Friday, January 1, 2010

TN law adds jail time for gun crimes

Measure among those that take effect today By Lucas L. Johnson II • ASSOCIATED PRESS • January 1, 2010 A measure that seeks to crack down on violent crime in Tennessee is among a number of new laws taking effect today. The legislation builds on the "Crooks with Guns" law passed during the 2007 Tennessee General Assembly. It adds a minimum of six years to the sentence of a person who has a gun while committing a felony or attempting to escape. And violators who possess a firearm while attempting first-degree murder would get the extra time, plus at least three to five years, depending on whether they have a prior record. The original "Crooks with Guns" legislation made it an additional offense to be armed with a firearm when committing felonies such as aggravated and especially aggravated kidnapping, burglary, carjacking, voluntary manslaughter and certain drug crimes. In 2007, Tennessee ranked second in the nation in the number of violent crimes per 100,000 people, and about 67 percent of those convicted of such crimes are re-arrested within three years of being released from prison, statistics indicate. "This is an additional tool for the judicial system and law enforcement," Maggi McLean Duncan, executive director of the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, said of the legislation. "Re-offenders are responsible for committing a larger percentage of crimes. Law enforcement's goal is to limit the number of victims in our communities and create safe environments for our citizens." Another law taking effect with the start of 2010 requires the state Health Department to try to award contracts to public clinics before seeking private entities such as Planned Parenthood, which supports abortion. The Republican-supported legislation was prompted by a video on the Internet that shows an allegedly pregnant 14-year-old being coached by a Planned Parenthood counselor in Memphis to lie about the age of her boyfriend to avoid legal scrutiny and get an abortion without her parents' knowledge. The organization receives about $1.2 million that's divided among Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee and Memphis Regional Planned Parenthood. None of the money that the group receives from the state can be used for abortions, but it does help subsidize birth control and other reproductive health care. Similar GOP proposals had failed in the past. Also today, a law will take effect to help prevent the accidental or intentional poisoning of people, pets and other animals as a result of ingesting antifreeze or engine coolants. The law requires manufacturers to add a bitter agent. Without it, antifreeze has a sweet aroma and flavor. Ethylene glycol, a key ingredient in antifreeze, is toxic to humans and animals. Manufacturers that don't comply with the law will be penalized.

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