State Rep. Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville) today introduced a bipartisan plan to grant judicial discretion in felony firearm possession charges – keeping people out of prison who don’t belong there.
Under current law, if an individual is found guilty of a felony and possesses a firearm when the felony occurred, they can be charged with a felony firearm possession – even if the firearm was not a part of their crime. Felony firearm possession is a serious conviction that comes with a mandatory two-year sentence. To receive this charge, a firearm need only be present on the premises where the felony occurred, even if the firearm was locked away and inaccessible.
Meerman’s legislation, sponsored in partnership with his Democratic colleague, Rep. Kyra Bolden, will ensure that for a first-time charge, an individual may only be found guilty of a felony firearm possession if the firearm was used or brandished in the commission of the felony. The plan is part of a greater legislative effort to improve the state’s criminal justice system.
“This plan will ensure that we do not put people behind bars who do not belong there,” Meerman said. “Our judges can discern if a gun was used in a crime and whether the individual presents a gun safety hazard – ensuring the penalty is fair and just. People shouldn’t be sent to prison for gun charges if they are not actually guilty of gun crimes.”
Meerman also said that when an individual is incarcerated, they are far more likely to commit another criminal offense once they are out of prison. His plan will help ensure people are not sent to prison needlessly, impacting the trajectory of the rest of their lives.
The plan is expected to be referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.
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