Senator Gumm Nears Victory in Struggle to Protect Children
The original author of legislation to allow the death penalty for repeat child molesters is now only one step away from seeing the proposal signed into law.
Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, has pressed for passage of the legislation for the entire 2006 session.
“This has been a long struggle, with many twists and turns,” he said. “Now, working with lawmakers of both parties and in both the Senate and House of Representatives, we are close to victory.”
Gumm, himself a new father, originally introduced Senate Bill 1747 early this year, and the proposal received national attention. That measure passed the Senate but died in the House of Representatives when a committee chair refused to hear the bill.
Gumm also amended House bills to include the language. In every case, the proposal was rejected by the Republican House leadership. Not giving up, Gumm continued to look for bills into which the death penalty provisions would fit.
As the 2006 session neared its end, Senator Jonathan Nichols, R-Norman, offered a bill he wrote as one to include the death penalty language. Gumm quickly agreed. That measure – Senate Bill 1800 – has now passed the Senate and House overwhelmingly and is on its way to Gov. Brad Henry’s desk.
“I appreciate Senator Nichols’ essential help in passing this important bill,” Gumm said. “Senator Nichols was a supporter from the beginning, and we would not be this close to victory without his help.”
If signed by the governor, SB 1800 will make Oklahoma one of the first states to enact the death penalty for repeat child molesters. A similar bill is making its way through the South Carolina Legislature, and Louisiana has such a law on the books.
Gumm said government has no greater moral obligation than to ensure the safety of its children. “We allow the death penalty for someone who has killed a body. Why would be allow someone to escape who has killed a soul?” he asked.
“Predators with multiple convictions for child molestation have proven they will continue to prey on Oklahoma’s children until they are stopped. This bill will stop them, and send a powerful message that in Oklahoma, we will protect our children with the most powerful weapon we have.”
In the final Senate debate on the bill, one lawmaker opposed the bill, suggesting “the healing power of forgiveness” is more important than imposing the death penalty.
Gumm countered by saying that forgiveness is impossible without justice. “This bill provides justice for those who would prey on our children,” he said. “The death penalty is a punishment that is proportional to this most heinous of crimes.”
Governor Henry has until June 10 to sign the bill.