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Proposal to more harshly punish kids for having guns moves out of House committee

Post by Melissa Santos / The Olympian on Feb. 13, 2013 at 4:59 am | No Comments »
February 13, 2013 5:00 am

200323870-001Minors found guilty of unlawfully possessing a gun would be more likely to serve time in jail under a proposal passed Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 1096 aims to punish juveniles for carrying guns before they have the chance to use them in a serious crime, said Democratic Rep. Christopher Hurst of Enumclaw, who is sponsoring the bill.

Right now, juveniles can carry guns and receive no jail time the first four times they are caught; often, sentences are deferred. Then, when those same juveniles use the gun in a crime, they get the book thrown at them, Hurst said.

“If you have to be caught with a gun four or five times before you’re going to see the inside of a detention center, what have we taught you?” Hurst said during an interview last month. “We’ve taught you that it doesn’t matter, that there are no consequences.”

Hurst’s original proposal would have required all juveniles convicted of unlawful gun possession to serve a minimum of 10 days in jail. The version of the bill approved by the committee Tuesday provides more sentencing flexibility, allowing judges to sentence offenders to behavior intervention treatment, or to defer sentencing if a young person has no prior criminal record.

The Judiciary Committee passed the legislation 9-4. It now will go to the House floor for a vote.

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