Let’s crack down on illegal gun possession

People with criminal records, under restraining orders, or subjects of “red flag” laws can’t have guns. They do anyway. Let’s stop pussyfooting around, and insist prosecutors charge these violations and judges give stiff sentences to violators.

For example, Jadan Maurice Davis-Gunn, 19, of Tacoma, Washington, has a felony record. According to KING 5 News, a Seattle TV station, that record includes assault, malicious mischief, and malicious harassment, and “Davis-Gunn is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm.” (See story here.)

He’s now accused of being the shooter in a road rage incident that occurred on Friday, November 25, 2022, in Tacoma, Washington.

According to King 5 News, after allegedly trying to keep another driver from merging on I-5 from a Tacoma on-ramp, he “then moved into the left lane, and as the two vehicles were driving next to each other, fired several rounds” into the other car, hitting an 11-year-old boy in the back seat. The boy was transported from a nearby fire station to a hospital where he underwent surgery.

Davis-Gunn (photo below) was arrested the next day at a boarding house where he lived, and charged with first-degree assault and illegal possession of a firearm.

In Washington, first-degree assault is a Class A felony (RCW 9A.36.011), with a potential sentence of up to life imprisonment (RCW 9.20.021); and illegal gun possession is either a Class B or C felony (RCW 9.41.040), punishable by up to 10 or 5 years (RCW 9A.36.011).

Prosecutors have limited resources, and plea-bargain most cases. Defense attorneys evaluate the evidence, and if their clients are likely to be found guilty, typically urge them to accept a deal that often involves pleading to lesser charges and/or getting a lighter sentence. In this case, the gun charge might be bargained away, or relegated to a concurrent sentence.

That’s the system, and while I recognize the practical realities, on a philosophical level I disagree with it. A person prohibited from having guns should serve extra time for that violation. Prosecutors and judges should send a message to the streets that illegally possessing a gun will be punished.

We already have laws to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them, but we’re not taking those laws seriously enough. Let’s start enforcing them in a meaningful way. That’s a gun control effort we can make that doesn’t require passing new laws.

In this case, if Gunn-Davis is convicted, he’ll very likely get out of prison someday. But he should do more time because of the gun violation. His prior record marked him as someone in whose hands a gun is considered too dangerous for society to allow. That was a crime in itself, and it shouldn’t be penalty-free. What he did with the gun speaks for itself.

There are plenty of dangerous people on the streets who are armed. Let’s give them a reason to eschew guns, in a way they’re capable of understanding.

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