Crime should fit time for juveniles

When do you know a crime is serious?

  • Tuesday, June 9, 2009 3:39am
  • Opinion

Political

Columnist

When do you know a crime is serious?

When it is seriously punished. A convict doing life without parole obviously did something more serious than someone doing 90 days in county lockup.

So with that in mind, is it a serious crime if a juvenile is caught with a firearm on the streets?

Every politician holding any office in either party will insist that yes, of course it’s a serious offense for a 15-year old to be packing a .357.

But how does the law punish him?

Here’s a quick quiz: If a 15-year old is caught after midnight on the streets with a handgun in his waistband, he can serve as little as:

A. A single day in juvenile detention.

B. A week.

C. 30 days.

D. None of the above.

Answer: D. According to King County Executive Dan Satterberg, he is eligible for no detention time at all.

And if he’s caught again?

The answer is the same. Not until his fourth conviction would tougher standards kick in – tough, that is, by juvenile justice standards. He’d still only do two to three months.

Satterberg says the message on the streets is clear: “We’re saying if we catch them with a gun and they haven’t used it yet, it’s no big deal.”

Should it be? Satterberg thinks so. It would take a simple change in state law to make it happen. But “simple” doesn’t mean “easy.” There is a built-in lobby against any tougher treatment of criminal activity, period, and that lobby has the advantage of state finances being stretched so thin that many criminals are getting their sentences reduced.

But there is also precedent for getting tougher. Back in 1995, the state’s voters qualified the “Hard Time for Armed Crime” initiative, which soon became law (disclosure time: I co-authored the measure and chaired the campaign for its passage). It was written to add more time for any offender who illegally used, possessed or obtained a firearm. It has worked well, but the law amended only the adult sentencing grid. The juvenile code remained the same.

With bullets flying all over King County, now would be a good time to change it. Seattle’s mayor has repeatedly insisted that the state should forbid law-abiding people from carrying concealed weapons on city property, including parks. Aren’t Glock toting punks in street gangs a greater threat to public safety? And yet, not a single word from Mayor Nickels about tougher penalties for armed juvenile thugs. How come?

If Seattle’s mayor won’t act, and the legislature and Governor don’t act, then this issue is a fastball down the middle for Attorney general Rob McKenna. We’re not talking about a quality of life issue here. This is an issue of life and death. The body count is real. And the cost of doing nothing means the count will continue to rise.

More in Opinion

America is denying three hard truths

There are three major hard truths that our current government has been denying with great vigor: The Mueller Russia-U.S. Presidential election connection investigation, the war in Afghanistan, and the growing national deficit.

Promote the common good by ensuring individual liberty

Citizens following their passions and dreams improve the lot for all.

The three personas of President Trump

There’s Teleprompter Trump, Raw Meat Trump and Twitter Trump.

Carbon pricing won’t help environment, but will hurt taxpayers

How would a Washington carbon tax make a difference in the world “climate?”

It’s never enough

Based on numbers from the legislature, Enumclaw School District will be receiving huge funding increases from the state. Yet here we are with Enumclaw and a bunch of other districts telling the taxpayers, give us more, we need more.

Why are trailers allowed at Expo Center?

When my husband and I moved to our home in 2001 and for every year after the Expo Center grounds have always been pleasant to look at on your way to our home. No longer is this true.

Columnist sheds light on Koch brothers

Our economy, along with our political system, is broken and indeed destroying our democracy.

Vote ‘yes’ on replacement Education Programs levy

As a high school senior that has spent the entirety of my school life in Enumclaw, I know we have to take it upon ourselves to ensure the efficiency and inclusiveness of our school system.

Concern for common good is buried by greed

Tell big lies long and loudly enough and people will believe you.

Enumclaw boys, join the scouts

Troop 422 here in Enumclaw has taught me these things, and it has allowed me to be able to incorporate these things into my own life.

Concessions may be needed to enact carbon pricing

This is the sixth year Gov. Jay Inslee will try to convince lawmakers that the best means of fighting climate change is by making it more expensive to pollute.

Humility allows for tolerance of other’s opinions

Each of us has grown up in different circumstances. Each has been shaped by our life experiences. Each of us sees the world around us differently as a result. Why, then, should it be so difficult to understand that no two people will agree on every issue?