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Washington state Legislature approves gun bill for juveniles

A bill aimed at providing early treatment to kids found with guns was passed out of the Senate yesterday on a 44-5 vote and will now be delivered to Gov. Inslee for his signature.

Backed by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Washington Defenders Association, the Sheriffs and Police Chief’s Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union, HB 2164 requires most juveniles in unlawful possession of a firearm to participate in certain evidence-based or research-based programs, unless no appropriate qualifying program is available.

“Are we using every opportunity to make sure these kids are getting the treatment they need? This was the question we asked ourselves during the interim,” said Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, about the workgroup she co-chaired jointly with King Co. Prosecutor Dan Satterberg to address the issue of youth with guns.

Orwall explained that under current law, juveniles who get involved with firearms and crime at a young age don’t get the early intervention they need to keep them from becoming career criminals. It may take multiple offenses for a kid to go through treatment, and up to five convictions before he or she is committed to Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration (JRA).

“Instead of waiting until they have committed several offenses or a serious crime to send them to the adequate program, let’s intervene early to keep these troubled kids from repeating the pattern,” said Orwall, who pointed out that Washington has some of the most outstanding evidence-based and research-based treatment options in the country. “This early intervention has the potential to put them back on the path to education and success.”

The programs that qualify under HB 2164 include aggression replacement training, functional family therapy, or any other pertinent evidence or research-based program that is also cost-effective.

Orwall’s legislation also requires JRA to compile information on juvenile offenders found to be in unlawful possession of a firearm and who made their initial contact with the criminal justice system between 2005 and 2013.

 

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