Column: This legislation needs more teeth


Sometimes news, after a time, fades so far into the background of day-to-day life that we tend to forget about it. It’s natural. We’re all going in different directions as we manage our work, home and social existences. Some news elements, though, bear refreshment for all of us. As we were headed toward New Year’s Eve, state Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis), he of the overly important Lifeline Law about which we wrote much a little more than a year ago, has promised to introduce legislation when the General Assembly convenes. We like the way he’s thinking, when he says the state’s sentencing protocol needs to be more stringent for those found guilty of commission of a violent crime when using a firearm. “We can no longer tolerate home invasions, violent crimes, senseless shootings and murders in our communities,” Merritt astutely said late last month. “I believe we need to strengthen penalties against violent offenders throughout Indiana to keep them off our streets.”

Prevailing law limits prosecutors and judges to issue an additional five years of imprisonment for violent offenders using a firearm during a crime. Merritt wants to make stronger the existing statute by adding language that makes sentence enhancement mandatory for violent offenders committing crimes using a firearm and increasing the additional fixed term of imprisonment to 20 years minimum. We urge all our elected officials, as well as chiefs of police and county sheriffs, to get behind Merritt’s proposal. And as for the Legislature, enacting the measure should be one of the first orders of business and a real no-brainer. In the end, we hopefully will have more of a deterrent to such violence, which, in and of itself, is senseless.