INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Leaders of organizations across Indiana are calling on lawmakers to amend several bills that address guns and youth. These organizations said the legislation would increase the number of children prosecuted in adulthood.
Don “Don” Dyson knows what it is like to be charged with gun possession at a young age.
“When I started carrying a gun, it was used for protection and was driven by trauma. I wasn’t old enough to have a permit. I had no intention of harming a soul and I never did, ”Dyson explained in a virtual briefing on Monday afternoon.
He was thrown in jail, which sent his life in a direction he did not want.
“I cannot approve of my previous actions. I’m just trying to educate others about why some young people carry guns. Taking them to an adult facility isn’t going to help them, ”Dyson said.
On Monday the Indiana Coalition for Youth Justice urged lawmakers to amend three bills they believe would increase the number of children prosecuted as adults.
The bills that the coalition mentions are: House bill 1369, House bill 1256 and Senate Act 197.
“United Methodist Women of Indiana are encouraging Indiana lawmakers to amend these bills to remove gun possession violations from direct records law,” said Kathie Clemenz, president of the United Methodist Women of Indiana, in a virtual press conference Monday afternoon .
The coalition directly feels punished for punishing children in the adult system rather than offering services aimed at improving their futures.
“We know that over 90% of adolescents in the judiciary have experienced at least one form of childhood trauma. Adolescents who are likely to be victims of trauma themselves are not well served in adult courts, where punishment rather than rehabilitation is the primary purpose, and could get even worse, “said Dr. Sarah Stelzner of the Indiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
And the Indianapolis Urban League argues that the legislation disproportionately affects Indiana black children.
“Black Indiana children make up only 14% of the teenage population in Indiana, but account for nearly 36% of juvenile court cases. Children are less to blame for their actions and better able to rehabilitate, and their brain development in areas of thought and self-control is often only fully developed in their mid-twenties, ”said Mark Russell of the Indianapolis Urban League.
Because of this, coalition members wanted an adolescent legal system that uses a trauma-informed developmental approach that is culturally responsive and based on the science of brain development.
“By keeping children in youth facilities, we are investing in them and their future and in our entire community. Therefore, we are ultimately giving these children the opportunity to learn, grow and re-enter society as an engaged society and contributing citizens, “said Sarah Williams, director of public order and advocacy at McCoy, in a virtual press conference Monday afternoon.
Auburn Republican Ben Smaltz recently spoke about it his bill: “This bill is intended for everyone who has obeyed the law, wants to protect themselves and their families and, until this bill is passed, have to jump over hurdle after hurdle and pay fee for fee in order to do what criminals do immediately and free. This bill is for the lawful Indiana resident, the law that is not criminal. “
In a statement to News 8 on Monday evening, Smaltz stated, “This bill would not constitute a new offense. Currently, Indiana law states that anyone who wields an unlicensed firearm will be charged with illegally possessing an unlicensed pistol. All we’re doing is take out the part of this law without a license. “
In a statement to News 8 Monday night, Senator Mike Young, a Republican from Indianapolis, spoke about it his bill::
“Until recently, dangerous possession of a firearms crime was enshrined in state law, and I have heard no concerns about this provision from my constituents or the Indiana Coalition for Youth Justice. Not once has this organization complained about this provision in Indiana law. After a court ruled that this language cannot be used against minors because there is no similar law for adults, this group says the law is unfair. There are dozen other good things to do in SB 197 that will help keep Indiana citizens safe. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to me to oppose a good law that does a variety of helpful things just because some people have concerns about part of the bill that was previously in state law. “