Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

House Votes New Penalties for Kids with Guns; Backs off Limits on Violent Entertainment for Kids

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

House Votes New Penalties for Kids with Guns; Backs off Limits on Violent Entertainment for Kids

Article excerpt

The House approved a combination of new and dramatically stronger penalties for juveniles involved in gun violence or possessing guns in a school zone.

Under the new measure, passed last week by a 249-181 vote, the maximum penalty for illegal possession of a firearm in a school zone was set at five years and at 20 years for offenders with intent to commit a serious felony.

As The Weekly went to press, lawmakers aproved a gun control amendment offered by Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), that would limit all background checks at gun shows to 24 hours, watering down the 72 hour period which applies currently to federally-licensed dealers. The Dingell plan passed on a 218-211 vote.

The vote came during an emotional debate over juvenile justice legislation that has assumed center stage on Capitol Hill.

The debate continued as Nation's Cities Weekly went to press. At that time, lawmakers were set to consider a series of closely contested measures on gun control, including competing plans to require background checks at gun shows.

At issue is a juvenile justice bill that had stalled for two years until the Littleton, Colo., school shootings in April. The juvenile justice bill not only toughens penalties on young offenders at the federal level but also encourages the states to strengthen their penalties, even trying juveniles as adults when a serious crime is involved.

The bill would authorize $1.5 billion over two years in block grants to the states to combat juvenile crime. State and local governments could use the money to hire more prosecutors, build more prisons, and institute school safety, drug rehabilitation and other programs. To get the money, states must impose stronger sanctions on juvenile offenders. Final passage of the overall bill was not expected until Friday of last week.

While members of both parties appeared eager to get tough with juvenile offenders, an even larger bipartisan majority rejected a proposal to crack down on the entertainment industry which many Republicans have tried to finger as the culprit in Littleton. …

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