Debra J. Saunders

As Washington postures to pass anti-gun legislation, voters might consider how mandatory minimum sentences for ostensible gun crimes have led to other abuses. In 2004, in Salt Lake City, U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell proclaimed that he saw no "rational basis" for the law to require him to sentence a 25-year-old first-time drug offender to 55 years in prison on the same day he meted out a 22-year term to a man who had clubbed an elderly woman to death.

Granted, drug dealer Weldon Angelos owned guns and carried a concealed weapon during a marijuana deal, but he never brandished a gun; he didn't shoot anyone. Still, Cassell was forced to put Angelos away for twice the sentence given to a hands-on killer.

A free country doesn't imprison nonviolent low-level offenders for decades. There has to be a mechanism for mercy.

Debra J. Saunders

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