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California Legislature

California lawmakers vote to give judges discretion over longer sentences in gun crimes

State Sen. Steven Bradford, left, shown talking to Secretary of State Alex Padilla, won a change to sentencing laws Wednesday. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
State Sen. Steven Bradford, left, shown talking to Secretary of State Alex Padilla, won a change to sentencing laws Wednesday. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

State lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill that would allow judges to decide against imposing prison-sentence enhancements of 10 or more years in cases where firearms are used to commit a felony.

The Senate sent the bill to Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration after its author, Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), said crime is not reduced by the current mandate requiring judges to add sentence enhancements if a gun is used.

"I hope this [bill] will lead to more fair and equitable sentencing in cases involving guns where no one is hurt and a shot was not fired," Bradford said.

The senator said longer sentences do not deter crime, but instead "disproportionately increase racial disparities in prison populations and they greatly increase the population of incarcerated persons.”

The measure passed the Senate on a 21-13 vote with Republicans in opposition, as they were earlier in the week in the Assembly.

Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) noted she recently attended the funeral of a sheriff’s deputy shot to death by a criminal.

"You want to get rid of an enhancement for someone who kills cops?" she asked her colleagues.

Bradford said there still will be cases that will see sentence enhancements.

"This bill does not prohibit firearms sentencing enhancement," Bradford told his colleagues Wednesday, saying it allows judges to "exercise justice as they see fit," and "make sure the punishment fits the nature and severity of the crime."

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