Mayor asks state lawmakers for tougher sentencing laws

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INDIANAPOLIS (March 6, 2014) – Just hours after a shooting involving four Metro Police officers, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard was at the Statehouse, asking legislators to make it harder for felons to get out of prison after committing gun-related crimes.

Mayor Ballard spoke to a House-Senate conference committee that’s working on the final details of some new legislation that Ballard thinks will help prosecutors get tough on violent crime. Senate Bill 169 was approved by the House and the Senate, but because the House made changes to the bill, a conference committee will have to sort out the details.

“Too many people committing violent crimes are being released after serving only a fraction of their sentences and going on to commit even more violent crimes,” said Ballard. “That has to stop.”

“Now’s the time to act,” said the chair of the conference committee, Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis.  “We have to act now if we’re going to resolve this issue and it’s going to send a strong message to those people who fight and kill and maim our citizens.”

Some lawmakers also want to go after the people who provide those guns if they know or have reason to believe the person they’re providing that gun to has the intent to commit a crime. But other legislators say that’s where things get tricky.

“Those type of things, we have to be careful about, because we’re going to be putting innocent people behind bars and that’s not what we intend to do,” said Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis. “We’ve got to be smart about it. The bill has gotten smarter, it’s gotten a lot better for the community.”

“If you use a gun in any manner in the commission of a crime, you need to go away for a long, long time,” said Ballard.

Lawmakers are working on the final negotiations right now. The original bill called for an additional 20-year sentence for those gun-related crimes. The Senate changed that to give more discretion to judges, making it ten to 20 years; the House cut that to a five- to 20-year sentence and also took out the provision dealing with the people who provide those guns.

Lawmakers will need to sort out the details by the end of session next Friday, March 14.

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