April 2, 2009
Norris bills cracking down on violent criminals advance
in Senate Judiciary Committee
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Senate Judiciary Committee approved two bills sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) to crack down on violent crime in Tennessee this week. One bill, SB 672, adds attempted first degree murder to the “Crooks with Guns” law. The original “Crooks with Guns” legislation,
also sponsored by Norris, made it an additional offense to be armed with a firearm when committing a list of dangerous felonies like aggravated and especially aggravated kidnapping, burglary, stalking, carjacking, voluntary manslaughter, and certain drug crimes.
“Tennessee ranks second in the nation in the number of violent crimes,” said Sen. Norris. “These criminals are often repeat offenders. This legislation would work to keep those offenders off the street where they are no longer a danger to the public.”
Sixty-seven percent of those convicted of violent crimes are re-arrested within three years of being released from prison. The recidivism rate increases to 80 percent when you move past that three-year marker.
The bill would add a minimum of three years to the sentence of a violator who possesses a firearm during the commission of attempted first-degree murder, to be served after the underlying offense. If a violator possesses a firearm during the commission of the attempted first-degree murder and has a prior felony conviction, then a mandatory minimum of five years would be added to the sentence.
In addition, if a violator possesses a firearm during commission or attempt to commit a dangerous felony or attempting to escape, then a mandatory minimum of six years is added to the sentence to be served after the underlying offense. A prior felony conviction from this would add 10 years onto the sentence.
The bill will face its biggest hurdle in the Senate Finance Committee due to the cost of imprisonment. Governor Phil Bredesen did not include the initiative in his budget.
The second bill, SB 2115, aims to keep repeat violent criminals convicted of aggravated burglary behind bars longer by counting each felony committed within a 24-hour period as a separate offense.
Under current law, with few exceptions, felonies committed within a 24-hour period constitute one conviction for the purpose of determining prior convictions by the court. This bill requires all aggravated burglaries a defendant commits within a 24-hour period to be counted as separate prior convictions for purposes of determining whether the defendant is a multiple, persistent, or career offender under the Criminal Sentencing Reform Act.
The Committee delayed until next week a vote on Norris’ legislation calling for those convicted of robbery to serve more of their sentences in jail. Under the bill, SB 673, if an offender has a previous conviction for a “dangerous felony” under the Crooks with Guns law and commits aggravated robbery with a firearm, then they would be required to serve 75% of the sentence imposed and sentence credits may not reduce the sentence by more than 25%. That bill also requires that if an offender has a prior felony conviction, and commits aggravated robbery with a firearm, they must serve 60% of the sentence imposed and sentence credits may not reduce the sentence by more than 40%.
“All of these bills aim to provide safety to our citizens by keeping these violent repeat offenders locked up,” Norris added. “We must make public safety a priority of state government so that our citizens can feel secure in their own communities.”
Norris said besides the pain and suffering caused to their victims and the cost of apprehending and prosecuting repeat violent offenders, each year Shelby County alone spends approximately $25 million in taxpayer money to treat gunshot wounds at The Regional Medical Center.
Elected Majority Leader in 2007, Senator Norris represents the West Tennessee Counties of Shelby, Lauderdale, Tipton, and Dyer.
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