Legislature(1993 - 1994)

02/11/1994 09:10 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN brings SB 237 (WEAPONS POSSESSION/SALE BY/TO MINORS)           
 up for consideration before the State Affairs Committee.  The                 
 Chairman calls the first witness.                                             
                                                                               
 Number 120                                                                    
                                                                               
 DONNA SCHULTZ, Division of Family & Youth Services (DFYS),                    
 Department of Health & Social Services (DHSS), states DHSS supports           
 efforts to control or limit the possession of firearms by minors.             
 However, there are several problematic issues the department sees             
 with SB 237.  One is in section 7, which would automatically waive            
 a minor who is at least 14 years of age at the time of the offense,           
 who uses a firearm in the commission of that offense, and has been            
 previously adjudicated a delinquent or convicted as an adult.  The            
 first problem DHSS sees with this section is it is not immediately            
 known if a youth has been adjudicated a delinquent in another                 
 jurisdiction.  There is no data system containing that information.           
 Does "any other jurisdiction" mean the State of Alaska is obligated           
 to check with every other state to see if there is any record?                
 Also, "adjudicated delinquent" does not delineate whether the                 
 adjudication was for a misdemeanor or a felony charge.  If the                
 state's goal is to rehabilitate minor offenders, fourteen is too              
 young an age to be waived to adult status.  Ms. Schultz believes              
 this a rather punitive step.  There is already a judicial waiver in           
 statute now, so waiver to adult status is already an option if it             
 is felt to be needed in a particular instance.  The department does           
 not blanketly oppose automatic waivers and is currently working               
 with the sponsor of SB  54 (OFFENSES BY JUVENILE OFFENDERS), which            
 deals with the juvenile waiver issue.  Ms. Schultz states the                 
 department would like to see section 7 deleted from SB 237.                   
                                                                               
 Number 174                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. SCHULTZ says the Department of Health & Social Services thinks            
 section 8 is unnecessarily specific.  The provision to suspend a              
 minor's driver's license is an option that is already available as            
 a condition of probation under current statutes.  She is also                 
 concerned about the delay a person would experience in committing             
 an offense and being punished for that offense in the instance the            
 person committing the crime was under 16 years of age.  For that              
 reason, the department recommends section 8 also be deleted.                  
                                                                               
 Number 192                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN understands Ms. Schultz's concerns; the committee              
 will look at the issues she addressed in her testimony.  He                   
 understands the problems involved in getting information on                   
 previous offenses from other jurisdictions.  The chairman asks Ms.            
 Schultz if she is suggesting leaving the penalty of suspending a              
 driver's license totally up to the court.  Ms. Schultz responds               
 that is correct.  The chairman then remarks that 14 year-olds                 
 having to wait until they are 16 to have driver's licenses revoked            
 is similar to persons convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI)            
 having to wait 9 months to serve their sentences.  Chairman Leman             
 says delayed punishment is a problem in the system.  The chairman             
 thinks having driver's licenses suspended would be an incentive for           
 someone under 16 not to violate the firearms ordinance.                       
                                                                               
                                                                               
 Number 214                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. SCHULTZ isn't sure it would be a deterrent because persons                
 under 16 don't always think that far ahead, are acting in the                 
 moment, or don't think they will be caught.  She thinks also that             
 youth would be more affected if the consequences for their actions            
 were more immediate.                                                          
                                                                               
 Number 227                                                                    
                                                                               
 PORTIA BABCOCK, Aide, Senate State Affairs Committee, says the                
 intent of waiving juveniles to adult status when they commit an               
 offense with a firearm is to send the message that offenses                   
 committed with firearms will be treated seriously.  Even if the               
 violation is a misdemeanor, the juvenile offender will be treated             
 as an adult if they commit a crime with a firearm.                            
                                                                               
 Number 251                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. SCHULTZ says that is her concern, that if the state is getting            
 tougher, it is getting tougher on misdemeanor offenses.  She thinks           
 that a 14 year old charged with a misdemeanor offense should not be           
 charged as an adult.  Fourteen is to young for an automatic waiver,           
 and that decision should be left in the judicial process.                     
                                                                               
 Number 265                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR MILLER disagrees and says that a juvenile using a firearm             
 could easily cross that thin line.  He has a hard time                        
 understanding Ms. Schultz's rationale and arguments.                          
                                                                               
 Number 276                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. SCHULTZ states that for 14 year-olds there is already a system            
 in place that enables the court to have the defendant's status as             
 a minor waived and treated as an adult if it is deemed necessary.             
                                                                               
 Number 281                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN says Ms. Schultz's comments will be taken into                 
 consideration.                                                                
                                                                               
 Number 283                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. BABCOCK states the Department of Public Safety (DPS) has some             
 concerns about driver's license suspension and how a law like that            
 would be implemented.  The committee is going to work with DPS to             
 try to figure out what might work best from an administrative                 
 standpoint.  The reason penalties relating to revocation of driving           
 privileges was put in SB 237 is it has been more effective than               
 other penalties for juvenile offenses.                                        
                                                                               
 Number 301                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN thanks Ms. Schultz and Ms. Babcock for their                   
 comments.  The chairman calls the next witness                                
                                                                               
 Number 301                                                                    
                                                                               
 C.E. SWACKHAMMER, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Public Safety            
 (DPS), says he is concentrating his comments on the concealed                 
 weapons portion of SB 237.  DPS is opposed to the general                     
 philosophy of allowing a permitting process for carrying concealed            
 weapons.  This opposition is based on two aspects: the increased              
 danger to the public and the increased danger to police officers.             
 Mr. Swackhammer says the carrying of concealed weapons will                   
 escalate the number of simple assaults into lethal assaults.                  
                                                                               
 If the legislature is determined to pass a provision requiring                
 permitting for the carrying of concealed weapons, there are several           
 aspects in SB 237 the department would like to address.  The first            
 is that there be a need-base for the purposes of receiving a permit           
 to carry a concealed weapon.  The second is that training be                  
 required for persons to receive a permit.  The training should be             
 in three areas: one- safety and proper handling of the weapon; two-           
 ability to be confident of reasonable accuracy; three- the                    
 permittee should have knowledge of the legal parameters for the use           
 of lethal force.  Law enforcement personnel receive extensive                 
 training in handling weapons and responding to crisis, in                     
 particular what level of force is required for specific instances.            
                                                                               
 Number 349                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. SWACKHAMMER states DPS would also like to see a provision in SB           
 237 requiring mandatory reporting to a law officer that the person            
 is carrying a concealed weapon upon initial contact with the                  
 officer.  The chairman asks Mr. Swackhammer if he means anyone                
 carrying a concealed weapon who has contact with a police officer,            
 including simply being stopped for a traffic violation should have            
 to report the concealed weapon.  Mr. Swackhammer answers yes, it              
 should have to be reported during any contact with an officer.                
                                                                               
 Number 361                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. SWACKHAMMER says the bill only allows for one set of                      
 fingerprints, but DPS would recommend taking two sets of                      
 fingerprints, primarily because one set has to go to the FBI and              
 the other set goes through the state's automatic fingerprint                  
 system.  The department also believes the fee for applying for a              
 permit to carry a concealed weapon should be established by                   
 regulation and not in statute.  It costs the department $59 to                
 process a set of fingerprints.                                                
                                                                               
                                                                               
 Number 374                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. SWACKHAMMER states it is of concern to DPS that the department            
 does not have access to information on the mental health of an                
 individual.                                                                   
                                                                               
 The Department of Public Safety also believes that the definition             
 of a deadly weapon in SB 237 is too broad, because it would also              
 include explosive devices.  Also qualified by SB 237 would be metal           
 knuckles and numchucks.                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 387                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. SWACKHAMMER says the last concern the department has with SB              
 237 has to do with the department's automatic fingerprint system.             
 This bill will accelerate the filling up of the AAFIS (Alaska                 
 Automated Fingerprint Identification System) capability.  At the              
 present time, the AAFIS is capable of 250 thousand prints.  As of             
 January 5, 1994, AAFIS had 172 thousand prints on file.  At the               
 present level, DPS is putting 1130 new sets of fingerprints into              
 the system every month.  It is the department's estimation, based             
 on looking at the State of Washington and their permitting process            
 for concealed weapons, of which 4% of the population has a                    
 concealed weapon permit, that AAFIS would take in about 3200 new              
 prints a month, at least initially.  Although DPS used Washington's           
 rate of 4% of the population, Alaska would probably have a higher             
 percentage of persons wanting to carry concealed weapons.  At 3200            
 new sets of prints a month, AAFIS would be at capacity in about ten           
 months.  The State of Alaska's AAFIS is no longer manufactured, so            
 the state would have to go to new technology.  The cost of                    
 implementing a new system is over two million dollars.  So SB 237             
 will create an administrative problem for the department.  The                
 Department of Public Safety would be prepared to work with the                
 committee to try to flesh out some proposals for amendments to                
 address the departments concerns.                                             
                                                                               
 Number 413                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks if someone from DPS will be available to work             
 with the committee between now and Wednesday.  Mr. Swackhammer                
 responds that they will be available.  The chairman asks if the               
 AAFIS was installed in the last four years.  Mr. Swackhammer                  
 replies AAFIS has been in place longer than four years.                       
                                                                               
 Number 425                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN notes that at 9:37 a.m. the committee has a quorum             
 and is officially in business.  The chairman asks how old AAFIS is.           
 Mr. Swackhammer believes AAFIS was installed approximately in 1984            
 or 1985, and the technology has changed considerably since that               
 time.  The chairman asks if it would be to the department's                   
 advantage to have an upgraded system.  Mr. Swackhammer replies                
 AAFIS must be replaced, and SB 237 would simply accelerate that               
 happening by filling AAFIS to capacity.                                       
                                                                               
 Number 444                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR DUNCAN asks what the position of the Department of Public             
 Safety is on SB 237.                                                          
                                                                               
 Number 447                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. SWACKHAMMER responds the department has only addressed the                
 concealed weapons portion of the bill, to which the department is             
 opposed.                                                                      
                                                                               
 Number 449                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR MILLER moves the adoption of the committee substitute for             
 SB 237 for purposes of discussion.                                            
                                                                               
 Number 451                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN, hearing no objection, orders that CSSB 237(STA) be            
 adopted in lieu of the original bill.  The chairman asks Mr.                  
 Swackhammer if he is prepared to comment on the juvenile weapons              
 possession portion of SB 237.  Mr. Swackhammer replies he will have           
 comments available for the committee on Wednesday, February 16,               
 1994.  The chairman calls the next witness.                                   
                                                                               
 Number 460                                                                    
                                                                               
 DIANE SCHENKER, Special Assistant, Department of Corrections (DOC),           
 states she will just address the juvenile waiver section of SB 237.           
 The department is concerned about having 14 year-olds in the adult            
 prison population.  Under current law, the possibility exists for             
 DOC to occasionally get someone who is 14 years-old waived for a              
 serious offense, although she is not aware of anyone that young               
 currently in the correctional system.  The fiscal impact is fairly            
 significant, depending on the number of offenses of this nature               
 that would occur.  The management that is involved in separating a            
 prisoner from the rest of the prison population is fairly                     
 expensive.  Right now, DOC generally keeps minors separated from              
 adults.  The department is not bound to doing so, but does so as a            
 matter of professional judgement.  The department keeps minors                
 separated, at least initially, so the department can see what kind            
 predator-victim dynamics there are it work in the prison.  Ms.                
 Schenker says, although she is not an expert on the development of            
 children, it is hard for her to imagine that a 14 year-old would              
 not have to be separated from the adult population.  There are                
 hundreds of sex-offenders incarcerated in the Alaska prison system            
 who are there for committing offenses against minors in that type             
 of age category.                                                              
                                                                               
 In order to keep someone separately housed, separately fed,                   
 separately recreated, and provide all the other rights that the               
 prison system is bound to provide under the Cleary settlement,                
 statutes, and the constitution requires extra staffing that the               
 department currently does not have.  If the minor were charged with           
 a misdemeanor offense involving a weapon, the minor would still be            
 booked into one of the corrections facilities.  It is at the                  
 booking point that the department is most concerned with the                  
 provision to charge the minor as an adult, because it is at the               
 booking point that the department has to be able to provide                   
 separate housing at thirteen different institutions around the                
 state.  The department would end up having to separate four                   
 different populations (adult males, adult females, juvenile males,            
 and juvenile females) which gets very costly.  Ms. Schenker does              
 not have a specific fiscal note because she doesn't know the rate             
 at which this problem occurs.  But if it were more than a very                
 small handful of incidents, the department would anticipate serious           
 staffing problems and expenses to keep 14 year-olds from being                
 housed with much older adults and people who are likely to be much            
 more skilled at predatory activities than a 14 year old.                      
                                                                               
 Number 510                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks Ms. Schultz of DFYS how many juveniles SB 237             
 might affect.  Ms. Schultz replies she does not have an immediate             
 answer, but she can certainly try to find some information on the             
 subject.  The chairman asks Ms. Schenker how long, approximately,             
 the booking process is.                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 520                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. SCHENKER replies the booking process varies, depending on the             
 offense, the offense history of the defendant, and the finances of            
 the defendant.  Generally speaking until the time of arraignment,             
 the process takes at least a day.  If a defendant remains in pre-             
 trial status until they either plead or have a trial and are                  
 convicted, it could take up to a year, and possibly two, if the               
 defendant is charged with a felony.  The department's concern is              
 that even though some defendants will bail out, there will be                 
 people detained in every corrections facility, under the provisions           
 in SB 267.  The department would still have the same concern about            
 separation after sentencing, because DOC would still have to keep             
 the juveniles separate from the rest of the prison population.                
                                                                               
 Number 561                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN thanks Ms. Schenker for her testimony and says he              
 shares some of her concerns.  The chairman calls the next witness.            
                                                                               
 Number 561                                                                    
                                                                               
 JODY ENGLEMAN, Juneau Youth Services (treatment facility for                  
 children with serious behavioral problems), says she is concerned             
 with violence among teens.  Recognizing that this concern exists,             
 she would like to see a more straightforward approach to the                  
 problem.  A good approach, in her view, would be to say to                    
 teenagers, and anyone, that a gun is a dangerous thing and that               
 they should not be using it.  She says the lenient penalties send             
 the message that it is okay to misuse firearms.  She says since the           
 penalties for carrying a weapon are so inconsequential, there is no           
 continuity between sentences for misdemeanors involving a gun and             
 felonies involving a gun.  She says there is too much of a                    
 discrepancy in virtually no punishment for a first offense, while             
 waiving someone to adult status for a second or third offense.                
                                                                               
 Number 584                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. ENGLEMAN is very concerned with the fact that the committee is            
 not looking at prevention or early intervention with these kids,              
 that simply whacking them big-time at the end will teach them                 
 something, when it won't.  What it does say, is "you got caught,              
 therefore, we're going to throw you away".  So other kids say, well           
 the issue is not getting caught, not that misuse of guns is bad or            
 that serious consequences happen.  The penalties in SB 237 do not             
 send a very straightforward message to kids and she is concerned              
 with that.  She is appalled at 14 year-olds being treated as adults           
 for committing misdemeanors with firearms.  A 14 year-old is going            
 to come out of an adult penal system as a very twisted individual.            
                                                                               
 Ms. Engleman says if she was writing the law, if she had the magic            
 wand, she would make misuse of firearms a felony offense and put              
 offenders in the juvenile system.                                             
                                                                               
 94-8, SIDE B                                                                  
 Number 594                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. ENGLEMAN says she would have made misuse of firearms a class C            
 felony and left the kids in the juvenile system.  She thinks the              
 juvenile system is still effective in handling children's crimes,             
 and the issues and problems of children and youths.                           
                                                                               
 Number 590                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks Ms. Engleman what the penalty is for a class C            
 felony in the juvenile system.                                                
                                                                               
 Number 589                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. ENGLEMAN understands a class C felony allows the judge and the            
 probation officers to place the child in the custody of the                   
 division to supervise that child's behavior in the community and to           
 establish conditions of probation.  However, Ms. Schultz could                
 address that question better than she could.  At a misdemeanor                
 level, the state will not take custody of the child.                          
 Number 583                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks Ms. Engleman if she agrees with the provision             
 suspending driver's licenses.                                                 
                                                                               
 Number 582                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. ENGLEMAN says it will make an impact with good kids, but with             
 kids who are pretty delinquent, it won't make much of an impact.              
 There are a lot of delinquent juveniles who are driving without               
 licenses anyway.  She would rather see more immediate and more                
 logical consequences for misbehavior involving firearms.  If a                
 juvenile carries a gun, that juvenile should be on probation,                 
 should be supervised, should have to submit to anger management               
 treatment and a whole number of other things.  She even thinks a              
 juvenile should have to spend time in a juvenile justice facility.            
 Ms. Engleman states our society has a very violent culture and a              
 terribly violent subculture among our teens, yet we have not given            
 the proper tools to our juvenile justice system to enable them to             
 effectively deal with that violence.  We don't have prevention                
 funds; we're not allowing consequences for violations by kids.                
                                                                               
 Number 568                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks Ms. Engleman if violence on TV should be                  
 banned.                                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 567                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. ENGLEMAN says she came from the sixties, but she has gotten a             
 lot more conservative as she's gotten older.  She thinks violence             
 should be banned, records and other things should be labeled for              
 violence, and parents should take more responsibility for being               
 home and for supervising their children.  Ms. Engleman says the               
 juvenile justice system is still the best place for prosecuting               
 juveniles and that the adult justice system is really the wrong               
 place to prosecute juveniles.                                                 
                                                                               
 Number 548                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asks if there is anyone else who wishes to testify             
 on SB 237 at this time.                                                       

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