11/09/2007

Pa. gov wants stiffer sentences for shooting LEOs

By Joann Loviglio
The Associated Press
Related news, Feb. 2006:  Congressional bill proposed in response to killing of police officer

PHILADELPHIA Gov. Ed Rendell says he supports establishing a minimum 20-year prison sentence for anyone who shoots at a police officer.

Rendell and House Speaker Dennis O'Brien, R-Philadelphia, made the announcement a day after the funeral for slain city police officer Chuck Cassidy.


A floral piece bears the badge number of the late Officer Chuck Cassidy, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Charles Fox,pool).
"We want to get out onto the street a clear message: You shoot a gun at a police officer ... even if you shoot and miss, you go to jail for 20 years, no ifs, ands or buts," Rendell said.

The proposal expands upon a bill by O'Brien calling for a 10-year mandatory sentence for firing a gun at a police officer.

"We should and we must give maximum protection to those who put their lives on the line protecting us," O'Brien said.

Rendell said the need for tougher gun laws has been tragically demonstrated over the last five weeks in Philadelphia, during which time three officers have been shot, one fatally.

Cassidy was shot point-blank in the head when he walked in on a robbery at a Dunkin' Donuts. The man accused of killing him, John Lewis, was arrested in Miami and was expected to be returned to Philadelphia on Friday.


The funeral procession for Officer Cassidy makes its way to a cemetery, in Philadelphia Wed. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Rendell dismissed the suggestion of some lawmakers that gun violence is a problem limited to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, saying gun-related crime is rising from Erie to Reading.

Gun legislation is always an acrimonious issue in Pennsylvania, where a large hunting community and vocal gun-rights lobby have significant influence in the General Assembly.

Rendell also said he also will ask Rep. Tom Caltagirone, House Judiciary Chairman, to reinstitute hearings on bills that would require gun owners to report lost or stolen weapons, allow municipalities to enact their own firearms regulations, and limit handgun purchases to one a month as a way to combat straw handgun purchases.

The bills were introduced earlier this year but went nowhere. O'Brien would not say whether he would back the three measures and acknowledged that they "will continue to be a tough sell" in Harrisburg.

The governor said he hopes to rally every law enforcement organization in Pennsylvania to urge lawmakers to act.

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