Recent news on Thursday about Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old girl who was murdered following her performance at the Obama inauguration in January, is anything but positive for the president's gun ban efforts based on statements published by the Christian Science Monitor.
Pendleton was gunned down by a gang member mistakenly, and some in the Illinois community where it happened are asking if harsher sentencing might not have prevented the tragedy. That's because the youth charged had a prior record for a gun offense in the state, and he got off with a slap on the wrist due to being a juvenile at that time. He was given two years probation for the 2012 other crime.
Superintendent McCarthy says that's just not enough for any gun-related offense, and he thinks that juveniles need to have to do at least the one-year minimum sentence given to adults for the same crime. But a criminal justice professor from Philadelphia (Yes, he's not living in the state that has these light gun laws), says stricter sentencing isn't the solution. According to Brian Wyant of La Salle University, minimum mandatory gun law sentences aren't really helpful as they are just used to elicit a guilty plea rather than as a punishment for guilt.
In other words, Wyant says prosecutors just use the threat of the higher sentence to get the criminals to agree to a plea deal. But if Hadiya's killer had been serving that one year minimum sentence she would not have been shot by him. So minimum sentencing would have worked in this case.
Another professor named Paitakes, with Steton Hall, pointed out that the first crime committed by Pendleton's alleged gang member killer was for a nonviolent gun offense in Illinois. And in those instances he says probation remains the first choice for juveniles. He argues that it doesn't help kids to return to their neighborhoods and reconnect if they are locked up for long periods of time.
Who really wants them to reconnect to the criminals that they ran with in order to commit their crimes? Locking them up might save them from those bad associations and give them time to rethink their friends. Right?
President Obama thinks the solution is to remove guns from the hands of the people for the most part, and to enact stricter gun laws. But this was a juvenile with a gun running with a gang. Criminal elements are going to get guns whether there is a gun law or not. This juvenile did in 2012, and he did as an adult in 2013. And even if stricter gun laws had been in place this year to prevent certain people from buying them it would not have stopped this young adult, as his juvenile record would have been sealed from the gun seller.
Glenn Martin advocates alternatives to incarceration for youth, yet he is discouraging the officials in Illinois from doing just what Pres. Obama is trying to do with the Hadiya case: Use a high-profile case to push for sweeping changes in the law.
"Are you going to create criminal justice policies that impact thousands of people based on one case?"
Yes, Mr. Martin, it appears Pres. Obama wants to make a massive change in the gun laws due to a couple of cases in 2012 and 2013, and so does the state of Illinois. The difference is that the state of Illinois has a better plan: lock up offenders who commit crimes instead of letting them walk. That would have saved Hadiya; Obama's gun law would not have. As a result, the First Lady traveled to Hadiya Pendleton's funeral--to promote her husband's gun law agenda. What an inappropriate move at a time like this.
Hadiya's funeral balloon photo credit: The Daily Beast.com