While Virginia lawmakers are on the cusp of unconstitutionally criminalizing law-abiding gun owners for exercising ironclad individual rights, they are working on legislation to release potentially thousands of the most violent criminals from prison, including rapists and murderers who use guns to harm or kill people. “Lock up the guns and release the violent gun felons” has become the mantra of elitists politicians – all under the guise of compassion and public safety.
When the goal is reducing the prison population rather than reducing crime, including gun violence, you get legislation like SB 624, sponsored by state Sen. Lionell Spruill, D-Chesapeake. Last Friday, the Virginia Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services passed the “Geriatric prisoners; conditional release” bill by a 9-5 vote, mainly on party lines. It then passed the Finance Committee Wednesday by a 15-1 margin.
Despite its compassionate-sounding name, this bill will essentially lead to the release, in most cases, of anyone who is 55 years of age or older and has served at least 15 years or anyone who is 50 years of age or older and has served at least 20 years of the sentence imposed. Given that even for serious crimes, very few people serve this amount of time in prison, these are, by definition, your absolute worst career violent criminals, including murderers or rapists.
The only criminals excluded from the release are “Class 1 felons,” which in Virginia only includes those convicted of murdering a cop or a child or other very specific circumstances surrounding a murder. All other murders and all other crimes are included. Roughly 300 current violent felons would be eligible immediately for parole under this bill, with scores of future undeterred criminals in the pipeline.
And we’re not talking about 90-year-olds here, we’re talking about middle-aged criminals. This is 2020, and no 50-year-old would consider himself “geriatric.”
To make matters worse, this bill follows the trend of other blue states in abolishing the three strikes law, thereby ensuring that even those convicted of three murders or rapes will not be given mandatory life sentences.
So much for the talking point of “reform” only applying to “low-level, first-time, nonviolent” offences. As I’ve warned for years, Democrats are pushing the prison break agenda to every type of criminal. This bill doesn’t even make good behavior in prison itself a precondition for early release. Release of murderers at the ago of 50 has long been a priority of Governor Ralph Northam, as established in his proposals for criminal justice “reform” this year.
Republicans have been awfully silent about this national trend, and many have even joined it based on the assumption that this is all about first-time, nonviolent offenders. As we’re witnessing every day in cities like New York, that ship has long since sailed.
Despite all the complaints about supposedly draconian sentencing for nonviolent offenders, even violent offenders, for the most part, don’t serve a long time. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, among those state prisoners completing sentences in 2016, the median time served was 3.2 years for robbery, 4.2 years for rape/sexual assault, and 4.0 years for negligent manslaughter. Even for homicide, the median sentence was 13.4 years. Just 30 percent of those convicted of murder served more than 20 years, and 40 percent of murder convicts served less than 10 years. The trend has only gotten much more lenient in almost every state for those entering the system today.
As such, when Democrats are proposing the release of all prisoners at age 50-55 who served at least 15-20 years, they are rewarding the worst of the worst. These are likely people serving time for first-degree murder and/or who had massive violent rap sheets, including people who used a GUN to attack people! Yes, the three-letter word.
Fast-forward to Wednesday, and these very same Democrat lawmakers voted to expand the arm of government to strip guns from law-abiding citizens, among several other gun control measures that already passed the chamber. Yesterday, the Virginia Senate passed SB 240 by a margin of 21-19, requiring law enforcement to confiscate guns without due process if they believe an individual is a danger to himself or others.
Consider the appalling juxtaposition for a moment: Virginia Democrats just voted to release murderers who use guns (among other weapons) to kill, and who were convicted after endless, painstaking due process, while they’re still in the prime of their lives. Now, they seek to confiscate guns of people based on a “suspicion,” which could mean anyone Ralph Northam dislikes. And they call it a “red flag law.” Yet they take individuals who are as red-flagged as the blood on their murderous hands and release them. Law-abiding citizens will gradually be stripped of their ability to protect themselves from these very red-flag criminals sent back out to the streets.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.