Lancaster County officials announce tougher response for illegal guns

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LANCASTER, Pa. -- Lancaster County officials are cracking down on people who carry illegal guns. On Thursday, the Lancaster County District Attorney, Lancaster Mayor, and Lancaster Police Chief held a press conference to announce changes to how they prosecute these types of cases.

Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman says it's only trouble when a convicted felon carries a gun. "What is going to be the best outcome of a convicted felon, somebody who has been convicted of robbery, or rape, or drug dealing, convicted, is walking down the streets with a handgun," said Stedman.

Starting immediately, higher bail will be requested when someone is charged for having an illegal gun, in most cases $500,000. If the person is a convicted felon, prosecutors will seek $1 million bail.The goal is to send a strong message about illegal guns.

"If you're going to carry a firearm illegally in Lancaster County, and you're found with it, you are in serious trouble," said Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray.

Gray also addressed the concerns that some judges about prison overcrowding. "Who better to hold, pending the disposition of their case, than the person who has been found in possession of an illegal firearm? Make room," he said.

Some of the changes will take time. Stedman said he plans to work with state lawmakers to get tougher penalties and mandatory minimum sentences of five years.

"In my opinion, they often receive lighter sentences than they should. Sometimes it's only a few months in jail," said Stedman. "The increase in penalties for these people, the incapacitating of these people, will absolutely save lives."