Legislature Looking to Toughen Penalties for Felons Caught with Guns

by Brian Wilson
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A subcommittee in the Iowa Senate has advanced a bill that would toughen penalties for convicted felons caught with a gun. The bill easily cleared the House last Tuesday on an 88-to-six vote. Tony Phillips, a lobbyist for the Iowa State Sheriffs and Deputies Association, says the bill would be a useful tool for county law enforcement agencies.

The bill calls for a mandatory two-year sentence in state prison for a felon caught for the first time with a gun. A felon convicted a fourth time for illegally possessing a gun would have to serve at least a decade in state prison. For the past few years, federal prosecutors have been focusing on cases involving felons with serious criminal records who’d been caught with a firearm during an arrest. Senator Jeff Reichman (RYK-man), a Republican from Montrose, says relying on federal prosecution has become a concern because there’s a backlog of these cases in the federal system.

A Legislative Services Agency analysis indicates the state will spend at least two-point-eight MILLION dollars more each year if the bill becomes law. That’s because only 30 percent of people with felonies who are convicted in state court of having a gun are being sent to state prison today. Most are placed in the community-based system that’s an alternative to jails and prison.

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