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Juvenile policy contradictory

By Scott Plumlee
Arizona Daily Wildcat
December 8, 1998
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To the editor,

Recently in one of President Clinton's weekly radio address he lauded the newest firearm background check for stopping more than 400 felons from acquiring firearms. He then let it be known that he was considering an attempt to ban those guilty of violent crimes as juveniles from owning guns.

At the same time there is an ongoing discussion, in Georgia and other states, on the status of school bullies. There is a suggestion that bullying should become a criminal offense, as the same acts in the adult world are criminal.

Each year seems to see a proposal dealing with the adult prosecution of minors for particularly heinous crimes. This illustrates half of the contradictory position that this country has taken with regard to those who are not adult.

The other half of the picture resides in the legal age laws. Those laws which say that you can't buy cigarettes, vote, or have sex until you are 18. Nor can you posses alcohol until you are 21. The common reasoning behind these laws is that until a certain age has been reached, people are unable to understand the consequences of their actions. Seemingly solid reasoning unless you look at the first examples I gave.

The punishments offered for juvenile offenders in both cases treat offending minors as if they were able to understand the consequences of their actions. In other words these minors are being treated as if they were adults.

This stance is in obvious need of adjustment. Society as a whole needs to decide whether those who can pick a president have the ability to figure out what it means to be drunk, or pregnant. If juveniles have the ability to discern the effects of their actions then they should be allowed to partake in those activities which society has barred them from.

If society wants to label someone as a minor for inability to reason, then they should. However, to use this reasoning to deny the perks of adult status while applying all the negatives is irrational.

Scott Plumlee
Anthropology senior