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Bill would get rid of mandatory two-year firearm sentences

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A Michigan House bill would give judges more discretion when it comes to sentencing first-time felons who carried a gun during their crime.

Right now, first-time offenders face a mandatory two-year sentence for a felony firearm charge, on top of any other charges they're facing.

Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth Twp, is sponsoring the bill. He said a judge should be able to examine the case from all angles and decide whether the full sentence is appropriate.

"It makes no sense to tack on these additional penalties that really have no practical effect other than making more hardened criminals and costing the tax payers millions of dollars."

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said mandatory sentences are a disincentive for criminals and an important tool for prosecutors.

"If the Legislature feels there are certain crimes that should not attach [to the felony firearm statute], then exempt them," Leyton said. "That would make much more sense than shifting the discretion from the prosecutor to the judge."

Repeat offenders would still face mandatory sentences under the new bill.

A committee could vote on the measure this week.

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