Tough new California law takes aim at gun violence
February 2, 1998
Web posted at: 11:28 p.m. EST (0428 GMT)
From Correspondent Anne McDermott
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Michelle Scully knows the horror of gun violence firsthand. In 1993, a man on the loose in a San Francisco high-rise shot her and her husband. She survived, but he didn't make it.
"My husband looked up at me and he said, 'Michelle, I'm dying. I love you,'" she says.
Prompted by lobbying from Scully and other victims of gun violence, the California legislature passed one of the country's toughest laws to combat gun violence, which went into effect January 1.
Under the measure, shooting someone during the commission of a crime, whether the victim dies or not, can add an additional 25 years to life to the sentence. Firing a gun without hitting anyone adds 20 years; merely showing a gun during a crime adds 10 years.
In 1995, almost 16,000 people in the United States were killed with guns, and Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti says he believes the new law will bring those statistics down.
"I'll guarantee you this law is going to save some lives," he says.
But not everyone is so sure. After her son was killed by a young gunman, Joy Turner started visiting youngsters in jail.
"My perception of what a murderer was had to be some distorted monster, some really crazy person," she said. "And when I went out there, I was just overwhelmed with emotions when I looked into those kids' eyes and saw that they were babies."
Sergio -- he doesn't want his last name used -- was just 14 when he was convicted in a shooting death, an act he bitterly regrets. But he doubts the new law will be much of a deterrent because, he says, a lot of people think they're invincible.
"I think that's the main reason people commit crimes, because they think they're going to get away with it," Sergio says.
And while some other critics say there aren't enough cells to hold all of the people who will break the new law, Garcetti says he'll find room.
Scully, now remarried with a family, says she still has that sense of loss from that awful day in San Francisco. And no law, she says, can ever ease that pain.