Does DC want to be the carjacking capital of the USA?
Washington, D.C.'s city council has just provided incontrovertible proof of the willful incompetence of the gun control movement. The same people who want to outlaw the possession of firearms by law-abiding people passed legislation to reduce penalties for carjacking, home invasion, and similar violent crimes. Use of a gun to commit a violent felony in the nation's capital can now be punished by no more than four years in prison. This makes it clear that the D.C. city council has no real desire to keep firearms away from violent criminals who really shouldn't have them, and the legislation is so dysfunctional that Mayor Muriel Bowser, who is certainly no conservative, intends to veto it.
It also makes Washington, D.C. the ideal place for carjackers, robbers, home invaders, and gun felons to ply their trades because, in contrast to almost every other jurisdiction in the United States, they won't get much prison time. If you want to stick a gun in somebody's face to demand money, then you should do it in D.C., where you can't get more than four years (unless U.S. attorneys step in, as discussed below).
If you want to force somebody out of a car at gunpoint, then D.C. is the place to do it. If you do it in Florida, you can get up to life in prison. The mere possession of a firearm during a crime of violence in Florida is punishable by ten years, or twice the five-year mandatory federal sentence available under 18 U.S. Code §924. If the offender shoots a victim during the felony, there's a 25-year mandatory minimum in Florida. Carjacking is punishable by up to 20 years in Texas, and life in prison if a weapon is used. It looks, in fact, as though you can do five or more carjackings in D.C. for the price of one in Texas, assuming consecutive sentences in D.C.
Pennsylvania Republicans have meanwhile proposed impeachment of Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner for apparently letting off violent criminals with lenient sentences. As but one example, a man who was charged with murdering a carjacking victim was let off with ten years. "McSwain's office alleges Tuggle shot Petersen in the chest, dragged him out of the car, robbed him, and left him for dead in the road as he screamed in pain." Pennsylvania law allows death or life in prison without possibility of parole for a crime of this nature, but Krasner allowed this felon to plead to third-degree murder in exchange for information the felon never provided.
But you can't impeach somebody for doing a poor job. What they really want is a recall election, which is not available. U.S. attorneys have, however, stepped in to do Krasner's job for him by adding charges under 18 U.S. Code §924. These are prosecuted in federal court, and Krasner has no say over them. This law says in part (emphasis is mine),
[A]ny person who, during and in relation to any crime of violence or drug trafficking crime (including a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime that provides for an enhanced punishment if committed by the use of a deadly or dangerous weapon or device) for which the person may be prosecuted in a court of the United States, uses or carries a firearm, or who, in furtherance of any such crime, possesses a firearm, shall, in addition to the punishment provided for such crime of violence or drug trafficking crime —
- be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 years;
- if the firearm is brandished, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 7 years; and
- if the firearm is discharged, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 10 years.
Charges of this nature were in fact filed against Petersen's killer, who now faces up to life in prison, noting that ten years is the minimum and not the maximum sentence for firing a gun during a violent crime. 18 U.S. Code §924 focuses squarely on individuals who should not have firearms, and prison is about the only place in the country where they cannot gain access to them. It is to be noted that, had this law been applied to George Floyd, he might still be in prison and still alive, as he would not have run into Derek Chauvin. Floyd was convicted of robbing a woman at gunpoint which means he brandished the firearm in question, but he never faced the federal charges for this.
If the D.C. city council declares open season on law-abiding citizens with relatively trivial punishments for crimes that could be punished by 20 or more years in prison elsewhere, then U.S. attorneys need to step in for every single case that involves a firearm to add no less than five to ten years to the consequences, depending on whether the gun is possessed, brandished, or fired during the crime.
Civis Americanus is the pen name of a contributor who remembers the lessons of history and wants to ensure that our country never needs to learn those lessons again the hard way. The author is remaining anonymous due to the likely prospect of being subjected to "cancel culture" for exposing the Big Lie behind Black Lives Matter.
Image via Pxhere.