The United States Sentencing Commission issued a report on March 15th titled Mandatory Minimum Penalties for Firearms Offenses in the Federal Criminal Justice System. This is the third publication in the Commission’s series on mandatory minimum penalties, including the 2017 Mandatory Minimum Overview and the 2017 Drug Mandatory Minimum Report.
Yesterday’s Mandatory Minimum Firearms report uses fiscal year 2016 data and focuses on firearms offenses, the second most common federal offenses carrying mandatory minimums after drug offenses. The report analyzes two statutes carrying minimum mandatory penalties: (1) 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (relating to using, carrying or possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking or crime of violence); and (2) 18 U.S.C. 924(e), the Armed Career Criminal Act. The publication also addresses the impact of these statutes on the Bureau of Prison’s prisoner population.
Here are some highlights from the 81-page report:
1. Firearms mandatory minimum penalties continue to result in long sentences although they have decreased since fiscal year 2010.
2. Offenders charged with and convicted of multiple counts under section 924(c)received exceptionally long sentences as a result of the statutory requirement that the sentence for each count be served consecutively.
3. In addition, other charging and plea decisions also play a significant role in theapplication and impact of firearms mandatory minimum penalties.
4. Statutory relief under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e) for providing substantial assistance to the government plays a significant role in the application and impact of firearms mandatory minimum penalties.
5. While the rate at which firearms offenders were convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum has been stable, the number of offenders convicted of offenses carrying such penalties has decreased significantly since fiscal year 2010.
6. Firearms mandatory minimum penalties continue to impact Black offenders more than any other racial group.