State House passes legislation that toughens penalties for criminals who commit crimes with guns

Dover – With broad bi-partisan support, the State House today passed a measure drafted by the Attorney General’s office aimed at deterring the illegal possession of firearms by criminals who are already prohibited from possessing guns.

“This legislation is another step we’re taking to protect our communities from dangerous criminals who carry guns,” Attorney General Beau Biden said.

House Bill 73 was introduced in April by Rep. Larry Mitchell, D-Elsmere, a retired New Castle County Police sergeant, who today said law enforcement approves sentencing changes pertaining to possession of a firearm by a person prohibited.  “People who already have been convicted of violent felonies and decide to illegally possess a firearm should face mandatory jail time,” said Rep. Mitchell.  “Law enforcement works hard to get illegal firearms off our streets, and this is an additional tool to get both guns and criminals off our streets.”

HB 73 includes juvenile adjudications for violent felonies in triggering minimum prison sentences for convicted felons – those who, because of their felony convictions, are prohibited from possessing a gun – who are subsequently found with a gun.  Although juveniles found guilty of violent felonies are prohibited from possessing a gun, those juvenile “adjudications” under current law do not counts as convictions that would trigger minimum jail sentences if they are later convicted of a gun offense.  Under HB 73, those juvenile “adjudications” would trigger the following the minimum mandatory jail sentences under current law: 1 year if the offender is previously convicted of a violent felony; 3 years if the offender committed a previous violent felony within 10 years; and 5 years if the offender was previously convicted of 2 or more violent felonies.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 40-1.  It now makes it way to the Senate for consideration.