Las Vegas Sun

February 1, 2015

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Where I Stand: Sun Youth Forum:

Students tackle controversial issues

About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 57th annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 13. 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. Gregg Garcia of Palo Verde High School writes about issues covered by his group, Law and Crime.

The destiny of our nation rests on the shoulders of the next generation of Americans. Thus, the question of whether our nation’s future will be secure, and if America will continue to be the great and prosperous nation it has been, is commonly asked.

After my experience at the Sun Youth Forum, I can say wholeheartedly that the future is safe in the hands of my generation. While at the forum, I participated in the discussions of the Crime and Law group, and the diversity and complexity of thought of my peers on the issues astounded me. We discussed a diverse array of topics, ranging from the legalization of marijuana to the consequences of the death penalty. Each topic warranted being addressed; however, I will focus on the most controversial and debated topics presented in our room: same-sex marriage, the effects of the death penalty on crime, and the legalization of marijuana.

We began on the issue of legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. Those in support argued that adults are capable of deciding for themselves what should, or should not, be allowed to go into their bodies. It was also argued that crime rates would be reduced significantly after the regulation of marijuana. Finally, it was pointed out that marijuana is no worse than tobacco or alcohol and should be sold and taxed to those who are 21 or older.

Those opposed argued that drastic negative health repercussions create an obligation for the government to try to protect its citizens from the harms of the drug.

We then discussed whether the death penalty deters crime. Those who agreed with the idea suggested that humans value their lives to such a large extent that they are less likely to commit a crime if the punishment would warrant their own death. The alternative was that criminals act on impulse more often than premeditation, making them less prone to considering consequences of their actions. Further, those who disagreed said that the judicial process involved in carrying out the death penalty took far too long, rendering it economically inefficient and likely nonthreatening to criminals.

The most spirited debate occurred on the issue of same-sex marriage and its place in our society. One major point for same-sex marriage that arose during our discussion was about the federal tax benefits that accompany having a marriage license.

The group felt that if a tax exemption could be attached to the marriage certificate, it should be held to the standard of equality of opportunity and thereby given to all. Another argument in favor of same-sex marriage was found in the idea that what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home should be of no consequence to the state.

The only argument offered up against same-sex marriage was the idea that it could be detrimental to “traditional family values,” and the proponents of the argument warranted this by saying that children need a mother and a father in order to grow up to be fully functioning adults. Even in light of these arguments, the group came to an overwhelming consensus that same-sex marriage ought to be legal in Nevada.

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