How About If We Enforce the Laws We Already Have?

Democrats think the perennial battle over gun control has now swung in their favor. They are vowing to enact new gun control measures, allegedly in response to recent high-profile mass shooting incidents. Of course, we already have hundreds of statutes and regulations on the books relating to firearms. When someone engages in a mass shooting (or any shooting) he violates multiple statutes of the most serious kind.

An obvious question is, if the hundreds of statutes and regulations already in place didn’t stop the latest outrage, why would adding one more make a difference? In reality, we have plenty of laws that make it illegal to shoot someone, or to acquire or use firearms in various ways. Unfortunately, enforcement of those laws is generally pathetic. Which is why we see the same criminals committing one crime after another.

My colleague David Zimmer is a veteran of more than 30 years in the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and now is a Policy Fellow at American Experiment. David makes the case that our crime problem is largely the fault of an irresponsible criminal justice system. David’s examples come from Minnesota, but the fecklessness he documents is no doubt common to many states, including all blue states. This is from his post, titled “Gun crime offenders and our court system’s anemic response.” David did a deep dive into court records to produce what follows:

We should be able to agree that gun crime offenders belong at the top of our public safety concerns. Unfortunately, our liberal state criminal justice system has failed to hold gun offenders accountable.

This lack of accountability is revealed in the gun-related cases of three young men over the past 1 ½ years — Muhnee Bailey aka “Money,” 21 yrs old, and twin brothers Quantez and Cortez Ward, both 19 years old.

The timeline of activity is convoluted, not because it is particularly complicated, but because the three are prolific in their gun crime activity. Sadly, despite several opportunities to do so, the state district courts failed to detain these men, or hold them accountable for their serious crimes. The courts have no excuse for not connecting these dots and protecting law-abiding citizens from dangerous offenders such as these.

Timeline of Offenses Known:

On January 17, 2022, the Minneapolis Police received information that Muhnee and the Ward brothers were in a vehicle and all three had firearms. The police located the vehicle in North Minneapolis and attempted to stop it. Muhnee was driving, but instead of stopping he fled the police and ended up ramming a squad car head on. Muhnee and Quantez fled on foot before being arrested, while Cortez was arrested in the vehicle. Cortez and Quantez were each found to be in possession of handguns with extended magazines and “switches” that made them fully automatic “machine guns.” Muhnee was found to be in possession of a handgun with an extended magazine.

All three were booked into the Hennepin County Jail, and the cases were submitted to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.

Muhnee was charged with Felony Fleeing Police in a Motor Vehicle and Gross Misdemeanor Carrying a Pistol without a Permit.

Quantez was charged with Felony Possession of a Machine Gun and Gross Misdemeanor Carrying a Pistol without a Permit, and Misdemeanor Fleeing Police on Foot.

Cortez was charged with Felony Possession of a Machine Gun and Gross Misdemeanor Carrying a Pistol without a Permit.

On 1/19/22, the Wards were each afforded $50,000 bail and each posted bond. Quantez’s bail was set at the same level as his brother despite being previously adjudicated guilty of felony possession of a firearm as a juvenile.

On 1/20/22, Muhnee was afforded $60,000 bail and posted bond, despite being on conditional release from Ramsey County for being the driver in a drive-by shooting in 2021, whereby 20 rounds were fired at a house with several children playing in the yard.

On 4/12/22, while released on bail from the two previously discussed cases, Muhnee shot a man in St. Paul, and fled the area. The police began an investigation.

On 5/2/22, Cortez was sentenced by Judge Lamas after pleading guilty to possessing the machine gun seized in January. His sentence was just 120 days on electronic home monitoring, and two years’ probation. If he successfully completed probation his conviction would have been converted to a misdemeanor.

On 5/6/22, just four days after being sentenced to home monitoring, Cortez was pulled over with Quantez by the Maple Grove Police. A loaded pistol was seized during the stop. Hennepin County issued a probation violation warrant and Cortez. He went before Judge Quam on 5/10/22 and was released with no bail and continued conditions of remaining law aiding, not possessing guns, etc. It doesn’t appear Quantez faced any repercussions at all for this gun seizure.

On 5/13/22, Quantez was sentenced by Judge Lamas after pleading guilty to possessing the machine gun. He received the same 120 electronic home monitoring and three years’ probation that Cortez did, despite being previously adjudicated guilty of felony possession of a firearm as a juvenile, and despite having just violated conditions of his release with the Maple Grove seizure of a firearm. His conviction would also revert to a misdemeanor if he successfully completed two years’ probation.

5/17/22, St. Paul Police executed a search warrant on Muhnee’s residence and vehicle. They seized two handguns (one fully automatic), a drum magazine, and ammunition. Muhnee was arrested and charged in Ramsey County Court with possession of a machine gun, and 2nd degree assault for shooting the man in April. Muhnee was afforded $100,000 bail. On 5/20/22 he posted $100,000 bond and was released from the Ramsey Co. Jail. There is no record that Hennepin Co. took any action against his conditional release from the January weapon and fleeing case.

On 7/19/22, police executed another search warrant on the residence of Cortez and Quantez. Multiple firearms and ammunition were seized. In an interview with police, Quantez admitted being a member of a North Minneapolis street gang and to having committed at least five drive-by shootings as a member of the gang.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office subsequently charged Cortez and Quantez with federal firearms violations.

On 8/19/22 Muhnee was sentenced in Hennepin County District Court after pleading guilty to the 1/17/22 flee police and possession of a firearm. Judge Lamas sentenced him to supervised release for three years.

In October 2022, Cortez pled guilty in federal court to illegally possessing ammunition as a felon in connection with the 5/6/22 Maple Grove arrest.

In November 2022, Quantez pled guilty in federal court to illegally possessing a firearm as a felon related to the July seizure of firearms from his residence.

Both brothers are awaiting sentencing before Judge Schiltz. According to the Department of Justice, the average sentence for a felon in possession of firearms is 64 months in prison.

On 10/3/22, Muhnee pled guilty to the 2021 drive by shooting in Ramsey County District Court. As part of the plea, the Ramsey County Attorney dropped the 2nd degree assault case from the April 2022 shooting.

On 11/16/22, Judge Sheu sentenced Muhnee in Ramsey County District Court for the 2021 drive by shooting and the 5/17/22 possession of a machine gun to 365 days in the workhouse, stayed for two years, and three years supervised release.

Anyone who has bought into the narrative that we over-incarcerate should re-read the above timeline. Multiple courts had several opportunities to incapacitate these men through incarceration. The state district courts in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties failed each and every time. It is yet to be seen if the federal court holds the Wards accountable with actual prison time.

Sadly, there are far too many similar stories in Minnesota. At a time of elevated violence in our state, it is inexcusable for our court system to be failing us time after time. The entire criminal justice system — police, prosecutors, courts, corrections, and the Sentencing Guidelines Commission — should be coordinating to ensure all tools are being used to hold gun offenders accountable, through prolonged incarceration.

Until we do, those advocating for “gun control” can take a seat.

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