Lax gun laws to blame for increased child violence

When we were 11 years old, our greatest goals were to get the Mewtwo holographic Pokémon card and an acceptance letter to Hogwarts.
According to, 11-year-old Jordan Brown liked riding bikes, playing football, and – big surprise – reading Harry Potter.
When he was accused of murdering his soon-to-be stepmother Kenzie Houk on Feb. 20, 2009, his family was shocked.  Despite his young age and lack of substantial evidence, he was jailed and held to be tried as an adult. The charge was two counts of criminal homicide, as his father’s fiancée had been 8 months pregnant at the time of the murder. Under Pennsylvania state law, the district attorney was faced with the decision of either trying him as an adult or not trying him at all.  If he is found guilty, he will spend the rest of his life in prison with no parole. However, he will be one of many – there are 450 juveniles currently serving a life sentence without parole in the state of Pennsylvannia alone.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits life imprisonment without the possibility of release for crimes committed before the age of 18.  The only two countries in the world that did not ratify were the United States and Somalia.
Brown is pleading not guilty.  The only witness for the prosecution is Houk’s 8-year-old daughter who, after multiple rounds of questioning, said that she heard a loud “boom” before she and Brown departed for school.
He has been accused of shooting Houk with a youth-sized 20-gauge shotgun that his father had bought for him the previous Easter. A frequent hunter, the defense argues that the only tangible evidence of his involvement – gun residue on his shirt – could simply be a result of shooting with his father.
Despite the emotional and technical confusion of this case, Brown’s guilt is not the only important issue raised.  The mere fact that an eleven-year-old can be held for years, waiting for trial on non-conclusive evidence with the possibility of life imprisonment with no parole is an atrocity in itself. Originally, they even tried to keep him in an adult detention center, though he now spends his time in a juvenile facility.
Interestingly enough, it is rarely questioned that the boy had access to a shotgun, although Pennsylvania gun law states that those under 18 cannot own a gun and must be supervised by an adult when firing.  However, firearm registration is not necessary. On the contrary, it is illegal in Pennsylvania for any government or police agency to keep a firearm registry. This seems to almost encourage reckless usage: as long as the gun is, at some point, obtained legally, that is where legal responsibility of the purchaser seems to end.
If the U.S. truly desires to reduce the escalating amounts of youth violence, it seems that the access and prevalence of guns in our society is a more apt place to begin than with harsh punishments and an emphasis on eye-for-an-eye justice rather than therapy, which preaches revenge rather than redemption. As evidenced by cases such as Brown’s and the recent shooting of Congresswoman Giffords, gun access should be taken more seriously. Unfortunately, our leaders in government are too afraid of losing popularity to take on such a polarized issue with legislation.  In his recent State of the Union address, Obama failed to mention any move towards stricter gun control laws, instead beginning with a lament for the young figurehead of the Gifford shooting and then evading the issue completely.
The case of Jordan Brown is frustratingly grounded in politics rather than the true issues at hand. Considering the national pride that we place in our justice systems, it seems wrong that we are willing to let a child spend the rest of his life in prison rather than address the awkward issues of gun control, violence in the media and the reformation of the obsolete legislation ideas that force the DA to try him with such an inflexible sentence in the first place.