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Ordinance that could hold parents accountable for their children’s gun crimes clears council committee

Published: Jun. 9, 2022 at 6:01 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - An ordinance that could hold parents and guardians accountable for their children’s gun crimes has made it out of a Jackson City Council committee and will soon be brought forward to the full council for approval.

Thursday, the council’s Public Safety/Park and Environment Ad-Hoc Committee voted unanimously to approve the ordinance that could lead to fines and punishments for guardians whose children are convicted of gun crimes.

Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks, who introduced the ordinance, said he was pleased with the final draft, and said additional discussions will also be had on how to help address crime in the city.

He said the measure will be introduced at the next full council meeting on June 21. He says the ordinance will likely be discussed at that meeting and then brought up for a vote at the following meeting. If approved, the ordinance would go into effect 30 days later.

The ordinance was amended from its original version to include several changes recommended by the City Attorney and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Among changes, the new ordinance would only hold parents, guardians, and custodians accountable if their children are convicted of gun crimes, rather than having committed them.

“We would not be able to take action against a parent unless (that child) is convicted of a crime,” City Attorney Catoria Martin told the council.

Additionally, the new code would only apply to guardians that knowingly provided, encouraged, or aided their minor in obtaining a handgun or illegal weapon.

“In order to hold a parent liable, a parent had to have some level of knowledge,” Martin told the council. “The language, from our research, that we stuck with was ‘knowingly provide’ a handgun to a child.”

Exceptions were also added for minors who have weapons and are enrolled in hunter safety courses, are engaged in competitions, or are traveling to and from events with weapons, as long as they are unloaded.

Parents who are convicted could face up to $1,000 in fines and/or six months in jail.

The offense would be a misdemeanor. Municipalities cannot enact ordinances creating felonies, Martin said.

Banks, who chairs the public safety committee, introduced the measure in 2019. However, he met some resistance from the ACLU.

An official with the ACLU was present at Thursday’s meeting but did not speak.

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