Police say guns among teenagers continue to plague communities

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Guns among teenagers are continuing to plague communities across the country.

On Tuesday, detectives from the Columbus Police Department recovered what they said is an AR-15 from a juvenile.

Both a judge and police chief Joseph Daughtry agree that parents and adults in the community need to step in as mentors for the city’s youth before they end up in the back of a police car or courtroom.

Judge Lee Ann Turner said the community has to be proactive before kids reach her in youth court.

“Lack of parental oversight or adult oversight”, said Turner. “Community members and family members need to know where their youth are, what they’re doing, and who they’re associated with. Some kids get guns from their own homes if they’re not securely kept by their parents. And some will through criminal acts get guns. There are more guns in the world and that leads to more guns getting in the hands of our youth.”

She said throwing away the key to every child that made a bad decision is not the answer, but rehabilitation is.

“Within the youth court system, we’re a system that’s based on rehabilitation. When a child possesses a weapon or a gun, that’s a delinquent act that would put them in our youth court setting. So there are methods of some form of punishment for that but also rehabilitation. Do they need counseling? Do they need in-home services? What is something that could help improve that child’s life? So that when taking a gun when they go out isn’t really an option for them,” said Turner.

Unfortunately, once a child uses a gun or weapon to commit a felony, the case skips juvenile court and will be automatically tried as an adult in circuit court.

“We need people to quit pointing fingers and stand on the accountability of what our children are doing,” said Columbus Police Chief Joseph Daughtry.

Daughtry said he isn’t targeting our youth as many may think.

“I’ve heard some complaints and I’ve read some comments on social media about ‘all the chief talks about is locking people up’,” said Daughtry. “Well, what they don’t know is if you’re out here with a gun like this and you’ve got a 200-round magazine and you out here shooting in the air, yea I am going to lock you up. You’re going to jail. But what they don’t understand is I got members of my VIPER Unit. One of them has his own mentoring program. And they give back to the community. I got officers who go to schools and who are reading to kids. I got officers who are playing basketball on the side of the road with kids. I’ve got officers who are buying kids tennis shoes because they don’t have them. We’re doing our part away from the enforcement part but this is our concern because we don’t want people being hurt or killed by these weapons.”

Oktibbeha County Youth Court is looking for mentors. If you or anyone you know is interested in learning what you can do to help out at-risk youth, you can contact Court Administrator Molly Jackson or Judge Lee Ann Turner at (662)320-6666.

Email: oktcountycourt@gmail.com

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