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December 21, 2014

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Where I Stand: Sun Youth Forum:

Youth Forum takes on crime and punishment

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About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 56th annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 20. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A representative was chosen from each group to write a column about the students’ findings. Darren George of Las Vegas Academy writes about issues covered by his group, Law and Crime.

The stereotype that teenagers do not care about politics and current events was broken at the 56th annual Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum. On Nov. 20, more than 1,000 students from across Southern Nevada gathered at the Las Vegas Convention Center to bring forth their views and ideas about issues in today’s world.

I was in the Law and Crime group, in which a wide range of topics and questions were asked, including the legalization of marijuana, whether the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional, and if the government, in the name of promoting a healthy citizenry, should have the authority to restrict what people can eat. The first question that came up concerned the death penalty.

The majority in my group of 31 students was for keeping capital punishment; I took part in the minority that is against it, citing the economic and moral benefits of life imprisonment. On average, based on studies conducted by multiple state governments, a single capital punishment case costs between $1 million and $3 million, while a life imprisonment case costs around $500,000. Also, since 1973, 141 people have been proven not guilty by DNA evidence while on death row. Nonetheless, the majority in my group thought the death penalty is the ideal route to bring justice to those criminals.

After about 40 minutes, the topic changed to the question, “Should contraceptives be available to women of all ages?” The discussion within our group shifted back and forth from “yes, a woman should have control over her body” to “no, there may be possible side effects a young woman isn’t aware of.” After about 15 minutes, the general consensus was that a woman of any age should be able to get contraceptives as long as she has parental consent and the contraceptive is approved by her doctor.

The next question was: “Should the Second Amendment be removed to make private citizen firearm ownership illegal?” That had the room divided. This question brought one of the most intense debates of the day. The main views were around protection, crime and reform. Before we took a break for lunch, the group came together with the conclusion that politicians in Washington shouldn’t avoid the topic of gun reform, which we think should consist of allowing citizens to purchase handguns; anything bigger should require a special license with extensive background checking and gun safety courses.

After a delicious meal, a performance by the Jabbawockeez and the distribution of multiple college scholarships, it was back to business with tough topics such as what the purpose of jail should be, whether the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional, and whether juveniles charged with felonies should be charged as adults. One of the last major topics brought up was immigration. The consensus was that there definitely needs to be reform; as to what that reform should include, the room could not come up with a solution that everyone approved of.

I would personally like to thank everyone who has made the Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum a reality for more than 50 years; you have been making the voice of the future heard. To all of the students reading this: This is our time, let’s make the world a better place to live.

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  1. "...the group came together with the conclusion that politicians in Washington shouldn't avoid the topic of gun reform, which we think should consist of allowing citizens to purchase handguns; anything bigger should require a special license with extensive background checking and gun safety courses."

    This emphasis on the federal Constitution without even a whisper on Nevada's more relevant Article 1, Section 11 -- a general lack of education or are these kids just following the herd?

    "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." -- George Orwell's "Animal Farm" (1945)