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Tipsheet

To Promote Racial Equity, Washington State Democrats Push to Reduce Penalties for One Serious Crime

Scott Sommerdorf/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP

Democratic lawmakers in Washington state are considering legislation that would lower the penalties for drive-by shootings—all in the name of racial equity. 

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House Bill 1692, sponsored by state Representatives Tarra Simmons (D-Bremerton) and David Hackney (D-Tukwila), looks to eliminate the elevation of drive-by shootings as a form of aggravated first-degree murder. It's also retroactive and would scale back punishment for those already found guilty in such cases. 

In cases where the crime is committed by a person under the age of 21, “the court has full discretion to depart from mandatory sentencing requirements, including but not limited to any applicable enhancements, and to take the particular circumstances surrounding the person’s age and all other pertinent factors into consideration when determining an appropriate sentence," HB 1692 states. 

Conservative radio host Jason Rantz said a statement from Simmons’ office explaining how the legislation promotes “racial equity in the criminal legal system” doesn't add up.

Through her office, Simmons argued that first degree murder “is a heinous crime which already carries a long and serious sentence.” But, she added, “it’s clear that [this aggravated classification] was targeted at gangs that were predominantly young and Black.” She argues it’s an example of “systemic racism.”

And while Simmons wants to make this issue about saving children from life sentences, her bill applies to adults, the majority of which commit gang-related gun violence. And no child can get life without parole for a drive-by murder in Washington state.

Her argument doesn’t make sense. [...]

What does this bill have to do with racial equity? Nothing. Indeed, if Simmons is correct that there’s only been one case of a drive-by murder resulting in an aggravated first degree murder charge, then her entire argument is moot. A law that was used once cannot show a disparity nor would it make it “clear” that it was used to target young Black men. Getting rid of a law that was used once cannot lead to racial equity. When asked to clarify her positions, Simmons’ office did not respond.

This is about the Democrats’ commitment to dubious criminal justice reforms.

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