Florida proposal aims to hold juveniles more accountable for gun crimes

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Sen. Jonathan Martin, R-Fort Myers, and Rep. Berny Jacques, R-Seminole, this week filed identical bills to immediately hold juveniles more accountable for gun crimes.

“Florida is experiencing a 50-year low in crime, but there’s always more we can do to keep Floridians safe,” Jacques said in a press release. “One area we can work on is holding juveniles who commit gun crimes more accountable.”

Through HB 1181/SB 1274, juvenile offenders would be forced to the terms and conditions of court-ordered sanctions. As a result, the process of each case would “improve Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice.”

“Juveniles who commit crimes involving a firearm are a serious risk to public safety,” Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Eric Hall said. “Strengthening accountability on juvenile firearm offenses is a priority of DJJ and this bill is an important way to build a stronger, safer Florida.”

Florida leads the nation in innovative, evidence-based approaches to juvenile justice, according to the release. The state also has benefited from a decrease in juvenile offenders.

“This bill is a major step forward in our efforts to end juvenile recidivism, keep our streets safe, and make positive impacts in the lives of our youth,” Martin said.

Jacques further mentioned a recent shooting could be preventable in the future if the bill were to pass. The shooting occurred in Jacques’ district of Pinellas County on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

“Just this past Christmas Eve in my district, two juveniles escalated an argument over Christmas presents into a shootout that left their older sister dead and their nephews motherless,” Jacques added. “This bill will deliver strong early accountability to prevent senseless tragedies like this one from happening in our state.”

If passed, the bills would take effect July 1, 2024.