Friday, August 21, 2009

No Outrage from Me

Let me preface this by saying that (a) I'm not a fan of people who do dumb things with guns and (b) I am not now nor have I ever been a New York Giants fan. With that out of the way, I'm finding a hard time finding much sympathy for Giants receiver Plaxico Burress, who is off to prison for two years, as are many commentators.

Here's what happened. Burress carried a loaded handgun into a club in New York City. It was legally registered in Burress's home state of Florida, but illegal to possess in NYC. While in the club, the gun, which Burress allegedly had stuffed in the waistband of his sweatpants (classy!), went off accidentally. Fortunately, the only person hit by fire was Burress himself, who was not seriously wounded.

Burress was charged with multiple counts, including criminal possession of a weapon, which carried a mandatory sentence of at least 3.5 years. He worked out a deal to plead guilty to attempted possession (nice hair splitting there) and agreed to a two-year sentence, of which he'll probably serve 20 months. The arguments against the sentence is that it's too long for a simple possession of a weapon (which, some argue, shouldn't be criminal at all), with a recognition that it's shaped by the mandatory minimums for the original charges.

I've got no love for mandatory minimum sentences and, were this really a simple possession case, I'd have more problems with it. But Burress is a bad poster boy for responsible firearm ownership. Quite simply, if your gun goes off in public, you need to do some time. The fact that Burress is the only one who got his is pure luck. Nor is the fact that the discharge was accidental a mitigating factor - a yutz who can't keep his gun in his pants may be more dangerous in a crowded space than someone intent on doing non-shooting criminal mischief.

I see lots of clients who end up doing time for doing nothing more than possessing a gun. Not fire it, not waive it around, not carry it around in his pants. If somebody's going to be the poster child for excessive firearm sentences in a post-Heller world, let's use one of them, OK?

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