Bill to ramp up arson punishments being debated in legislature - FOX Carolina 21

Bill to ramp up arson punishments being debated in legislature

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Leroy Auto Sales was torched by an arsonist Feb. 14, 2016 (FOX Carolina) Leroy Auto Sales was torched by an arsonist Feb. 14, 2016 (FOX Carolina)
COLUMBIA, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Lawmakers are working to turn up the heat on arsonists. 

A bill currently being debated in the South Carolina legislature aims to overturn changes made in the 2010 Omnibus Crime Reduction initiative. Those changes included charging arsonists with third degree arson for burning down major structures like churches, homes or businesses - and the same third degree charge for smaller structures like backyard sheds. 

Firefighters and lawmakers hope to make it possible to charge arsonists with the harsher penalty of second degree arson when they set fire to major structures. That charge carries a potential three to 25 year prison sentence. 

"There has to be some type of sentencing or some type of retribution which acts as a deterrent," said Pickens Rural Fire District Chief Billy Gibon. "The way the laws are now, that deterrent is very weak."

Anderson Co. business owner Alison Phillips said her auto dealership was burned down Valentine's Day, and she hopes the legislature passes the bill to enact harsher punishment. 

She said she is angry that the person who burned down her business, Leroy Auto Sales, will most likely only be charged with third degree arson under current state law. 

"I really can't even put into words the slap on the wrist he is going to get," she told FOX Carolina.

It was unclear Thursday when the legislature plans to vote on the bill.

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