June 23 2009

(NASHVILLE, TN), The General Assembly has approved legislation cracking down on violent crime in Tennessee that builds on the “Crooks with Guns Law” passed by the legislature last year.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville), adds attempted first degree murder to the Crooks with Guns Law.

“Tennessee ranks second in the nation in the number of violent crimes,” said Senator Norris, who sponsored the original Crooks with Guns Law.

“This legislation would work to keep those offenders off the street where they are no longer a danger to the public.”

Sixty-seven percent of those convicted of violent crimes are re-arrested within three years of being released from prison. The recidivism rate increases to 80 percent when you move past that three-year marker.

The original “Crooks with Guns” legislation made it an additional offense to be armed with a firearm when committing a list of dangerous felonies like aggravated and especially aggravated kidnapping, burglary, stalking, carjacking, voluntary manslaughter, and certain drug crimes.

“Protection of our citizens should be one of our first priorities,” added Overbey.

“These are not petty criminals.

These are offenders that have no fear of using a firearm to kill their victim in the commission of a crime.”

The bill, SB 672 , would add a minimum of three years to the sentence of a violator who possesses a firearm during the commission of attempted first-degree murder, to be served after the underlying offense. If a violator possesses a firearm during the commission of the attempted first-degree murder and has a prior felony conviction, then a mandatory minimum of five years would be added to the sentence.

In addition, if a violator possesses a firearm during the commission or an attempt to commit a dangerous felony or attempting to escape, then a mandatory minimum of six years is added to the sentence to be served after the underlying offense. A prior felony conviction from this would add 10 years onto the sentence.

The General Assembly also approved another bill aimed at keeping repeat violent criminals convicted of aggravated burglary behind bars longer by counting each felony committed within a 24-hour period as a separate offense.

Under current law, with few exceptions, felonies committed within a 24-hour period constitute one conviction for the purpose of determining prior convictions by the court. This bill, SB 2115 also sponsored by Norris and Overbey, requires all aggravated burglaries a defendant commits within a 24-hour period to be counted as separate prior convictions for purposes of determining whether the defendant is a multiple, persistent, or career offender under the Criminal Sentencing Reform Act.

Both of these bills aim to provide safety to our citizens by keeping these violent repeat offenders locked up,” Norris added.

“We must make public safety a priority of state government so our citizens feel secure in their own communities.”

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