Washington state law is so "ridiculously lenient" that juveniles have gotten the message that carrying a firearm is no big deal, says King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. It takes five firearms convictions before a juvenile is sentenced to 15 weeks in juvenile rehabilitation, he said, according to the Seattle Times. Most never make it to that point because they either turn 18 before their fifth conviction, or they face charges in adult court for committing an assault or homicide.
Satterberg, joined by gun-control activists and gun-rights advocates, will ask state lawmakers to increase penalties for juveniles convicted of firearms possession. The plan would include an educational element, so that teens would learn about the medical and legal consequences of using guns. Satterberg estimates that of the 150 juveniles charged statewide this year with unlawfully possessing a firearm, about 60 would be sent to juvenile rehabilitation for a second offense under the proposed legislation, at an added cost of about $420,000. With the educational programming, that figure would rise to about $1 million. The legislation would likely save money in the long run, because the hope is some of the juveniles wouldn't go on to "commit adult crimes and do adult time" in prison, which costs taxpayers about $36,000 per inmate per year, Satterberg said.