Theft of Firearms-Sentence Enhancement Legislation

  

The intent of PA legislators to stem the tide of illegal guns by prosecuting those involved, such as efforts by Rep. Reichley, are

noble but frankly will not change anything because the problem is not with the law but with the courts and the D/A’s.  Now IF it is

 their genuine wish to stop theft of firearms by holding those who do it accountable then it is a measure doomed to failure in

our opinion.

 

We would also point out that it does not appear, from public statements, that legislators are correctly interpreting and/or applying

 current law (which is included here in its’ entirety) from when it was last amended in 2005.

 

3903. Grading of Theft Offenses.

(a)  Felony of the second degree.-Theft constitutes a felony of the second degree if

(1)  The offense is committed during a manmade disaster, a natural disaster or a war caused disaster and constitutes a violation

 of section 3921 (relating to theft by unlawful taking or disposition), 3925 (relating to receiving stolen property), 3928 (relating to

unauthorized use of automobiles and other vehicles) or 3929 (relating to retail theft).

(2)  The property stolen is a firearm.

(3)  In the case of theft by receiving stolen property, the property received, retained or disposed of is a firearm and the

 receiver is in the business of buying or selling stolen property.

(4)  The property stolen is any amount of anhydrous ammonia

 

Now IF we cannot convict, for whatever reason, criminals in possession of stolen guns for stealing them as stated above

then the current section below makes it a Misdemeanor 1 as long as the cost of the item is more than $200 not $2000 as other legislative memos

have indicated. The valuation of most guns today are that they are, virtually, all worth more than $200 unless there is some arcane way of

estimating value, or the other possibility is that we have incompetent D/A’s.

 

(b)  Other grades.-Theft not within subsection (a) or (a.l) of this section, constitutes a misdemeanor of the first degree,

 except that if the property was not taken from the person or by threat, or in breach of fiduciary obligation, and:

(1)  the amount involved was $50 or more but less than $200 the offense constitutes a misdemeanor of the second degree; or 

how do we arrive at our cynicism on the court’s approach to these issues?  Examine the latest figures from the PA Sentencing

Commission for just one aspect of Title 18 section 3903 (a) (2) ‘theft of a firearm’ below:

 

All Offenses:  For this table, CRIMINALS only received jail time in 2/3 of the cases when convicted of a stolen gun charge

 as part of the overall prosecution.  HOW can an individual who possessed a stolen gun as part of other ‘more serious’ charges

 walk away over 30% of the time?

 

Year

Prison

Jail

RIP

Probation

RS

Total

 

Number

Percent

Min

Max

Number

Percent

Min

Max

Number

Percent

Min

Number

Percent

Min

Number

Percent

 

1996

0

0.0%

.

.

1

33.3%

2.7

12.0

0

0.0%

.

1

33.3%

12.0

1

33.3%

3

1997

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

0

1998

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

0

1999

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

0

2000

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

0

2001

18

39.1%

18.9

47.8

8

17.4%

13.0

31.8

7

15.2%

8.7

12

26.1%

42.0

1

2.2%

46

2002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2003

 

 

Year

Prison

Jail

RIP

Probation

RS

Total

 

Number

Percent

Min

Max

Number

Percent

Min

Max

Number

Percent

Min

Number

Percent

Min

Number

Percent

 

1996

0

0.0%

.

.

1

50.0%

2.7

12.0

0

0.0%

.

1

50.0%

12.0

0

0.0%

2

1997

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

0

1998

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

0

1999

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

0

2000

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

0

2001

10

34.5%

18.1

48.0

6

20.7%

6.2

18.6

5

17.2%

8.0

7

24.1%

34.3

1

3.4%

29

2002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2004

25

26.6%

18.3

41.3

40

42.6%

7.0

21.5

10

10.6%

8.8

18

19.1%

31.6

1

1.1%

94

2005

30

24.8%

16.5

42.8

45

37.2%

6.3

19.8

13

10.7%

13.7

22

18.2%

26.6

11

9.1%

121

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2004

48

31.6%

23.3

51.5

57

37.5%

7.9

22.6

12

7.9%

8.3

21

13.8%

34.5

14

9.2%

152

2005

68

31.5%

17.3

45.7

66

30.6%

6.4

20.7

17

7.9%

14.0

37

17.1%

27.8

28

13.0%

216

 

(Min/Max=Months of Sentence)

 

 

Most Serious Offense per Judicial Proceeding:    For the table below ONLY about half actually went to jail! 

 How will criminals think society is serious about gun thefts when the courts handle these issues this way?

 

 

Year

Prison

Jail

RIP

Probation

RS

Total

 

Number

Percent

Min

Max

Number

Percent

Min

Max

Number

Percent

Min

Number

Percent

Min

Number

Percent

 

1996

0

0.0%

.

.

1

50.0%

2.7

12.0

0

0.0%

.

1

50.0%

12.0

0

0.0%

2

1997

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

0

1998

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

0

1999

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

0

2000

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

.

0

0.0%

0

2001

10

34.5%

18.1

48.0

6

20.7%

6.2

18.6

5

17.2%

8.0

7

24.1%

34.3

1

3.4%

29

2002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2004

25

26.6%

18.3

41.3

40

42.6%

7.0

21.5

10

10.6%

8.8

18

19.1%

31.6

1

1.1%

94

2005

30

24.8%

16.5

42.8

45

37.2%

6.3

19.8

13

10.7%

13.7

22

18.2%

26.6

11

9.1%

121

(Min/Max=Months of Sentence)

 

Once you have looked at the above, then take a look at the actual numbers of people prosecuted for using a firearm in the

commission of a crime. 

Considering the number of criminals who misuse guns and the number of individuals prosecuted for just murder alone here in PA,

these numbers alone indicate an institutional indifference to applying current law.

 

Offense                                                            #Offenses         #Cleared

Robbery Firearm                                              7,972               2,041

Assault Firearm                                                5,949               2,731

Weapons, Carrying, Posses, Etc.                     5,872               4,826

 

The figures above are from the PSP annual crime report.  In addition the figure from Philadelphia alone on weapon

offenses is 2,218 for 2005.

  Obviously a significant number of these firearms are stolen as past studies show the figure at as high as 75%.

 

Therefore my premise is just that the justice system routinely ignores gun charges and this is but one example of it. 

The likelihood that raising the punishment to a Felony 1 interdicting the illegal possession of guns when the courts do not impose current sentences is

remote at best. 

It is our view that raising the level of punishment will actually drive down prosecutions and since D/A’s are the charging

officials in the long run will not make any ‘real’ difference.

 

It is time to be honest with Pennsylvania citizens and provide workable, constitutionally friendly solutions

 to violent crime!