Federal judges can give harsher penalties to people who help bring illegal guns to big cities, a federal appeals court decided Thursday.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals approved the practice in its ruling for the case of an illegal gun dealer who got two years in prison, which was six months more than federal sentencing guidelines recommended.
When he imposed the sentence in 2004, U.S. District Judge Charles P. Sifton in Brooklyn said there was a "crying need" to deter gun trafficking into large metropolitan areas.
A three-judge appeals panel initially had overturned Sifton's ruling. The judges then reheard the case and ruled in Sifton's favor Thursday.
The panel said Sifton's ruling was justifiable given the high payoff available to gun smugglers who target big cities.
"Where the profits to be made from violating a law are higher, the penalty needs to be correspondingly higher to achieve the same amount of deterrence," the majority opinion said.
Gerard Cavera, the convicted gun dealer in the case, was an Army veteran with residences in New York and Deerfield Beach, Fla. The appeals court said evidence in the case indicated that he likely knew 16 firearms he sold in Florida for $11,500 were destined for New York City.
Cavera's lawyer, Jeffrey Rabin, said he was "somewhat disappointed" and was considering an appeal. He argued the case would contribute to a return to the disparate sentencing that occurred before the creation of sentencing guidelines.