(WOOD) – GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When it comes to first-time offenses involving weapons, a pair of legislation in Lansing with bipartisan backing might change the sentencing standards.
House Bills 5908 and 5909 would change the state’s requirement that anybody convicted of a felony firearm crime for the first time serve two years in prison consecutively.
“The 1976 felony firearm statute has disproportionately impacted the Black community, with over 80% of persons serving felony firearm terms identifying as Black,” said Rep. Kyra Bolden, D-Southfield, one of the two lawmakers who introduced the measures.
The bills’ other sponsor is Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, who wants to broaden the meaning of “use” of a firearm while committing a felony.
“Why is a gun part of the charge if it was not used in the commission of a crime?” Why is it a part of the charges that prosecutors can bring against them?” Meerman remarked.
A firearm criminal conviction currently carries a two-year mandatory consecutive sentence.
If the bill passes, judges will have the option of adding two years to a sentence if a person is caught carrying but not using a handgun while being charged with another crime.
“Under the bill, we’re proposing, the sentences might be concurrent if it wasn’t utilized in the conduct of the crime.” “It’s still consecutively if it’s used in the commission of the crime — that is, brandishing, threatening with the gun,” Meerman explained.
Not everyone is on board with the plan. Prosecutor David Gilbert of Calhoun County says he opposes the bill.
“The felony firearm act aims to give people who commit other felonies while in possession of a firearm an aggravated penalty,” Gilbert explained. “A gun isn’t required to commit carjacking. Guns are frequently carried by drug dealers. Someone breaking into your home may never brandish a pistol, but if they do, you’ll know why.”
The bill might come up for a vote in the House chamber as soon as next month.