MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - District attorneys across Tennessee are calling on legislators to pass a bill that would create a minimum six-month sentence for anyone convicted of theft of a gun.
The idea for a mandatory, minimum sentence for gun theft is similar to what’s being done for people caught driving drunk. If approved it would be a no questions asked 180 days in jail with no early release.
“We mean business. This is going to be real time. You’re not going to get probation but what we really want to see happen is people stop and think twice,” said Shelby County DA, Amy Weirich.
The bill originally proposed last session asked to increase the theft of gun charge to a class D felony. That bill is parked behind the governor’s budget.
As it awaits approval from lawmakers, district attorneys across the state along with the Memphis Shelby County Crime Commission want to take the bill one step further -- creating a mandatory minimum sentence for convicted gun thieves.
“We have a rising problem of guns being stolen in our community And if you’re stealing a gun, you’re not stealing it for any noble purpose. You are stealing that gun to victimize people in this community,” said Weirich.
Weirich says the expansion of the castle doctrine has lead to an increase in guns stolen from cars in the city. In fact, between 2013 and 2018 Memphis saw a 255% increase in firearms stolen from cars.
“The numbers are staggering. We saw a little bit of a decline last year between 2018 and 2019 we saw that number go down, but it’s still staggering the increase between 2013 and where we were at the end of last year in terms of guns stolen,” she said.
Across the city the DA’s office says Memphis saw a 77% increase in firearms stolen in between 2013 and 2018.
Weirich believes tougher sentencing will provide a deterrence to criminals.
Further discussion of the bill is set to take place after Governor Bill Lee’s budget is approved later in the spring.
The governor has already publicly given his support for the idea during his State of the State address last week.