AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – After the recent crime uptick in Richmond County, some leaders weigh in on what needs to be done to correct the issues of teens getting their hands on guns.
From public events to neighborhoods, people who live in Richmond County experienced one common trauma these past few days, shootings. One of them, deadly. Suspects and victims involved in each include teens and young adults. But we wanted to know how those underage get access to pull a trigger.
“They’re getting them illegally because, especially if it’s a handgun, they can’t buy one until they’re 21,” Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton told us.
He agrees that more young people get weapons and turn to the streets to use them by stealing them from their parents or outright buying them on the black market. And he’s connecting this to the crime wave too, adding that the solution could reside in a slightly older remedy.
“In 1995 to 2005 we had a dramatic decrease in gun crime and violent crime throughout the United States,” Chief Deputy Clayton said.
Mandatory minimum sentences for gun violations. That’s what Clayton said worked back then and can work now.
“Everybody knows that if you use a gun to commit a crime, guess what, you’re most likely going to jail,” Clayton stressed. “And you’re most likely going to go for a good period of time.”
Clayton said this hard stance on weapons has been watered down through the years and added that the state legislature, judges, and district attorneys would need to green light it again.
We spoke with District Attorney Jared Williams about whether a mandatory minimum sentencing for guns would work here.
He said in a statement, “Police, prisons, and prosecutors are necessary reactions to crime, but still only reactions. We need to be proactive in reaching our kids early, so they never pick up that gun in the first place.”
Georgia State Senator Harold Jones weighed in saying he does not think the program works.
“We’ve been moving away from that quite frankly,” he said.
What’s needed are more judges to fix the case backlog problem, more prosecutors and enough police, according to the areas of focus Senator Jones said is needed to be looked at along with putting people in prison.
He added, “Some of the other factors that we never look at is what’s our poverty issues, mental health issues? All of those things go together other than saying we’re going to do mandatory minimum. I can tell you quite frankly, whether it’s Augusta or a city similar to Augusta, a person who does a crime with a weapon, most likely is going to go to jail. The real question is should you take that discretion away from the judges.”