Thursday’s public hearing on Senate Bill 5376, which would crack down on armed juvenile criminals and has the support of the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, brought out some stereotypes, and their stereotypical arguments in opposition.
The hearing may be viewed here on TV Washington.
There was the representative from a youth services group who urged the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee to provide more money for her program, rather than focus on locking up gun-toting recidivist teens.
There was the representative from a Quaker group who urged more understanding for youth, and then told the committee about his own misadventures that included playing with a .22-caliber handgun with some friends, and joining a pal on an out-of-season pheasant “hunting” trek to Fall City in east-central King County many years ago.
His concern was that if he had been caught and prosecuted under this law, he would have spent ten days in detention. He’d have been in bigger trouble with the then-Department of Game for hunting out of season and without a license.
Then there was the public defender, who insisted the bill, which has nothing to do with race and everything to do with taking illegally armed thugs and wannabes off the street, had “underlying racial stereotypes.” She also intimated that the bill suggests another “underlying” implication that the families of these teen lawbreakers are bad.
“Without a doubt,” she observed, “the ones I see arrested and the ones I see get charged are youth of color.”
One is compelled to wonder whether these youths would have been arrested and charged had they not been involved in some criminal activity, and whose fault is that?
Yet King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg didn’t talk about any of this, nor did CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb, who traveled to Olympia to support the measure. Here is part of what Gottlieb told the committee:
“In our discussions with King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg about his desire to crack down on armed juvenile repeat offenders, we were assured that this common sense measure will not prevent juveniles and teens from lawfully using or possessing firearms for hunting, recreational shooting, competition or any other legitimate purpose.
“We stressed to Dan at the outset that under no circumstances would we support a measure that might ensnare or entrap a teen who accidently leaves a shotgun in his car after a weekend of hunting, camping or shooting at the range, or who drives the family car only to discover someone else forgot to take a rifle out of the trunk.
“We were especially impressed that Mr. Satterberg’s concept has absolutely no bearing on the rights of legally-armed adults, including more than 396,000 law-abiding citizens who are legally licensed to carry concealed pistols, or the growing number of citizens who openly carry.
“Law-abiding gun owners have never opposed legitimate efforts to crack down on people, regardless of age, who deliberately misuse firearms. Juvenile offenders who recklessly discharge firearms or who illegally carry guns as an adjunct to their involvement in other criminal activity are no friends of ours, and vice versa.”
Satterberg talked about the cost and ultimate benefit of his proposal; trying to head these kids off from a life of crime by giving them a wake-up call. As close as he came was to mention that this bill would send a message that these youths may not be getting at home or from the media, and that is that committing crimes have consequences.
The bill’s prime sponsor is State Sen. Adam Kline (D-Seattle), one of the most liberal members of the State Senate. He did not appear comfortable hearing his legislation misrepresented in such a way by people who just might be among his most loyal constituents.
Remarkably, nobody from Washington CeaseFire appeared to testify, despite the fact that CeaseFire President Ralph Fascitelli was at the press conference last fall supporting Satterberg’s effort.