INGHAM COUNTY, MICHIGAN - Carol Siemon, Ingham County Prosecutor, announced a new “felony firearm” policy on August 10. The felony firearm laws were put in place in 1976 to solve firearm incidents that frequently occured during traffic stops, but the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office (ICPO) claims it never lived up to the promise of keeping the public safer.
This follows a policy that was implemented last summer; resisting obstructing police officers, which similarly arose during traffic stops.
There is a two-year minimum mandatory sentence for a felony firearm. The goal of the new policy is to focus on the person’s often violent felony behavior rather than a two year minimum firearm charge.
This reform is just one part of the ICPO’s goal to overcome issues such as mass incarceration and racial equity
“Black people comprise about 14 percent of Michigan’s population, but represent 82 percent of all people incarcerated on a felony firearm sentence as of 2018,” said the Ingham County Prosecutor's office.
Even further, the ICPO says in 2020, 205 felony firearm charges were issued in Ingham County, and 138 of those charges were made against a black person.
Going forward, the ICPO will no longer issue charges for felony firearms except under circumstances where the other charges do not adequately address the behavior of the person. This circumstance can only be approved through Prosecutor Carol Siemon or Chief Assistant Prosecutor Michael Cheltenham.
Confusion and anger about this policy change was expressed by police officers and community members. Siemon assures residents there is no danger in the change and is not considered a public safety issue.
“This is not about gun safety or public safety,” said Siemon. “This is strictly a race equity issue.”
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