King County prosecutor pushes for increased sentences in juvenile gun crime laws

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg announced a renewed effort aimed at increasing sentence ranges for juveniles who illegally possess firearms.

The proposal has gained the support of gun rights advocates and Washington Ceasefire.

In a news conference, Satterberg was joined by gun rights advocate Dave Workman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and Ralph Fascitelli of Washington Ceasefire, who support reforming juvenile gun laws.

Satterberg stated in a press release he will take this measure to the Washington State Legislators and ask them to introduce a bill in the 2013 legislative session.

It currently takes five convictions of unlawful possession of a firearm second degree before a juvenile is sent to the Department of Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration (JRA), where the youth will serve a sentence of 15 weeks.

The proposal unveiled today would call for a mandatory 10-day sentence upon the first conviction, and a 15-week sentence upon the second conviction.

“On most issues you would not find common ground between Washington Ceasefire and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, but they join together with prosecutors on this issue,” Satterberg said.  “Our state law regarding illegal gun possession by juveniles is ridiculously lenient, and serves neither the youth nor public safety,” he added.

Under current law a juvenile must be convicted of five felonies before a conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm in the second degree (UPFA 2) results in a sentence at the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration (JRA) of 15 to 36 weeks.

Current law calls for a mandatory 10-day sentence for the first four convictions for UPFA second degree.

Under the proposed law, juveniles convicted of illegal gun possession will have to serve a mandatory 10-day sentence on their first conviction.

Juveniles who have already been convicted of a felony or who are convicted a second time of illegal gun possession will be sent to JRA to serve a sentence of 15 to 36 weeks.

The proposed law would also eliminate sentencing alternatives that permit juveniles to escape serving the mandatory 10-day sentence called for under current law on their first illegal gun possession conviction.

Satterberg stated that while at JRA, a gun violence education curriculum should be developed for juvenile offenders serving sentences for illegal gun possession that offers a realistic lesson on the medical and legal consequences of carrying and using firearms.

According to a press release from the King County Sheriff's Office, in King County armed juvenile crime that results in "automatic adult prosecution" of a juvenile has more than doubled in recent years, from just 19 cases in 2008 to 66 in 2009, 54 in 2010 and 41 in 2011.




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