By Eric Siddall
What should not be lost in the wake of our article exposing the lies used to manipulate the elimination of mandatory sentences for gun crimes is the cavalier dismissal of victims of gun crime.
As the ADDA detailed in our press release, legislation is moving through Sacramento at record speed which seeks to reduce penalties for using guns in a crime.
Criminals use guns in crimes because they want their victims to know death or physical injury will result if there is no immediate compliance. On the precipice of potential death, the victim is usually alone: no appellate attorneys present to advocate for the victim, no 9th Circuit judge ready to intercede with a stay, no last visit with family and a final meal, just a thug threatening them with death.
We have spoken to countless victims sexually assaulted or robbed at gunpoint. The one common thread is how that one event forever changed their sense of safety and normalcy. They recount how close they felt to death, knowing their life could have been ended on the whim of a criminal who decided they did not want to leave a witness or the victim was not moving fast enough.
Proponents of SB 620 not only had to falsify evidence to make their point, but they also argue that longer sentences do not deter criminals. We disagree. However, even if you don’t believe in its deterrent effect, it serves another purpose-punishment. In fact, in the California Rules of Court list of the “General Objectives of Sentencing,” “protecting society” is the first objective and “punishing the defendant” is the second objective.
We support additional penalties for gun violence because you should get additional time when you rape or rob someone at gunpoint. Is 10 years appropriate punishment for merely using a gun? We say yes. Is 20 years appropriate punishment for firing a gun in commission of a crime? We say yes. Is life appropriate for shooting and killing another while committing a crime? We say yes.
In the age of “criminal social justice reform” and an obsession with serving the “criminogenic needs” of the convicted defendant, “reformers” dismiss punishment as a consequence for the trauma deliberately inflicted on victims and by their words indicate indifference to protecting society.
Typical of this is the ACLU, whose representative testified at the same Senate hearing about how unfair it is to punish somebody with a mandatory 20-year sentence for firing a “warning shot” during a crime. Notwithstanding the fact that I have never seen a case where the criminal is simply firing a warning shot-the ACLU believes it’s unfair to punish a criminal for firing a gun when committing a crime. The ACLU also complained that it was unfair to increase punishment if the gun “accidentally discharged” during the crime. I would advise the ACLU to actually read the statute because it requires the act to be intentional, not accidental.
We expect the wholesale dismissal of victims by the ACLU, whose mission is to lobby in support of those who victimize others. What we do not accept is the continued wholesale dismissal of victims, with the “what is done is done” attitude of lawmakers concerned only with how they can pass more laws to “better the lives” of those who commit crime.
Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. To contact a Board member, click here.
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