Here’s today’s reminder that the only gun owners Democrats are really interested in punishing are the ones who want to lawfully exercise their Second Amendment rights: a 12-year old in Anne Arundel County, Maryland who brought a gun and ammunition to his middle school on Thursday will not face any criminal charges thanks to a criminal justice “reform” measure approved by the Democrats in the state legislature last year; the same group of lawmakers that’s expected to crack down on licensed concealed carry in this year’s session.
According to the Anne Arundel County Police Department, the tween in question is just one of dozens of youthful offenders no longer eligible for adjudication in the juvenile justice system thanks to the new law.
Due to HB 0459 Juvenile Justice Reform Bill, no charges are applicable for a 12-year-old juvenile caught with a handgun & ammunition in a county school.School Resource UnitWeapon Violation (No Charges) – Ft. Meade23-700605On January 5, 2023, the School Resource Officer at MacArthur Middle School was notified of a student who had a handgun, loaded magazine, and loose ammunition in a bag at the school. The student is a 12-year-old. Due to the new Juvenile Justice Reform, House Bill 459 voted into law; there are NO APPLICABLE CHARGES. A 12-year-old can no longer be charged with certain crimes, including bringing a handgun & ammunition to school. Detectives conferred with the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Ft. Meade Provost Marshal’s Office.Since the law took effect on June 1, 2022, we have had dozens of cases where juvenile suspects were located, identified, and unable to be charged. Those cases include assaults, weapons violations, intimidation, harassment, drug charges, theft, burglary, sex offenses, threats, motor vehicle thefts, animal abuse, arson, and incident exposures.
A 12-year old can bring a gun to school with no opportunity for law enforcement to intervene, but if you’re a concealed carry holder who so much as sets foot in a gun-free zone like a school you could be looking at severe legal consequences, including time behind bars. And as the police department makes clear, this isn’t some exceptional case. If you’re fluent in legislat-ese have fun with the text of HB 0459, but if you don’t feel like reading the full bill here’s a spoiler: the law’s intent is to “spare” young offenders from the criminal justice system, with counseling, treatment, and other wraparound services supposedly doing a better job of rehabilitating them than time in juvenile detention.
Maybe that’s the case for some kids. Heck, it might even be the case for the 12-year old in question. But I doubt that its true for every one of the juveniles who the department describes, and that’s a problem.
The state’s juvenile justice system may have its issues, but that doesn’t mean that lawmakers can address them by simply shunting as many juvenile offenders away from the system as they possibly can. Are there some offenses, particularly for very young individuals, where the criminal system isn’t appropriate? Absolutely. But under HB 0459 the state has basically adopted the position that until a tween or young teenager (the number of chargeable offenses depends on the age of the alleged perpetrator) is actually accused of committing a serious felony or violent offense, half of the criminal justice system has to stand idly by. Police may be able to make an arrest, but prosecutors can’t charge the suspect.
I don’t believe that the state should have discretion to decide which law-abiding citizens get to exercise their civil rights, but I do believe that discretion is an inherent part of the law; both in terms of deciding whether someone has committed an arrest-worthy offense and whether they should be prosecuted for it. That discretion is particularly important when dealing with cases that are on the margins, but HB 0459 removes that discretion from both police and prosecutors. It may do wonders for the state’s juvenile crime rate by helping to fudge the numbers, but just like the state’s failed gun control policies, HB 0459 is only making Maryland a more dangerous place.