Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Opinion

April 17, 2013

Use of guns by Goshen teens a frightening act

The pictures of four of five suspects in Sunday night’s shooting of three teens in Goshen look more like sophomore yearbook photos than mug shots. We wish they were.

But Goshen police have charged the four teenagers with very serious adult felonies. A fifth teen, just 15-years-old, will go through the juvenile justice system and could also end up being tried as an adult. Collectively the teens face charges of attempted murder, criminal gang activity, assisting a criminal and conspiracy to commit murder.

Our local justice system will sort out the merits of the charges. Until then, what we are concerned with is how a few young people here in Goshen, and many more across the nation, use firearms to inflict violence on their communities.

This use of violence by teens to solve a problem or gain financially crosses all racial lines, genders and backgrounds. One thing all the young people who have been charged in the past all have in common is the conscious, thought-out decision to use violence to intimidate, to wound and to kill.

It’s hard for the average, law-abiding Goshen resident to understand why these types of shootings occur in our ordinarily pleasant community. What makes a teenager decide to join with their friends and obtain a firearm and then drive down the street shooting bullets at other teens in an attempt to kill them? The logic of such short-sighted, dead-end acts always escape us.

What we do know is that young people caught up in violence most often end up being incarcerated for a very long time. The state of Indiana has severe penalties for shooting at someone, whether the perpetrator is a teenager or adult. Even if no one is killed, attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges carry penalties of incarceration of decades, perhaps as long as someone’s lifetime. Is such a sentence in a prison in the company of thousands of convicted felons worth a few moments of bravado? We don’t think so, but the heart of the local problem is that for some teenagers such acts are worth the consequences.

And that acceptance of violence by a small percentage of our young people is the problem our community is facing.

We think it is time to delve into this trend toward violence by too many of our young people. A community discussion is needed to first discover why such acts are occurring, and then determine what can be done to reach out to teens at risk of following a path to criminality.

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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