By Blake Farmer,
January 9, 2012

The new year brings stiffer penalties for drive-by shootings. A new state law makes it a felony to shoot into a house, whether it’s occupied or not.

The state legislation was sponsored by Senator Mark Norris, a Republican from the suburbs of Memphis, which has suffered a rash of drive-bys, including one Christmas morning.

Here in Nashville, Assistant District Attorney Rob McGuire prosecuted a case in May where a 16-year-old girl was killed.

“The intended victim was not hit. One of the bullets came through the house and hit her in the chest and she died. It’s a terrible, dangerous situation. But if she hadn’t been killed by this bullet, it still would have been extraordinarily dangerous and we want that to be taken into account.”

Under the new law, it becomes a Class C felony instead of a misdemeanor, even if no one is hurt. McGuire says he doesn’t expect gang members to change their behavior because they now face three to six years in jail, but he says the new penalty could keep them from doing it again so quickly.

The tougher sentencing for drive-by shootings will cost Tennessee taxpayers an extra $59,000 per incarceration.

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