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Tampa detective pushes stricter gun sentencing

TAMPA — Two officers fatally shot in Miami. Three in Tampa. Three more in St. Petersburg.

Tampa police union president Greg Stout was disgusted.

So a year ago, he took his concerns to his friend Rep. Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican.

Together, they worked on a bill that's sailing through the Florida Legislature. It increases the minimum sentence for a violent felon caught with a firearm from three to 10 years.

Three years, Stout said, "seemed a little bit skimpy."

Stout, a detective with the Tampa Police Department, hopes the increase will persuade those who have used guns during a crime not to try it again.

If it doesn't, at least these offenders will be off the streets for seven more years, he said.

"You'll be yanked away from society," Stout said. "We won't have to deal with you."

Stout and Boyd's initial purpose was to look out for law enforcement.

Many of the people accused of shooting Florida officers, they noticed, had previous felony convictions.

By law, they shouldn't have even had guns.

That includes both Hydra Lacy, who shot and killed two St. Petersburg police officers in 2011, and Dontae Morris, who's accused of killing two Tampa police officers in 2010.

"These officers were killed in the line of duty by what I'd consider thugs — felons with guns," Boyd said.

The bill would impact the Florida Department of Corrections' budget, so to save money, lawmakers added a requirement that the previous felony conviction must have included the use of a firearm.

On Wednesday, Stout watched the votes come in on the House floor. It passed unanimously.

Now it's in the Senate's budget and will likely be heard this week.

Though Stout regularly travels to Tallahassee on union matters, this was his first venture into bill-writing. It felt good to get the backing from lawmakers and state law enforcement groups, he said.

And though Boyd doesn't have a vote on the Senate's budget, because the bill has fared so well this far, he can't imagine it not passing.

"With the tragedies we've seen in the Tampa Bay area, hopefully this will be a sign that we're serious about taking a firm stand," he said, "and protecting those who protect us."

Times staff writers Jamal Thalji and Steve Bousquet contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

Tampa detective pushes stricter gun sentencing 03/03/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 3, 2012 11:11pm]
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