A bill that would increase penalties for juveniles who are convicted of illegal gun possession was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
The measure aimed at cracking down on armed juvenile repeat offenders passed by a 9-4 vote. Proponents of the bill say the stiffer sentencing guidelines are needed to send an early message to young people caught with firearms. Under current law, it takes five illegal gun-possession convictions before an offender can be sent to a Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration facility.
Committee members did agreed to some changes to House Bill 1096, including broader discretion for judges when handing out sentences to offenders with no previous convictions.
The Senate’s version of the legislation (SB376) received a hearing in the Human Services and Corrections Committee last week.
“What we are trying to do is to make sure we intervene very early right at the time of the first offense, but to do it in a way that we are hopefully getting these youth into a program to make sure they don’t stay involved with firearms at all,” said Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D- Tacoma).
The bill now heads to the House floor for a full debate and vote.