MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
The punishment for bank robbery of a fine of not more than $5,000 and imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both, 18 U. S. C. § 2113 (a), may be enhanced to a fine of not more than $10,000 and imprisonment for not more than 25 years, or both, when the robbery is committed "by the use of a dangerous weapon or device," 18 U. S. C. § 2113 (d).
On September 8, 1975, petitioners, using handguns to intimidate the bank's employees, robbed some $40,000 from the East End Branch of the Commercial Bank of Middlesboro,
Petitioners received a separate jury trial for each robbery. After the trial for the first robbery, they were convicted of both aggravated bank robbery, in violation of 18 U. S. C. §§ 2113 (a) and (d), and of using firearms to commit the robbery, in violation of 18 U. S. C. § 924 (c). They were sentenced to consecutive terms of 25 years' imprisonment on the robbery count and 10 years' imprisonment on the firearms count. After the trial for the second robbery, petitioners were again convicted of one count of aggravated bank robbery in violation of §§ 2113 (a) and (d) and of one count of using firearms to commit the crime in violation of § 924 (c); again each received a 25-year sentence for the robbery and a 10-year sentence for the firearms count, the sentences to run consecutively to each other and to the sentences previously imposed.
During the sentencing proceedings following each conviction, counsel for petitioners argued that the imposition of cumulative penalties for the two crimes was impermissible because the § 2113 (d) charge merged with the firearms offense for purposes of sentencing. The District Court disagreed, holding that "the statutes and the legislative history indicat[e] an intention [by § 924 (c)] to impose an additional punishment." App. 17. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed without a published opinion, 542 F.2d 1177 (1976). We granted certiorari, 430 U.S. 964 (1977), to resolve an apparent conflict between the decision below and the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in United States v. Eagle, 539 F.2d 1166 (1976).
Quite clearly, §§ 924 (c) and 2113 (d) are addressed to the same concern and designed to combat the same problem: the use of dangerous weapons—most particularly firearms—to commit federal felonies.
Cases in which the Government is able to prove violations of two separate criminal statutes with precisely the same factual showing, as here, raise the prospect of double jeopardy and the possible need to evaluate the statutes in light of the Blockburger test. That test, the Government argues, is satisfied in this litigation.
First is the legislative history of § 924 (c). That provision, which was enacted as part of the Gun Control Act of 1968, was not included in the original Gun Control bill, but was offered as an amendment on the House floor by Representative Poff. 114 Cong. Rec. 22231 (1968).
This statement is clearly probative of a legislative judgment that the purpose of § 924 (c) is already served whenever the substantive federal offense provides enhanced punishment for use of a dangerous weapon.
Second, to construe the statute to allow the additional sentence authorized by § 924 (c) to be pyramided upon a sentence already enhanced under § 2113 (d) would violate the established rule of construction that "ambiguity concerning the ambit of criminal statutes should be resolved in favor of lenity." United States v. Bass, 404 U.S. 336, 347 (1971);
Finally, our result is supported by the principle that gives precedence to the terms of the more specific statute where a general statute and a specific statute speak to the same concern, even if the general provision was enacted later. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 489-490 (1973). Cf. 2A C. Sands, Sutherland, Statutory Construction § 51.05 (4th ed. 1973). This guide to statutory construction has special cogency where a court is called upon to determine the extent of the punishment to which a criminal defendant is subject for his transgressions. In this context, the principle is a corollary of the rule of lenity, an outgrowth of our reluctance to increase or multiply punishments absent a clear and definite legislative
Obviously, the Government has since changed its view of the relationship between §§ 924 (c) and 2113 (d). We think its original view was the better view of the congressional understanding as to the proper interaction between the two statutes. Accordingly, we hold that in a prosecution growing out of a single transaction of bank robbery with firearms, a defendant may not be sentenced under both § 2113 (d) and § 924 (c). The cases are therefore reversed and remanded to the Court of Appeals for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, dissenting.
I am unable to agree with the Court's conclusion in this litigation that petitioners, upon being convicted and sentenced under 18 U. S. C. § 2113 (d) for armed robbery, could not have their sentence enhanced pursuant to the provisions of 18 U. S. C. § 924 (c), which provides that when a defendant uses a firearm in the commission of a felony, he "shall, in addition to the punishment provided for the commission of such felony, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than ten years." The plain language of the statutes involved certainly confers this sentencing authority upon the District Court. The Court chooses to avoid this
The canon of construction which the Court purports to follow is like all other canons, only a guide to enable this Court to perform its function. As the Court said in Shapiro v. United States, 335 U.S. 1, 31 (1948):
While legislative history as well as the language of the statute itself may be used to interpret the meaning of statutory language, United States v. American Trucking Assns., 310 U.S. 534, 543 (1940), the decisions of this Court have established that some types of legislative history are substantially more reliable than others. The report of a joint conference committee of both Houses of Congress, for example, or the report of a Senate or House committee, is accorded a good deal more weight than the remarks even of the sponsor of a particular portion of a bill on the floor of the chamber. See, e. g., Chandler v. Roudebush, 425 U.S. 840, 858 n. 36 (1976); United States v. Automobile Workers, 352 U.S. 567, 585-586 (1957). It is a matter of common knowledge that at any given time during the debate, particularly a prolonged debate, of a bill the members of either House in attendance on the floor may not be great, and it is only these members, or those who later read the remarks in the Congressional
The Court's disregard of this plain meaning is inappropriate in this litigation both because of the circumstances under which the Gun Control Act was passed in June 1968, and because of the gauzy nature of the constitutional concerns which apparently underlie its reluctance to read the statutes as they are written. Several different bills dealing with firearms control, which had been bottled up in various stages of the legislative process prior to June 1968, were brought to the floor and enacted with dramatic swiftness following the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy in the early part of that month. Senator Kennedy's assassination, following by less than three months the similar killing of Reverend Martin Luther King, obviously focused the attention of Congress on the problem of firearms control. It seems to me not only permissible but irresistible, in reading the language of the two statutes, to conclude that Congress intended when it enacted § 924 (c) to authorize the enhancement of the sentence already imposed by virtue of 18 U. S. C. § 2113 (d).
The Court expresses concern, however, that if this construction were adopted problems of double jeopardy would be raised by virtue of our decision in Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299 (1932). Blockburger, of course, was not based on the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution, but simply upon an analysis of relevant principles of statutory construction for determining "whether two offenses are sufficiently distinguishable to permit the imposition of cumulative punishment." Brown v. Ohio, 432 U.S. 161, 166 (1977); ante, at 11. To speak of a congressional provision for enhanced punishment for an offense, as § 924 (c) clearly is, as raising constitutional doubts under the "Blockburger test" is to use the language of metaphysics, rather than of constitutional law.
Petitioners in this litigation were separately tried for two separate armed bank robberies, and were found guilty of both aggravated bank robbery in violation of 18 U. S. C. §§ 2113 (a) and (d), and of using firearms to commit the robbery in violation of 18 U. S. C. § 924 (c). In addition to imposing sentences on them authorized under the provisions of § 2113 (d), the court imposed additional sentences which it believed and I believe were clearly authorized by the language of § 924 (c). Certainly the language of the double jeopardy provision of the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits a person from being twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, has not the slightest application to this sort of criminal prosecution. It is only by an overly refined analysis, which first suggests that the double jeopardy prohibition encompasses enhancement of penalty for an offense for which there has been but one trial, and then concludes that the plain language of Congress providing for such enhancement shall not be read in that way in order to avoid this highly theoretical problem, that the Court is able to reach the result it does.
"(a) Whoever, by force and violence, or by intimidation, takes, or attempts to take, from the person or presence of another any property or money or any other thing of value belonging to, or in the care, custody, control, management, or possession of, any bank, credit union, or any savings and loan association; or
"Whoever enters or attempts to enter any bank, credit union, or any savings and loan association, or any building used in whole or in part as a bank, credit union, or as a savings and loan association, with intent to commit in such bank, credit union, or in such savings and loan association, or building, or part thereof, so used, any felony affecting such bank, credit union, or such savings and loan association and in violation of any statute of the United States, or any larceny—
"Shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
"(d) Whoever, in committing, or in attempting to commit, any offense defined in subsections (a) and (b) of this section, assaults any person, or puts in jeopardy the life of any person by the use of a dangerous weapon or device, shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than twenty-five years, or both."
"(1) uses a firearm to commit any felony for which he may be prosecuted in a court of the United States, or
"(2) carries a firearm unlawfully during the commission of any felony for which he may be prosecuted in a court of the United States,
"shall, in addition to the punishment provided for the commission of such felony, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than ten years. In the case of his second or subsequent conviction under this subsection, such person shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for not less than two nor more than twenty-five years and, notwithstanding any other provision of law, the court shall not suspend the sentence in the case of a second or subsequent conviction of such person or give him a probationary sentence, nor shall the term of imprisonment imposed under this subsection run concurrently with any term of imprisonment imposed for the commission of such felony."
On the other hand, although the overriding purpose of § 924 (c) was to combat the increasing use of guns to commit federal felonies, the ambit of that provision is broader. The section imposes increased penalties when a "firearm" is used to commit, or is unlawfully carried during the commission of any federal felony. Title 18 U. S. C. § 921 (a) (3) (D) defines "firearm" to include "any destructive device." A "destructive device," in turn, is defined by § 921 (a) (4) (A) to include "any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas—(i) bomb, (ii) grenade, (iii) rocket . . . , (iv) missile . . . , (v) mine, or (vi) device similar to any of the devices described in the preceding clauses." See United States v. Melville, 309 F.Supp. 774 (SDNY 1970).
"[The language of § 2113 (d)] clearly requires the commission of something more than the elements of the offense described in § 2113 (a). Sub-section (a) punishes an attempt to take `from the person or presence of another any . . . thing of value . . . in the . . . custody . . . of any bank . . .' when that taking is done `by force and violence, or by intimidation.' Force and violence is the traditional language of assault, and something more than an assault must be present to authorize the additional five year penalty under § 2113 (d).
". . . In order to give lawful meaning to Congress' enactment of the aggravating elements in 18 U. S. C. § 2113 (d), the phrase `by the use of a dangerous weapon or device' must be read, regardless of punctuation, as modifying both the assault provision and the putting in jeopardy provision." 438 F. 2d, at 1283-1284 (concurring in part and dissenting in part).