Booker, Murphy Urge US Sentencing Commission for Fair Sentencing During Implementation of BSCA

Government and Politics

December 6, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) urged the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) to pursue fair sentencing policies while also meeting the purposes of the USSC’s directive under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), legislation that was signed into law by President Biden earlier this year.

“As the first meaningful federal gun safety legislation in decades, we believe that it can and will save lives. But to achieve that outcome, it is essential that the implementation of the law avoids the mistakes of the past,” wrote Senators Booker and Murphy in a letter to USSC Chair Judge Carlton W. Reeves. “The Commission has an important role in ensuring fair sentencing and preventing unjust outcomes in criminal sentences. The process that the Commission undertakes will impact individuals and communities for years to come. We respectfully urge the Commission to remain steadfast in its goals to establish fair sentencing policies and practices that meet the purposes of 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(2) through careful research, collection and analysis of data, and input from the criminal justice community. We are mindful that this approach takes a great deal of time and effort, but it is imperative that the process be thorough to avoid any unintended consequences that result in unfair or unjust sentencing policies.”

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act includes provisions that direct the USSC to impose increased penalties for convicted straw purchasers and firearms traffickers, especially if they are affiliated with a gang or cartel. The Senators emphasized the intent of the provisions is to deter these criminal activities and urged USSC to avoid taking a broader interpretation that could lead to unfair or harsh sentencing practices.

“It should be made clear that the legislative intent of the BSCA is to end the flow of illegal guns into communities and reduce gun violence. The directive’s attention to both sentencing enhancements and mitigating factors reflects this focus, as it seeks to punish suppliers of the large numbers of firearms diverted from lawful commerce, while avoiding unnecessarily long sentences for people with less culpability or without significant criminal histories. The directive’s instruction to the Commission to consider sentences for straw purchasers ‘that are sufficient to deter participation in such activities and reflect the defendant’s role and culpability’ should not be interpreted more broadly than intended. It was our intent that the instruction that sentences be ‘sufficient to deter participation’ reflects an intent that the recommended sentences for straw purchasing be enough to achieve this goal but not excessive or unnecessary,” continued the Senators.

The full text of the letter can be found here.

The full text of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act can be found here.