HARRISBURG—Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) will introduce legislation to make the state’s sentencing guidelines presumptive for gun crimes. Data from the PA Commission on Sentencing, which he chairs, shows Philadelphia and other counties routinely sentence below recommended levels for violent criminals who use firearms.
The legislation requires courts to state, on the record, a substantial and compelling reason that an injustice would occur by imposing a sentence below the standard range of the sentencing guidelines.
“In Philadelphia, the violent crime rate is at its highest in decades and shows no signs of dissipating,” Stephens said. “To protect the public, we must ensure our prosecutors and Judges are following sentencing guidelines for violent criminals who use guns.”
Last year, the city recorded an astounding 499 firearms homicides and more than 2,200 nonfatal shootings. It is on pace to far surpass that figure in 2021 with 132 homicides – a 35% increase from this time last year and more than 500 people shot as of April 8.
“This senseless loss of life must end, and we must undertake a concerted effort to address the rise in violent crime,” Stephens said.
In a recent news report, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw explained that the “Philadelphia criminal justice system has become a ‘revolving door’ for repeat gun offenders, leaving more of them on the street with their weapons with little reason to fear the consequences of being caught.”
This statement is supported by the data. According to the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, an overwhelming majority of sentences for violent criminals who use firearms in Philadelphia are below the commission’s recommended sentencing guidelines.
“We need a law to ensure these violent offenders receive the sentences they deserve as recommended by our sentencing guidelines,” Stephens said.
But this is not just a Philadelphia issue.
“Crime in Philadelphia affects surrounding counties; gun violence in other counties is a real problem, too,” Stephens said. “While the circumstances and dynamics may be different, they all require a thoughtful and effective response.”
Representative Todd Stephens
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: David Foster