Portland Rap Artist Sentenced to Prison on Weapons Charges

The American people and their courts take the Second Amendment right to bear arms very seriously. And yet weapons charges can be very serious - even for incidents that do not involve the commission of a violent crime.

High-profile people can get swept up in the law enforcement push to enforce strict gun laws that often contain lengthy sentencing enhancements for prior offenses. Earlier this month, the rap artist known as Kenny Mack was sentenced to 7 ½ years in prison following his 2009 conviction on federal charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The American people and their courts take the Second Amendment right to bear arms very seriously. And yet weapons charges can be very serious - even for incidents that do not involve the commission of a violent crime.

High-profile people can get swept up in the law enforcement push to enforce strict gun laws that often contain lengthy sentencing enhancements for prior offenses. Earlier this month, the rap artist known as Kenny Mack was sentenced to 7 ½ years in prison following his 2009 conviction on federal charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Kenny Mack, whose legal name is Nathan Paul Burke, had been named West Coast Hip Hop Artist of the Year in 2009. In 2001, however, he had been arrested by police officers outside a bar in northeast Portland for possessing a loaded, .45 caliber handgun.

Burke had previous convictions on state charges for drug and weapons offenses. U.S. Attorney Dwight C. Holton chose to press federal charges for the 2001 incident.

Burke is not the only rap artist who has recently faced weapons charges. In December, another rapper, Ja Rule, pleaded guilty in New York to attempted criminal possession of a handgun. Ja Rule, whose given name is Jeffrey Atkins, will be sentenced on February 9, probably to two years in prison. Rapper Lil Wayne was also arrested on gun possession charges and served time in prison.

No one would deny that weapons must be handled with care. But commentators such as Ohio State law professor Doug Berman have questioned the severity of some sentences for simple gun possession - particularly given the protection granted to gun ownership in the Constitution.

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