsylvanians right in our own neighborhood.

Before we expend energy on rule-making and new laws, we need to focus on what will constitute a major effort at attacking gun violence, not on the edge cases such as the Columbine massacre or Newtown. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 was in effect before, during, and after the Columbine shootings. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold acquired their arsenal of weapons through relatives and straw purchases. Both boys also deployed pipe bombs in the school with the intention of killing many more students than they did. They wanted to blow up the entire school and everyone inside of it.

Pennsylvania has made a great leap forward by understanding the nature of straw purchases, that the perpetrator is by definition a first-time offender, and the only recourse in sentencing is a strong punishment for committing this offense to have any effect on the volume of illegal weapons that are proliferating on the street. But, we need more.

As a gun owner, I want to present you two ideas that will have a very visual impact with Pennsylvanians across the Commonwealth, and will have a marketable impact with those who are charged with VUFA (Violating the [Pennsylvania] Uniform Firearms Act).

Pennsylvania Gun Offender Registry System

Those individuals in the Commonwealth who have been convicted in a Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas of any felony that includes VUFA will be subject to their Name, Age, Sex, Race and Address of Current Residence as known to any department of parole or probation to be maintained as a condition of release from state or county incarceration through the duration up to 6 months past the completion of any parole, probation, ARD or any other diversionary treatment or adjudication.

The Offender Registry must also include a current photograph as available from the agency and/or jurisdiction that found the defendant for VUFA, subject to the release of that offender from state or county incarceration.

What does the registry do? A registry allows the public to accurately assess the threat of gun violence similar to how Meagan’s Law informs those of the presence of those who have been listed as sexual offenders in the Meagan’s Law registry.

The public already has access to criminal court records but not in such a way as to compose a true picture of gun violence in Philadelphia, who precisely is committing it, and where those individuals reside. The knowledge of this information is a powerful tool in combating crime. The registry is intended to check the fearlessness that defendants have against the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act.

Defendants who habitually commit VUFA have no fear of employer-based background screenings, as they understand their prospects for employment are dim. However that is not the primary reason why defendants repeatedly carry a firearm illegally.

The End of Concurrent Sentencing

I urge you to sit in Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia during any day of sentencing hearings for VUFA cases as I have done. The typical pattern a Common Pleas judge assigns to a defendant is this:

Charges / Example Sentence

Primary Charge [Min X months - Max Y months] / 24mos – 36mos

Secondary Charges / 24mos – 36mos – Concurrent

Carrying Firearm W/O A License in Phila / 24mos – 36mos – Concurrent

To your average defendant, the VUFA charge (either Possession of Instrument of Crime or Carrying Firearm W/O A License in Phila) is rolled up in sentencing with a concurrent penalty along with the primary charges.

This does not help the defendant understand that part of their sentence included a penalty for carrying a firearm illegally. Many judges just gloss over all the supplemental charges and focus squarely on the circumstances of the arrest and mitigating circumstances of the defendant. The fact that the defendant was told he was not supposed to be carrying a firearm and did not obey that order with some judges is just lost information–aired in the court but then later ignored.

In one case heard by CeaseFirePA while in the gallery before Common Pleas Hon. Judge Ann Butchart, Judge Butchart issued an extremely disappointing 11.5-23 month sentence to defendant Bernard Lightsey who had shot a child. This was after Judge Butchart had heard testimony from CeaseFirePA and the victim’s mother.

It is clear to me that defendants simply have no information when they are being sentenced of what precisely the consequences are for repeatedly carrying out felonies and misdemeanors while carrying a firearm illegally.

It is time to make that distinction clear to defendants. The Commonwealth must amend the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act to restrict sentencing under the Act to terms that must be served consecutively and cannot be made concurrent with any other charges in PA C.s. except other violations related to the illegal ownership, purchase, possession, transport, distribution or modification of firearms in the Commonwealth.

We must send a stronger message and a meaningful message to those who choose to violate firearms laws that violating our firearms laws is an egregious act, and that it is better to be caught without an illegal firearm than with an illegal firearm in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Only then will we truly make a real step in curbing gun violence in our state.

I thank you for your time and I sincerely hope you can work with your legislative staff to make this concept a reality in the Commonwealth.

Warm Regards,

Christopher Sawyer
what the fuck dude? you have no problem taking other peoples rights away do you? you brainchild will turn out just like megans law.
"Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity"

goofin, proud to be a member of since Sep 2012.

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