According to a report from the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission (MSGC), the number of felony cases in which a gun was allegedly used or possessed has risen sharply in recent years.
The MSGC, a 13-member state government commission, released their 2024 report to the state legislature earlier this week. In their report, the MSGC analyzed a variety of different criminal and sentencing trends. Among those trends was a significant increase in felony cases where the defendant allegedly used or possessed a gun.
Minnesota state statutes require county attorneys to track and report the annual number of felony cases that allegedly involve a gun. In accordance with state law, that metric has been tracked every year since 1996. On average, Minnesota sees 912 felony cases per year in which a firearm was allegedly used or possessed. However, in fiscal year 2023, there were 1,805 such cases, a nearly 98% increase over the annual average.
For context, there were 1,074 similar occurrences in fiscal year 2021. That number was 1,116 in FY 2017, 865 in FY 2012, and 636 in FY 2008. When this metric was first reported for FY 1996, the number was 588.
Additionally, the MSGC’s report states that defendants were charged in 96% of the 1,805 felony cases that occurred in FY 2023. Of those, roughly two-thirds received a conviction of some kind. In the remaining cases, charges were either dismissed, the defendant was acquitted, or a different outcome was reached.
Stunningly, in cases where there was a conviction and firearm use or possession was established, 43% of the defendants were not sentenced to the mandatory minimum, according to the report. Of the total 1,805 cases, just 30% ended in a mandatory minimum sentence being imposed and executed.
Of the 1,805 felony cases where the defendant allegedly possessed or used a gun in FY 2023, 773 of them were in Hennepin County, nearly 43%. Hennepin, Minnesota’s most populated county, represents 21% of the state’s total population.
Hennepin County’s outsized share of this metric comes on the heels of significant backlash to the policies and decisions of Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty, who took office halfway through fiscal year 2023.
Running on a platform of “ending the cycles of mass incarceration” and shielding illegal immigrants from deportation, Moriarty won the 2022 election for Hennepin County attorney. Since then, her term in office has engendered public outrage due to her lenient criminal sentences and refusal to prosecute crime.
Of the 773 felony cases in Hennepin County that allegedly involved a firearm, only 28.7% saw a mandatory minimum sentence imposed and carried out. Of those who were convicted, about 48% did not get a mandatory minimum sentence.