Texas Bill That Required 10 Year Prison Sentence For Gun Charges Is Being Opposed By Firearm Advocates

Under Senate Bill 23, all felonies involving a gun would incur a mandatory 10-year prison sentence. It’s meant to curb crime, despite the lack of correlation between harsher sentences and crime rates.

A Texas bill that would require a 10-year prison sentence for people who use a gun while committing a felony has drawn concern from two groups that aren’t usually on the same side of legislative debates: criminal justice reform advocates and gun rights groups. Senate Bill 23, filed Thursday by state Rep. Joan Huffman, would also bar judges from sentencing those convicted of using or brandishing firearms during felonies to community supervision or parole in lieu of a decade in prison.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick proposed the idea of mandatory sentencing in gun crimes in campaign ads last fall in response to some increases in violent crime following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. He included the bill in his list of legislative priorities for the current legislative session, a designation that gives it an easier path to clear the Senate. The bill goes further than a previous piece of legislation that Huffman, a Houston Republican, filed last month.

“I am a firm believer in deterrence, especially for the most violent crimes,” Huffman said in a statement released with the earlier gun crime bill. “In Texas, we deeply respect the Second Amendment, but we will not tolerate violent criminals terrorizing our communities. Enough is enough.” Huffman was not available to respond to questions about SB 23 on Thursday.

Criminal justice reform advocates say mandatory minimum prison sentences increase inmate populations while doing little to reduce violent crime. “Frankly, a lot of times lawmakers proposed mandatory minimums because they want to look like they’re doing something about violent crime and the only thing they really know how to do is increase penalties,” said Molly Gill, the vice president of policy at Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a national criminal justice reform nonprofit.