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New legislation aims to target illegal possession of guns

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Mahoning County is among twelve counties, according to Ohio's Attorney General that account for 83 percent of the state's violent crime; crimes most often committed with guns.

"Prisons need to be reserved for the most violent, dangerous people. That's what this does," says Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

That's why new legislation proposed by DeWine and Republican State Senator Jim Hughes aims to aggressively target repeat offenders or "career criminals" who illegally possess guns.

"They're career criminals because they continue to commit crimes when they're out of jail. So the way I look at it, the best way to deal with a career criminal is to keep them in jail longer. That keeps them from commiting more crimes. So I think it would be a success in that regard," says Boardman Police chief Jack Nichols.

Keeping those repeat offenders behind bars longer is just what the new legislation proposes to do.

The Violent Career Criminal Act calls for a mandatory 11-year prison sentence for those convicted of illegally possessing a gun, if they have previously been convicted of two or more violent felonies.

A form of three strikes and your out. Prosecutors say making the sentence mandatory is critical in cases with violent felons who repeat their crimes.

 "It is very much a repeat cycle. If this legislation were to be put in place, we would have the ability for longer penalties ... stiffer penalties, especially if that time frame that potential prison sentence was mandatory. That would really help us a lot," says Mahoning County Chief Criminal prosecutor Rebecca Doherty. "I know it's been successful in other states."

But the Attorney General admits longer prison sentences will not stop the gun violence alone.

That's why his office is planning to announce even more initiatives in the coming weeks.

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