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Too harsh or not?: Juveniles caught with firearms will spend up to 21 days in detention center under new Florida bill


Florida – A new bill in Florida, aimed at intensifying penalties for juveniles found with firearms, is stirring debate among lawmakers and community leaders. House Bill 1181, introduced by State Representative Berny Jacques, seeks to elevate the consequences of firearms violations committed by minors.

Stricter Penalties on the Horizon

Under the proposed legislation, the penalty for juveniles caught with a gun, except in certain specified situations, would shift from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. This change represents a significant escalation in the legal repercussions for young individuals found in possession of firearms. Jacques, in his presentation to the House Criminal Justice Committee, argued that increased accountability could act as a deterrent for minors considering firearm possession.

Community Concerns and Criticism

However, the bill has met with criticism from some community members who believe the proposed punishments are excessively harsh for minors. Derrick Collins, program director at Mr. and Ms. Mentoring, expressed his reservations about the bill. Collins, who actively works with young people in his community, highlighted the need to understand why juveniles might be carrying firearms. He noted that in many cases, the possession of a weapon is motivated by a need for protection in their living environments rather than for show or aggression.

Collins emphasized that while the bill’s harsher penalties might deter some youths, others, particularly those who fear for their safety, might not. He advocates for a focus on alternative programs that guide young people towards positive paths and success, rather than simply implementing stricter punishments.

Extended Detention Periods and Underlying Questions

If enacted, House Bill 1181 would also modify the duration for which minors are held in detention centers before court proceedings commence. The bill proposes that juveniles could be detained for a period ranging from five to 21 days, depending on the nature of the crime. This aspect of the bill has further fueled the debate, with Collins seeking clarity on the legislators’ ultimate goal. He questions whether the aim is to deter firearm possession among minors or to increase the number of youths in detention.

Legislative Process and Next Steps

The juvenile justice bill had its initial reading earlier this week and is currently under consideration in the Justice Appropriations subcommittee. As it moves through the legislative process, the bill is likely to continue generating discussion and analysis from various stakeholders, reflecting the complexities of juvenile justice and firearm regulation.

Both supporters and opponents of House Bill 1181 will be closely monitoring its progress because it has significant implications for how Florida addresses the problem of juvenile firearm possession and the larger context of youth crime and rehabilitation.

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