Stiffer penalties for shooters heads to North Carolina governor

| 8/30/2005

The North Carolina Legislature gave its final approval Aug. 23 to a bill that would increase penalties for people convicted of shooting into occupied homes and vehicles.

Senators unanimously approved changes made to the bill by House lawmakers. It now heads to Gov. Mike Easley for his signature.

The bill, dubbed “Rachel’s Law,” is named for Rachel Sanchez. She was five years old when she was struck by a sniper’s bullet as she rode with her family along Interstate 40 in Conover, NC, in February 2003.

A 15-year-old boy confessed to shooting onto the highway, the Hickory Daily Record reported. He was sentenced to wilderness boot camp and one year of probation. Rachel is recovering back home in Virginia.

Sponsored by Sen. Austin Allran, R-Hickory, SB486 would make firing a gun into an occupied vehicle or building a felony punishable from roughly three to 15 years behind bars, The Associated Press reported. North Carolina law now makes the maximum sentence for the crime about six years.

Punishment could reach as high as 17 and one-half years if the shooting causes serious injury.

“In a sense, these criminals are snipers, committing a type of terrorism, when they shoot into cars or buildings,” Allran told the Record. “They are trying to intimidate and cause fear. We want to send a message back to them that they will be dealt with very seriously.”