Whilst we at GND feel that education in responsible gun ownership cannot start too soon, we also know that teenagers using and owning their own guns can be dangerous. When under the supervision of a responsible adult, of course, there is nothing wrong with a young person firing off a few rounds. However, the unpredictable and emotional nature of most teenagers means that them owning their own guns, and using them themselves, is a bad idea.
In this context, we welcome recent steps taken in Alabama, where a new program aims to reduce the number of weapons owned by teenagers.
The mechanism through which this is to be achieved is a familiar one – teenagers will be bribed to give up their guns. Those teenagers who voluntarily give up their weapons will be paid $300, a tidy some for a young person. In addition, young people will be encouraged to report each other to the authorities: information leading to the confiscation of a gun from a teenager will net the informant $500.
The proponents of the scheme have designed it to tackle the problems that are associated with such young people owning deadly firearms. The number of minors facing charges for murder in Alabama makes for grim reading. The program therefore seeks to take guns away from teenagers before they are in a position to commit crimes with them.
Most of the guns owned by this group are illegally acquired. They come from burglaries, and are sold on the black market for many times the price that you or I would buy them for.
This fact helps to explain why an obvious flaw in the plan is no such thing. We admit that when we first read about the scheme, we felt it might lead to teenagers purposefully stealing, or illegally buying them, in order to claim the reward. If this was the case, a tidy sum could be made by “enterprising” teenagers. However, the fact that these weapons go for significantly more than the reward price on the black market means that this is unlikely to happen.
It is also hoped that the scheme will make those teenagers who carry guns a little more nervous about doing so, and potentially discourage them from carrying at all. Knowing that a passer by can report you, and claim $500 for their trouble, might make many teenage criminals think twice about packing.
For our part, we welcome schemes like this. This is not to suggest that we don’t believe in teenagers using weapons in a responsible way – educating your kids from a reasonably early age in how to safely store and use weapons is to be encouraged. However, teenagers owning their own weapons, and using them without supervision, is a different situation, and one that is potentially dangerous for all concerned.
Though Alabama is something of an outlier, in that it seems many more teenagers have guns in the state than elsewhere in the US, we would welcome such schemes being carefully implemented in more states experiencing the same problems.