The District now is less safe, thanks to guidelines from the District of Columbia Sentencing Commission that took effect in July. The commission voted to decrease sentences for felons convicted of illegally possessing a gun in the District and to reduce the impact of prior felon-in-possession convictions on any future sentence an offender might incur. Repeat offenders who have committed gun crimes will be back on the street sooner, once again endangering our community.
Thousands of illegal guns are recovered every year in our city. Gun violence destroys lives and traumatizes communities. People who are sick and tired of seeing lives unnecessarily lost to gun violence have been crying out for more to be done. Instead of answering the call, the sentencing commission quietly and opaquely decreased the severity and impact of the potential penalties for felons who possess a gun illegally in the District. Less-stringent penalties embolden criminals, demoralize law enforcement and enable violent offenders to return more quickly to terrorizing the very communities who are calling out to the government for help.
To reduce gun violence, we must deal more effectively with the people most likely to commit crimes with guns. There is almost unanimous agreement that convicted felons should not be allowed to possess guns. Federal law prohibits this. The D.C. Council agrees, having twice voted to ensure that possession of a firearm by a felon is treated more seriously than other gun-possession crimes.
The commission’s vote shows disdain for the D.C. Council, police and prosecutors and, most important, the safety of our residents. While many are working to safeguard our communities, the commission’s actions have endangered them.
Peter Newsham, Washington
The writer is the D.C. police chief.
Jessie K. Liu, Washington
The writer is the U.S. attorney
for the District of Columbia.