AG Derek Schmidt: Imprison Repeat Felons Who Commit New Violent Crimes with Firearms

Topeka, Kan. — Convicted felons who already are prohibited by law from possessing firearms but nevertheless carry firearms while committing new violent felonies would be sentenced to prison rather than placed on probation under legislation proposed this week by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

“Kansas law already provides that certain convicted felons may not possess weapons,” Schmidt said. “But the truth is, many violent crimes in our communities are committed by armed repeat felons who flaunt that law because they know the most likely consequence of conviction is probation rather than incarceration. Today we are proposing to give this existing statute real bite by requiring that felons who repeatedly and illegally carry firearms while committing new violent crimes be sent to prison, not granted probation. This proposal focuses on taking off our streets those criminals who repeatedly misuse firearms to commit violent crime in our communities.”

At Schmidt’s request, legislators this week introduced the Reduce Armed Violence Act. The measure would require that felons who illegally possess firearms while they commit new violent felonies would be imprisoned for the weapons charge in addition to any penalty for the new violent felony they have committed. The sentence for the weapons violation would be served consecutively to any other sentence the person receives for the underlying violent crime and would range from 7 months to 23 months of incarceration depending on the offender’s criminal history.

Prosecutors have proposed similar measures during previous legislative sessions and are hopeful for passage of Schmidt’s efforts.

“The overwhelming majority of gun crime in our community is perpetrated by felons who are also legally prohibited from possessing the very firearms they use,” said Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay. “Although many of them are arrested and prosecuted for possessing these weapons, current Kansas law typically mandates that these offenders receive probation. This is not an effective deterrent for the offenders, and they simply repeat their behavior. This legislation will provide prosecutors the only tool we can use to ensure these offenders are prevented from engaging in violence on our streets.”

The bill was introduced earlier this week in the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.