Washington state Democratic lawmakers have proposed a new bill that would lessen penalities for drive-by shooting murderers to "promote racial equity" in the criminal justice system even though the state has been ranked among the worst in the country for drive-by shootings.
House Bill 1692, sponsored by Democratic representatives Tarra Simmons and David Hackney, was introduced to allegedly "...promote racial equity in the criminal legal system by eliminating drive-by shooting as a basis for elevating murder in the first degree to aggravated murder in the first degree."
The bill would act as an amendment to RCW 10.95.020.
Simmons, a former addict and prisoner who ran on prison reform, became the first felon elected to the Washington state legislature in November 2020 when constituents elected her to represent the 23rd District in Kitsap County.
Representatives for Simmons refused an interview request but sent a statement which said the existing penalties were "...targeted at gangs that were predominantly young and Black."
In the statement, Simmons claimed the aggravated murder charge in the case of a drive-by shooting has only been used once since it was enacted into law in 1995 in the case of Kimonti Carter. Carter became a gang member when he was 11 years old and committed burglary, car theft, possession of narcotics and more before his sixteenth birthday.
In 1997, he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for his in volvement in a drive-by shooting which murdered a college student in Tacoma.
Simmons said in the statement that he was a "...young Black man who has since turned his life around," saying nothing of his victim who will never get his life back.
She described Carter's case as an example of "...systemic racism."
Hackney's district, which includes Kent, south Seattle, Tukwila, and Renton, is experiencing a spike in crime including gang violence as well as drive-by shootings. Recently, the violence has increased so much that a coalition of King County Mayors demanded action from county officials and began working together to curb violence on their own.
Republican legislators on the House Public Safety Committee expressed serious concerns over the proposed legislation that was filed on December 23, just ahead of the 2022 legislative session.
They warned that HB 1692 will increase lawlessness that the state is already experiencing after the new outrageous police reform laws took effect in July. In addition, lawmakers said that lesser sentences for violent crimes will embolden criminals instead of holding them accountable.
"Violent crime is on the rise in our communities, in part, because law enforcement officers do not believe under new laws passed by the Legislature earlier this year that they have the authority to detain or pursue individuals, for whom they reasonably suspect have committed criminal acts. It was reported during the summer that at least nine drive-by shootings in the Yakima area this year have left a trail of injuries, deaths and traumatized neighborhoods. This horrific crime is happening more and more across our state, taking the lives of innocent victims, destroying their families, and leaving neighborhoods and communities in fear," Republican representative Gina Mosbrucker said in a statement.
"This bill would remove an important tool from prosecutors. And just as concerning, it would re-open past convictions so that violent criminals would have their sentences reduced," Mosbrucker added.
The Republican lawmaker called on fellow members of the House Public Safety Committee to reject the Bill on behalf of drive-by shooting victims and their families.
"This legislation does nothing to make Washington safer and, in fact, would put the public at further risk to violent crimes. We need to reject this bill and put the safety of our communities first by ensuring that those who commit murder by drive-by shooting remain eligible for the maximum penalty under state law. We also need to stand firm and send a message to violent criminals that they will be held accountable."