Legislature(1993 - 1994)
02/11/1994 09:10 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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.