Keep violent felons in prison

Guns really don’t kill people. People do – and perhaps government should be paying more attention to the murderous thugs who threaten our safety.

A bill introduced in the Ohio State Senate last week would do just that. It is the Violent Career Criminal Act, and it would keep those who threaten society locked up longer.

Attorney General Mike DeWine said the bill results from a task force on violent crime that he established in 2011. A study conducted for the panel found that 57 percent of the convictions for violent felonies in Ohio involved just 1 percent of the state’s adult prison population.

That certainly is an eye-opener, but it should not be especially surprising. Psychologists have warned for years that psychopaths have no compunctions about using violence to get what they want – sometimes even if it is not really necessary.

The new bill, introduced by state Sen. Jim Hughes, R-Columbus, would require mandatory 11-year prison sentences for people caught in possession of guns after two prior convictions for violent felonies.

If anything, Hughes’ proposal may be too lenient. Legislators may want to consider stiffer sentences, perhaps even life terms similar to the “three strikes, you’re out” statutes sometimes used for repeat offenders.

Another section of the bill would affect first-timers. It would double the mandatory prison time for anyone convicted of a crime involving use of a firearm. Such offenders now face just 1-7 years behind bars. The 2-14 years contemplated is more realistic.

Coming at a time when many state officials are worried about prison overcrowding, the Hughes bill may provide debate. One lawmaker already is on record wondering, “How will it be paid for?”

Not enacting the bill would have a cost, too – in human misery and lives lost.

Legislators should approve the measure and Gov. John Kasich should sign it into law, simply to prevent violent predators from continuing to victimize Ohioans.