The Tennessee Legislature and Criminal Law

The Tennessee State Legislature has a habit of enacting new criminal laws on an isolated incident that occurred in someone's legislative district. The practice creates terrible laws. I read a great quote recently from an outgoing U.S Senator. " Legislatures should govern not campaign." Tennessee State Legislator Jeremy Faison tweeted that the death penalty should apply for innocent people killed by arson.

We can all agree the intentional setting of forest fires is unconscionable. It should be punished. However, Tennessee already has death penalty laws , arson laws, and laws defining murder charges. Clearly, Representative Faison's tweet was merely a campaign ploy. Every legislative session some law is passed to address an issue that rarely occurs. The legislator goes home and claims a public relations victory. Last week , I posted my commentary on the various criminal laws that could impact the case. I saw a campaign pledge during the recent election of less government. Maybe we need fewer laws.

In my post, I discussed aggravated arson cases in Sevier County. Also, the criminal laws that are now in place to address those issues. The authority od the District Attorney to decide whether to present the charges in Juvenile court or seek to transfer the case to adult court. It seems our government has moved from a civil discourse on governing our state into proposing laws on Twitter.

An End to Gun Violence ?

America must do something to end the weekly news reports of some horrific mass shooting. Our bedrock was shock with the tragedy of the shootings at Sandy Hook. I ran across a letter from  Federal Judge Larry Alan Burns who presided over the case of the Tuscon shooting. Before I share his article in full , I must admit I am a gun owner . I believe in the Second amendment , but the founding fathers only knew of a musket that was fired slowly not a bushmaster. So here is the judge's proposal ;



A conservative case for an assault weapons ban

By Larry Alan Burns

December 20, 2012

Last month, I sentenced Jared Lee Loughner to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in federal prison for his shooting rampage in Tucson. That tragedy left six people dead, more than twice that number injured and a community shaken to its core.

Loughner deserved his punishment. But during the sentencing, I also questioned the social utility of high-capacity magazines like the one that fed his Glock. And I lamented the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban in 2004, which prohibited the manufacture and importation of certain particularly deadly guns, as well as magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The ban wasn't all that stringent -- if you already owned a banned gun or high-capacity magazine you could keep it, and you could sell it to someone else -- but at least it was something.

And it says something that half of the nation's deadliest shootings occurred after the ban expired, including the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. It also says something that it has not even been two years since Loughner's rampage, and already six mass shootings have been deadlier.

I am not a social scientist, and I know that very smart ones are divided on what to do about gun violence. But reasonable, good-faith debates have boundaries, and in the debate about guns, a high-capacity magazine has always seemed to me beyond them.

Bystanders got to Loughner and subdued him only after he emptied one 31-round magazine and was trying to load another. Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, chose as his primary weapon a semiautomatic rifle with 30-round magazines. And we don't even bother to call the 100-rounder that James Holmes is accused of emptying in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater a magazine -- it is a drum. How is this not an argument for regulating the number of rounds a gun can fire?

I get it. Someone bent on mass murder who has only a 10-round magazine or revolvers at his disposal probably is not going to abandon his plan and instead try to talk his problems out. But we might be able to take the "mass" out of "mass shooting," or at least make the perpetrator's job a bit harder.

To guarantee that there would never be another Tucson or Sandy Hook, we would probably have to make it a capital offense to so much as look at a gun. And that would create serious 2nd Amendment, 8th Amendment and logistical problems.

So what's the alternative? Bring back the assault weapons ban, and bring it back with some teeth this time. Ban the manufacture, importation, sale, transfer and possession of both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Don't let people who already have them keep them. Don't let ones that have already been manufactured stay on the market. I don't care whether it's called gun control or a gun ban. I'm for it.

I say all of this as a gun owner. I say it as a conservative who was appointed to the federal bench by a Republican president. I say it as someone who prefers Fox News to MSNBC, and National Review Online to the Daily Kos. I say it as someone who thinks the Supreme Court got it right in District of Columbia vs. Heller, when it held that the 2nd Amendment gives us the right to possess guns for self-defense. (That's why I have mine.) I say it as someone who, generally speaking, is not a big fan of the regulatory state.

I even say it as someone whose feelings about the NRA mirror the left's feelings about Planned Parenthood: It has a useful advocacy function in our deliberative democracy, and much of what it does should not be controversial at all.

And I say it, finally, mindful of the arguments on the other side, at least as I understand them: that a high-capacity magazine is not that different from multiple smaller-capacity magazines; and that if we ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines one day, there's a danger we would ban guns altogether the next, and your life might depend on you having one.

But if we can't find a way to draw sensible lines with guns that balance individual rights and the public interest, we may as well call the American experiment in democracy a failure.

There is just no reason civilians need to own assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Gun enthusiasts can still have their venison chili, shoot for sport and competition, and make a home invader flee for his life without pretending they are a part of the SEAL team that took out Osama bin Laden.

It speaks horribly of the public discourse in this country that talking about gun reform in the wake of a mass shooting is regarded as inappropriate or as politicizing the tragedy. But such a conversation is political only to those who are ideologically predisposed to see regulation of any kind as the creep of tyranny. And it is inappropriate only to those delusional enough to believe it would disrespect the victims of gun violence to do anything other than sit around and mourn their passing. Mourning is important, but so is decisive action.

Congress must reinstate and toughen the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Larry Alan Burns is a federal district judge in San Diego

New Aggravated Robbery Law Goes Into Effect Today

   Tennessee's new law on armed robbery, or as it is defined in Tennessee, aggravated robbery goes into effect today.  The only change in the law is the punishment.  A conviction of aggravated robbery carries a range of imprisonment of 8 - 12 years as a standard range I offender.  A person must serve at least 70% of the sentence before the defendant is eligible for parole.

NASHVILLE — Legislation that requires people convicted of armed robbery to serve most of their sentences in prison is among a number of measures that will become law July 1.

The measure would increase the minimum time served for aggravated robbery with a weapon from 30 percent of the sentence to 70 percent.

Supporters have said the change would mean offenders would serve at least six years, up from the current minimum of about 2½ years. The law would pay for the longer prison time by transferring sentences for first-time convictions for 19 nonviolent felonies to community corrections programs.

The measure was supported by the state’s police chiefs and by prosecutors.

House Minority Leader Gary Odom, a Nashville Democrat and sponsor of the measure, said the “law is smart on crime.”

“It makes certain that our limited number of jail cells will be available to house our most violent criminals,” he said. “It will save lives because it more than doubles the minimum sentence for armed robbery.”

This is an excerpt from the Times News article on Tennessee's new laws.