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Stiffer penalties for shooters approved in North Carolina

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley has signed a bill into law increasing penalties for people convicted of shooting into occupied homes and vehicles.

The new law, dubbed "Rachel's Law," is named for Rachel Sanchez. She was five years old when she was struck by a sniper's bullet as she rode with her family along Interstate 40 in Conover, NC, in February 2003.

A 15-year-old boy confessed to shooting onto the highway, the Hickory Daily Record reported. He was sentenced to wilderness boot camp and one year of probation. Rachel is recovering back home in Virginia.

The new law, previously SB486, makes firing a gun into an occupied vehicle or building a felony punishable from roughly three to 15 years behind bars, The Associated Press reported. Existing North Carolina law makes the maximum sentence for the crime about six years.

Punishment could reach as high as 17 and one-half years if the shooting causes serious injury.

"In a sense, these criminals are snipers, committing a type of terrorism, when the shoot into cars or buildings," Sen. Austin Allran, R-Hickory, told the Record. "They are trying to intimidate and cause fear. We want to send a message back to them that they will be dealt with very seriously."

The new rule takes effect Dec. 1.
 
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