The 1990s in the United States saw a significant increase in two crucial factors. The first one was the increase in the number of juveniles in the nation. It had increased seventeen percent compared to the previous two decades. The second aspect was that the increase in firearm related crimes among juvenile offenders. The 1990s were host to forty-four school shooting incidents that cost the lives of 65 students including the infamous Columbine High School massacre. The firearm violence among juveniles was as high as the time of the crack cocaine epidemic in the 1970s. The trend during the 1990s was alarming since the violence was not restricted to the African American community or to those living below the poverty line (Fair Sentencing for Youth, 2015). Juvenile laws were incredibly flexible to allow community service even for those who exhibited violent trends (OOJDP, 2006).
The escalating school campus violence and the culture of using firearms to settle disputes among juveniles required stringent measures. In 1999, particularly after the Columbine High School massacre, the U.S Congress decided that it was time to act effectively keeping in mind that the juvenile population would increase by a further twenty-six percent in the next two decades. The government initially offered clemency to juveniles who would voluntarily surrender illegally procured firearms to designated centers and sought psychological help. However, despite positive response is several parts of the country, it wasn’t enough. It was time to review jail sentences pertaining to juveniles and firearms related crimes.
The laws in the United States have gradually grown harsher towards the juvenile and young children when other countries have managed to curb the problem by limiting the availability of firearms. The major concern for juveniles in an adult prison is sexual abuse. Is the Government actually avoiding the route to social justice and condemning our children to sexual abuse? The U.S. Congress also drafted a gun control law that was suspended temporarily due to the incessant campaigning by the National Rifles Association. The Youth Crime Bill however, did not meet any such opposition (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 2000).
In the meantime, the youth crime bill stripped off the rights of children to be tried as juveniles if a firearm was involved (House Committee on Rules, 2000). Stringent clauses were included to extend jail terms for possession and transportation of a firearm on to school campuses. The provisions of this bill closely resembled the firearm laws that were introduced in the mid-1980s to effectively demolish the crack cocaine trade. The initiation of the Youth Crime Bill also bore similar results with juvenile firearm crimes plummeting to their lowest levels (Randall, 1999). Although recidivism was not totally achievable, juveniles restricted their days of shooting people to PlayStation consoles.
The question still remains about the future of those children who languish in jail. If poverty and socio-economic issues led to the armed juvenile conflicts of the 1970s and the 1990s, how is imprisoning an entire generation of children helping the situation? The penitentiaries are not only dangerous for young children, they are also hubs of criminal trade schools. In addition, the sprout in domestic terrorism cells are on the rise and always looking out for zealous young people who have a serious issue with the government. Is the government breeding an army of domestic terrorists, career criminals and even an elite bunch of serial killers while attempting to curb juvenile firearm violence?
The free sale of firearms and their availability in departmental stores is the biggest problem (U.S. Department of Justice, 1996). This problem has been silenced until another massacre by the gun monopoly in our nation. Despite the government’s commitment to the elimination of juvenile violence, they are clearly condemning society to decades of violence once the imprisoned juveniles are released ten or twenty years down the line. The cause for juvenile firearm violence is not a result of playing role-play shooting games, it is the easy access to guns (Elliott, 1994). For example, if the Columbine High School shooter-duo did not have access to their family guns, would that incident ever have happened? Is it practical for two teenagers to charge their schoolmates and teachers with a pair of pocket knives? There are several reasons why a juvenile would turn to crime however; there is only one reason why that juvenile managed to get his hands on a gun. The lack of any serious gun control laws (The Future of Children, 2002).
Elliott, Delbert S. (1994). Youth Violence: An Overview. Retrieved from: http://www.colorado.edu/cspv/publications/papers/CSPV-008.pdf
Fair Sentencing for Youth Staff (2015). Senate Bill 260 – Justice for Juveniles with Adult Prison Sentences. Retrieved from: http://fairsentencingforyouth.org/legislation/senate-bill-260-justice-for-juveniles-sentenced-to-adult-prison-terms/
House Committee on Rules Staff (2000). Rules Committee Sends $1.5 Billion Youth Crime Bill to House Floor. Retrieved from: http://democrats.rules.house.gov/rules/rules-committee-sends-15-billion-youth-crime-bill-house-floor
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Staff (2000). NAACP supported bill to help prevent youth crime and violence passes key house subcommittee. Retrieved from: http://www.naacp.org/action-alerts/entry/naacp-supported-bill-to-help-prevent-youth-crime-and-violence-passes-key-ho
OOJDP Staff (2006). Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report. Retrieved from: http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/nr2006/
Randall, Kate (1999). US youth crime bill: more children to be tried as adults. Retrieved from: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/1999/06/juve-j24.html
The Future of Children Staff (2002). Children, Youth, and Gun Violence: Analysis. Retrieved from: http://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/docs/12_02_ExecSummary.pdf
U.S. Department of Justice Staff (1996). Reducing Youth Gun Violence. Retrieved from: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/redyouth.pdf