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Sentencing Commission Issues Report on Federal Gun Laws

The United States Sentencing Commission has issued its latest report on its study of federal firearms statutes.  The report provides updated data on the use and impact of federal gun laws that carry mandatory minimum penalties. These laws include possessing/using a firearm in furtherance is a drug trafficking crime or crime of violence (18 USC 924(c)) and the Armed Career Criminal Act (18 USC 924(e)).

The report, titled Mandatory Minimum Penalties for Firearms in the Federal Criminal Justice System, included the following key findings:

  • Firearms offenses accounted for nearly 17% of all offenses carrying a mandatory minimum penalty in 2016.
  • Offenders convicted of a single 924(c) offense received average sentences of more than 11 years, whereas offenders convicted of multiple 924(c) offenses received average sentences of more than 27 years.
  • The vast majority of offenders (85%) who were convicted under section 924(c) were also convicted of another offense – most commonly some form of drug trafficking (45% of cases) or robbery (31%).
  • The remaining 15% of offenders convicted of a 924(c) charge were able to avoid a conviction on another charge due to a prosecutor’s charging decisions or subsequent plea negotiations.  These offenders had an average sentence that was five years shorter than the sentences of those convicted of a 924(c) offense and another offense.
  • Since 2010, the number of offenders convicted under sections 924(c) and 924(e) has fallen 16% and 50%, respectively.
  • Data from fiscal year 2016 shows disparate treatment of minorities.  Black offenders were convicted of a firearms offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty more than any other racial group (over 50%). Hispanic offenders comprised the next largest group, at nearly 30%.  Black offenders also accounted for roughly 70% of offenders convicted of multiple 924(c) counts and the ACCA, which carry the longest average sentences (327 months and 182 months, respectively).
  • Firearm mandatory minimum penalties continue to have a huge impact on the size and composition of the federal prison population.  About 15% of all federal inmates (nearly 25,000) were convicted of a gun offense carrying a mandatory minimum prison term.

The Commission’s full report is available here: https://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/research-publications/2018/20180315_Firearms-Mand-Min.pdf

As you can see, federal offenses carrying mandatory minimums are serious business. ASWD criminal defense attorney Lee Metzger regularly defends against these types of charges, and has a proven track record of success.

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