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House Sends Get-Tough Bills One Would Allow Armed Teens To Be Tried As Adults

Wed., March 8, 1995

The House on Tuesday sent the Senate bills to allow armed teenagers to be tried as adults, allow some outdoor burning without permits, and let citizens shoot coyotes and squirrels without a license.

The Republican-dominated chamber, working into the night, killed a bill that would have allowed couples to write marriage contracts that limit grounds for divorce. But the House passed a flood of measures including a tax break for race tracks and a requirement that arrested prostitutes and customers be tested for AIDS.

Voting 79-16, the House approved HB1021, which would require 16- and 17-year-olds to be automatically tried as adults if they are in illegal possession of a gun when they commit a crime. The measure would require 14- and 15-year-olds who possess guns when committing a crime have hearings to determine if they should be tried as adults.

The bill passed after backers said it was time to crack down hard on kids with guns.

“The truth is, people have no faith in the juvenile justice system,” said Rep. Mike Padden, R-Spokane.

But opponents argued it would be a mistake to force judges to send 16- and 17-year-olds to adult courts without having the opportunity to decide who should instead be tried in juvenile court.

They noted that guns needn’t even be used in crimes for the youngsters to be sent to adult court - only be in their possession.

“The problem is it allows the court no discretion. A child may be 16 chronologically and 12 developmentally. This is common with abused, disturbed kids,” said Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle.

Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle, said she was “confused by the message. We’re telling kids they’re adults when they commit a crime but we want to tell them that they’re juveniles who can’t be taught about safe sex or abortion.”

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