Mandatory minimum bill with uncertain future advances in Pennsylvania


Pennsylvania’s House Judiciary Committee approved a measure Tuesday that would reinstate mandatory minimums and revoke bail for repeat offenders found in proximity to a gun.

And even though House Bill 1587’s prime sponsor is a Democrat from West Philadelphia, it’s unlikely the rest of Rep. Amen Brown’s party – including Gov. Tom Wolf – will support his proposal.

“I clearly understand what I’m proposing is not typical for an African American Democrat, but what I am proposing is that we can longer allow for repeat violent offenders to dictate and control our lives,” he said. “We do not have to live like this.”

Brown said firearm-related homicides increased 40% in Philadelphia this year, so far. He believes bringing back mandatory minimums for those with prior felony convictions and eliminating bail will erase the impression that punishment for illegally possessing a gun is “minimal.”

“In my community, we are bleeding,” he said. “We are afraid [and] we are prisoners in our own homes. We are tired of living in fear.”

He’s also certain of the “blowback” he will get for the bill. Democrats have long opposed mandatory minimums as a flawed approach to combating crime that disproportionately impacts people of color. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court deemed mandatory minimum sentences unconstitutional.

Committee Minority Chairman Tim Briggs, D-King of Prussia, reiterated that stance before voting against the proposal Monday.

“The constitution means too much to me to strip away due process,” he said. “Mandatory minimums is a failed policy that I’ve always opposed and will continue to do so. … I think we are advancing failed policy that is unconstitutional.”

The committee voted along party lines to advance the bill to the full House for consideration. As of Tuesday, it awaits consideration in the Rules Committee.

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