Zimring: False Premise of Mandatory Gun Sentences

Post Date: October 16, 2013

Chicago(Chicago Sun-Times) — Franklin Zimring is the Simon Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley and former director of the Center for Studies in Criminal Justice at the University of Chicago. Professor Zimring wrote this op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times about the rush toward increased mandatory minimum gun sentences in Chicago. Writes Professor Zimring: 

“Jens Ludwig, director of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab, is a superb scholar of violence and a talented economist, but his just released analysis of gun penalties tells me he desperately needs a course in criminal justice, Illinois style.  Ludwig’s memo, widely cited by politicians who favor a mandatory three-year prison sentence for people convicted of the illegal use of a weapon, makes three assumptions about Illinois law and practice that are provably not true.” 

Later is his commentary, Prof. Zimring makes an argument against mandatory minimum sentencing laws that FAMM couldn’t have said better ourselves: 

“That takes us to the third false premise for this mandatory sentencing legislation. The prosecutor is the all-powerful 500-pound gorilla in criminal justice and no mandatory sentencing law will limit the power of prosecutors to do whatever they want. Mandatory penalties constrain only judges, thus making prosecutors more powerful.

“But if this proposed legislation is transparently phony, why has it taken center stage in the discussion of Chicago’s very real gun violence problem? Because the city’s gun control laws have been struck down by the federal courts and more careful regulation of gun commerce will take time and effort. The mandatory minimum proposal is a temper tantrum masquerading as an act of government.”  Read column