Under new ordinance, parents in Mississippi capitol can be fined or jailed if their children commit a crime with a gun – Magnolia State Live

by Mina Corpuz

mississippi today

Jackson’s parents and guardians may soon be fined or jailed if their children commit a crime with a gun or possess a weapon.

A $1,000 fine and a six-month jail term are part of an ordinance the Jackson City Council unanimously approved on July 5. The order is expected to take effect in 30 days.

“We hope it will be a win-win situation for parents, young people and the government,” said Ward 3 Councilor Kenneth Stokes, who came up with the idea for the ordinance.

He and other council members see the new policy as a way to reduce violent crime, encourage parents to become more involved in their children’s lives and prevent minors from having access to firearms. fire.

In most cases, children and teenagers obtain guns from gun dealers who go to shows to obtain guns or have them sold illegally, he said.

A small portion of minors can get a gun at home, but Stokes said most responsible parents have a safe place to keep their guns. He said another small portion of them might find a gun somewhere else, such as a gun left outside that might be linked to a crime.

The ordinance also imposes fines on adults who do not properly store their firearms. Fines are $500 if access to the firearm results in injury to the child or another person and $1,000 if access results in injury or death. Both improper storage situations can also result in six months in jail.

“It’s just common sense that you can’t make a gun available to a minor or a minor,” he said.

The ordinance enacts the same exceptions for minors to possess handguns already included in state law, including hunting or trapping with a valid license, participating in a gun competition, use of a firearm for target shooting at a set distance or the use of a firearm with authorization and control. of an adult.

It also provides exceptions for the storage of firearms, such as if a minor obtains a firearm and discharges it during a lawful act of self-defense or defense of another.

Jackson police will be the primary enforcers of the ordinance with input from the city attorney’s office, Stokes said.

Parents and guardians who try to get help for their children to stop them from getting involved in crime would not be punished under the city ordinance, Stokes said. He inquired about this situation and received confirmation from the city attorney’s office at the July 5 council meeting.

Robert Langford is executive director of Operation Shoestring, a non-profit organization that has operated in Jackson for over 50 years and works with parents and primarily elementary school students through after-school and summer programs, job training and more. The organization’s goal is to build spaces where children feel safe, he said.

Langford appreciates the council’s goal of holding people accountable and encouraging good parenting. But he sees other efforts to support children and families as more effective.

“My feeling is that what would be more effective is to go upstream to create more things that help support children and families earlier,” he said.

A better investment of time and resources to tackle youth crime and violent crime would be to support more after-school and summer programs, including those for middle- and high-school-aged children, Langford said.

Another way to prevent children from becoming involved in gun crimes and their parents from taking responsibility would be to address the root causes of crime, he said.

Many of those Operation Shoestring helpers come from low-income, high-poverty neighborhoods, he said. Some likely had a negative childhood experience, including violence, abuse, or neglect; witnessing violence and having a family member attempt or die by suicide.

These experiences are linked to substance use problems later in life, mental illness and chronic health conditions and also negatively impact performance in school, work and relationships, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, adverse experiences are preventable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they can be prevented by protecting children from violence and addressing the factors that put people at risk for violence. In Jackson, Langford said these efforts can look like increasing early childhood experiences and strengthening economic outcomes for children and families.

Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks chairs the ad hoc committee on public safety/parks and the environment, which developed the city ordinance. At a May 31 meeting, he said the ordinance was just one step to reduce crime. Another long-term issue to address would be state gun laws.

At the meeting, some council members said they wanted to make sure the order didn’t have unintended consequences, such as job loss and incarceration. Others wanted to see a plan to support parents through training and education.

Other cities have ordinances that govern children’s access to firearms.

In May, the Yazoo Herald reported that parents or guardians in the city of Yazoo can face criminal charges if their child is found in possession of a firearm. The Yazoo City Police Department is seizing firearms from minors regardless of ownership, WLBT reported.

In Seattle, Washington, the city has an ordinance that starts with a $500 fine and increases to $1,000 depending on whether the person has safe gun storage and reasonably knows that a person who is underage, at risk or prohibited can access the firearm. The fine increases to $10,000 if injury or death occurs as a result of access to the weapon.

Following the November 30, 2021 shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan that killed four students, the parents of the 15-year-old shooter have been charged with manslaughter. A prosecutor said he ignored opportunities to intervene before the shooting, The Associated Press reported.

The couple also purchased the gun used in the shooting for their son, even though minors in Michigan are not allowed to own guns, the AP reported.

Stokes said having a municipal ordinance as well as community resources to support children and families could have an impact.

At a town hall meeting last year, he brought together community members, Jackson police and groups to discuss solutions to youth crime. Mentoring and activities like sports or music were suggested as potential options for children and teens. Stokes said education is also a key way to prevent them from committing crimes.

“If a child is on the wrong track and they are a juvenile delinquent or a criminal, they could become an adult criminal,” Stokes said. “You have to break that cycle, keep them on track.”

This story is reprinted with permission from Mississippi Today.