An Oklahoma state senator’s fight to enact harsher penalties for repeat child molesters came to a top-rated national cable news network Saturday evening.
Senator Jay Paul Gumm appeared on the Jan. 28 edition of “The Big Story Primetime”, broadcast nationally on the Fox News Channel. Gumm, D-Durant, was invited to appear to discuss Senate Bill 1747, a measure he wrote that would make repeat child molesters eligible for the death penalty or life without parole.
Connected by satellite from Fox’s Dallas bureau, Gumm told show host Bret Baier that he wrote the bill because of state government’s responsibility to protect children.
“One of the greatest responsibilities any state government has is to make sure that state is safe for its children,” said Gumm, who is also a Senate assistant majority leader. “We need to separate these people (child molesters) from society; they need to be eligible for the death penalty or life without parole.”
Gumm noted the initial proposal for the bill came from one of his constituents who expressed concern about the number of child molestations reported on the news.
Taking the opposing view on the program was Rob Longo, a sex abuse counselor who began his comments by stating his opposition to the death penalty. He then suggested that the victims of child molesters might be hesitant to tell someone about the abuse because of guilt they might feel about their attacker possibly getting the death penalty.
When pressed by Baier, Longo said the recent case in Vermont where a judge gave a child molester a 60-day sentence plus treatment was appropriate, because if the offender did not get treatment he would be subject to a longer sentence. The light sentence generated outrage and protests in Vermont.
Turning to Senator Gumm, Baier asked if the senator believed sex offenders could be rehabilitated and “move on.”
Gumm said repeat offenders have already had their chance to be rehabilitated and they failed. “If they are a repeat sex offender, they have proven they are not going to be rehabilitated,” he said.
“I think we have a responsibility as a society to say if you (sex offenders) are not going to get better – you have had your chance – let’s get you as far away from our children as we can, and that includes the death penalty.”
The appearance on the national news network concluded a whirlwind week of media interest in Gumm’s bill, which would be the first of its kind in the nation.
The senator has talked about his bill on the nationally syndicated “Mike Gallagher Show” and Fox Radio’s “Fox Across America” afternoon talk show; Tulsa’s “Dillon Dodge Show” on KFAQ-FM; and, the “Russ and Dee Show,” which is broadcast and webcast out of Alabama. In addition, four Oklahoma television stations have interviewed the senator and aired stories on the measure.
Gumm represents Senate District 6, which covers all of Bryan, Johnston and Marshall counties, most of Coal County, and a portion of Atoka County. In addition to serving as assistant majority leader, he is also chair of the powerful Finance Committee and the Senate’s chief presiding officer.
The Oklahoma Legislature will consider the measure when the 2006 session begins Feb. 6.