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Lighter penalties proposed amid gun debate

8:43 PM, Feb 14, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - Amid the debate over gun control, a bill proposed in the Colorado House of Representatives would reduce mandatory minimum sentences in many violent crimes.

The sponsor of HB1148 is Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, who served as a prosecutor long before becoming a lawmaker.

He says the bill's recommendations come from the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice with the goal of allowing judges more latitude to impose stiffer or lighter penalties for felonies.

"It runs the gamut from everything except for first degree murder," Foote said. "It doesn't change anything about that."

The idea doesn't sit well with Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey.

"These are criminals that are using guns to rob people, rape people, shoot people, murder people," Morrissey said. "Why on earth would you go and reduce the mandatory minimum sentence that they face in half?"

Morrissey says that a gun assault with serious bodily injury would be subject to a 4-year minimum sentence under the bill, rather than a 10-year sentence currently.

That strikes a chord with gun owners, who've argued that tougher penalties on people who misuse guns are a more appropriate way of responding to gun violence that more controversial gun control measures being debated in the House.

"You need to make harsher penalties for people who commit crimes with firearms," said Richard Taylor, behind the counter of the Firing Line, a gun shop in Aurora.

"If you're going to make the sentence less, I don't understand the whole purpose of what they're trying to do," said Tyler Romero, a customer in the same store.

Foote says HB-1148 is not about letting criminals off easy.

"Well, we're also increasing the maximum," Foote said. "In cases where it's appropriate, the prosecutor can ask for a much stiffer sentence and the judge can decide whether or not to impose that kind of sentence."

The bill is scheduled for its first hearing Tuesday in the House Judiciary Committee.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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