By the end of June, the House and Senate each passed versions of a Juvenile Justice bill. A principle difference between the two bills is that the Senate bill (S. 254) includes some important gun control provisions while the House bill (HR 1501) does not. The gun provisions include: mandating background checks for sales at gun shows, requiring trigger locks with all gun sales, banning the importation of high-capacity ammunition clips, and prohibiting the sale or transfer of assault-type weapons to juveniles.
By the end of September, the House and Senate "conferees" (members from each chamber who meet to reconcile the differences between the two bills before a final vote) will have completed their work. There is still time to weigh in with concerns about the juvenile justice provisions and urge inclusion of the Senate's gun control provisions.
The Bishops have strongly opposed the easy accessibility to handguns since 1975. More recently they addressed pervasive violence in our society and their concern for youth, in the 1994 statement, Confronting a Culture of Violence.
What You Can Do:
If you have not already done so, call or write your Representative or Senator especially if they are included on the list below, and express the bishops' views on gun control and juvenile justice issues. If your member is not a part of the Conference Committee, call and urge them to express these views to their colleagues who are conferees.
Gun Control Issues:
- requiring gun manufacturers to equip all guns with safety locks;
- requiring mandatory 3 business day background checks at gun shows. Anything less than three business days does not allow sufficient time to do a thorough check;
- prohibiting the importation of large capacity ammunition clips.
- prohibiting the sale or transfer of an assault-type weapon to a juvenile.
- support Senate language which earmarks at least 25 percent of funds in the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant Program for prevention and the provision which encourages funds to be used for "parenting as prevention" counseling and family services;
- oppose provisions in both bills that would allow juveniles to be in contact with adult inmates with parental consent. Such contact can have devastating consequences for youth;
- oppose provisions in both bills that give prosecutors and not the courts (as in current law) the authority to proceed against a youth committing a serious crime;
- support the House language which requires states to study disproportionate minority confinement (to help address racial bias in the juvenile justice system);
- support the House language that offers states more flexibility when instituting "graduated sanctions."
The following members are members of the Conference Committee working on the two bills:
Senators Thurman (R-SC), Hatch (R-UT), Sessions (R-AL), Leahy (D-VT) and Kennedy (D-MA).
Representatives Hyde (R-IL), McCollum (R-FL), Gekas (R-PA), Coble (R-NC), Smith (R-TX), Canady (R-FL), Barr (R-GA), Conyers (D-MI), Frank (D-MA), Scott (D-VA), Berman (D-CA), Lofgren (D-CA), Jackson-Lee (D-TX), and Meehan (D-MA).
For Further Information, Contact:
Dan Misleh, Domestic Social Development, 202-541-3190 or firstname.lastname@example.org