Kentucky Bill Would Try Juveniles as Adults for Firearm Offenses

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The issue with the term "gun crime" is that it pretends that a violent crime committed with a firearm is somehow worse than a violent crime committed with some other weapon. No one feel better learning a loved one was stabbed to deal versus shot, but politicians and activists routinely seem to act otherwise.


On the same token, violent crime is a problem and steps need to be taken to deal with it. Most of those crimes involve firearms.

In Kentucky, a bill has been introduced that seeks to do that to some degree, mostly by focusing on juveniles.

Teenagers 15 years and older would be tried as adults for crimes involving firearms under a measure that passed a Senate committee on Thursday.

Currently, Kentucky prosecutors have to petition a judge to elevate a minor’s case to adult court. Senate Bill 20 would eliminate that piece of judicial discretion, and require teenagers 15 and up to be tried in adult court for crimes involving firearms.

Republican Sen. Matthew Deneen, from Elizabethtown, said his bill is designed to address a crisis, an increase in juvenile offenders committing more serious offenses, often with guns.

“We used to see adults committing these violent crimes, [but] it is reversed now,” Deneen said. “Now we are seeing youthful offenders committing these adult crimes… We want to make sure that our laws address the current issue. Not what we hope it to be, not what it was, but to deal with the current reality.”

The Senate committee on veterans and military affairs passed Senate Bill 20 Thursday. It now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

Deneen pointed to spiking juvenile firearm-related offenses over the pandemic period as a reason for the legislation. Serious juvenile offenses did increase, but federal policing data shows many of those crimes also declined sharply in 2022.


I'm torn on this one.

First, I have no issue with being tough on criminals regardless of their age. If they're going to do the crime then they get to do the time.

Yet I have concerns about treating juvenile offenders like they're adults. We know that kids aren't rational beings who are even necessarily capable of thinking through the ramifications of their actions. If we try them as adults and they get hit with felony charges, we cut off any chance they have of rehabilitating completely. They'll always have issues with things like getting jobs, which may make them return to a life of crime.

But, then again, that whole crime and time thing.

Like I said, I'm torn.

Then, of course, is the fact that this treats so-called gun crime as a bigger issue than other forms of violent crime, which is always going to be troubling to me. Had this been about violent crime in general, I might have viewed it differently, at least to some degree or another.

We should also remember that deterrence doesn't seem to be much of a thing with a bill like this. It's not likely to scare people onto the straight and narrow path. What it will do, though, is remove those violent offenders who are over 15 but not yet adults from society for some time, making the streets at least a little safer during that period.


But we'll see how Kentucky goes on this one and, should it pass, how well it addresses the underlying problem.

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