Gun violence in the United States
Gun violencein the United States is associated with the majority of homicides and over half the suicides.cite web |url=http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/suicide.htm |title=Self-inflicted Injury/Suicide |publisher=National Center for Health Statistics |accessdate=2006-11-06] cite web |url=http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/offenses/expanded_information/data/shrtable_08.html |title=Expanded Homicide Data Table 3, Murder Victims by Age by Weapon, 2005] It is a significant public concern, especially in urban areas and in conjunction with youth activity and gang violence.cite journal |title=Gun Ownership and Gang Membership |author=Bjerregaard, Beth, Alan J. Lizotte |date=1995 |journal=Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology |volume=86(1) |pages=pp. 37–58 |id=NCJ|162688] cite journal |title=Kids, Guns, and Killing Fields |author=Wright, James D., Joseph F. Sheley, and M. Dwayne Smith |journal=Society |volume=30(1) |year=1992 |id=NCJ|140211] Gun violence is not new in the United States, with the assassinations of President Abraham Lincolnin 1865, and of Presidents James Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy. High profile gun violence incidents, such as the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., and, more recently, the Columbine High School massacre, the Beltway sniper attacks, and the Virginia Tech massacre, have also fueled debate over gun policies.cite book |author=Rushefsky, Mark E. |chapter=Criminal Justice: To Ensure Domestic Tranquility (Chapter 7) |title=Public Policy in the United States: At the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century |publisher=M.E. Sharpe, Inc. |year=2002]
Many suffer non-fatal gunshot wounds, with the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) estimating 52,447 deliberate and 23,237 accidental non-fatal gunshot injuries in the United States during 2000.cite web |url=http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/nfirates2000.html |title=WISQARS Nonfatal Injury Reports |publisher=National Center for Injury Prevention and Control |accessdate=2006-11-10] The majority of gun-related deaths in the United States are suicides, [" [ftp://ftp.cdc.gov/pub/ncipc/10LC-2003/PDF/10lc-violence.pdf 10 Leading Causes of Injury Death by Age Group Highlighting Violence-Related Injury Deaths, United States] ", National Vital Statistics System, National Center for Health Statistics, CDC, 2003] with firearms used in 16,907 suicides in the United States during 2004. Legal policies at the Federal, state, and local levels have attempted to address gun violence through a variety of methods, including restricting firearms purchasing by youths and other "at-risk" populations, setting waiting periods for firearm purchases, establishing gun "buy-back" programs, targeted law enforcement and policing strategies, stiff sentencing of gun law violators, education programs for parents and children, and community-outreach programs. Research has shown mixed results, finding some policies such as gun "buy-back" programs are ineffective, while Boston's Operation Ceasefire(a gang violence abatement strategy) has been effective as an intervention strategy.cite book |title=Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review |year=2004 |publisher=National Academy of Science |author=Committee on Law and Justice |chapter=Executive Summary |url=http://www.nap.edu/books/0309091241/html/1.html] Gun policy in the United States is also highly influenced by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits infringement of "the right of the People to keep and bear arms." Gun rightsadvocates generally encourage a strict preservation of the right protected by the Second Amendment.
Violent crime related to guns
The phrase "gun violence" has been criticized as conveying policy bias, as it de-emphasizes the role of the criminal in violent attack, and instead emphasizes his chosen tool; [ [http://www.snubnose.info/wordpress/rkba/gun-violence/ "Gun Violence," Front Sight, Press; 9/24/2006] ] [ [http://www.topix.com/forum/guns/T97HQMPVNJ0BQC54B "Gun Violence," Topix; 3/3/2008] ] it is not clear, by analogy, that the discussion of traffic safety would be advanced by the term, "automobile violence." By contrast, the phrase "gun crime" is consistently used by both gun-control and gun-rights policy advocates, though with differing emphases: the former group stresses the need to remove guns from society via restrictions, while the latter group champions the need to remove criminals via increased prison terms. [ [http://www.bradycenter.org/about/ "About us," Brady Center to Prevent Violence, undated] ] [ [http://www.nraila.org/Issues/Articles/Read.aspx?id=202&issue=007 "Targeting Criminals, not Gun Owners," NRA-ILA; 8/17/06] ]
While people during the 19th century were concerned about violent crime, it often took the form of
riots and other forms of disorder in cities.cite book |author=Friedman, Lawrence M. |title=Crime and Punishment in American History |year=1993 |publisher=Basic Books |id=ISBN 0-465-01461-5 |chapter=Chapter 8: Lawful Law and Lawless Law: Forms of American Violence] Gun violence, however, sometimes played a role in these riots (see Haymarket riot). Homicide rates in cities such as Philadelphiawere significantly lower than in modern times. [cite book |title=Violent Death in the City: Suicide, Accident, and Murder in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia |author=Lane, Roger |year=1999 |publisher=Ohio State University Press |id=ISBN 0-8142-5021-1]
During the 1980s and early 1990s, homicide rates surged in cities across the United States (see graphs at right). [cite web |url=http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/homtrnd.htm#contents |title=Homicide trends in the United States |author=Fox, James Alan, Marianne W. Zawitz |publisher=Bureau of Justice Statistics] Handgun homicides accounted for nearly all of the overall increase in the homicide rate, from 1985 to 1993, while homicide rates involving other weapons declined during that time frame.cite book |title=Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review |year=2004 |publisher=National Academy of Science |author=Committee on Law and Justice |chapter=Chapter 3 |url=http://www.nap.edu/books/0309091241/html/53.html] The rising trend in homicide rates during the 1980s and early 1990s was most pronounced among youths and
Hispanicand African Americanmales in the United States, with the injury and death rates tripling for black males aged 13 through 17 and doubling for black males aged 18 through 24.cite book |author=Cook, Philip J., Jens Ludwig |title=Gun Violence: The Real Costs |publisher=Oxford University Press |year=2000 |chapter=Chapter 2 |id=ISBN 0-19-513793-0] The rise in crack cocaineuse in cities across the United States is often cited as a factor for increased gun violence among youths during this time period. [cite journal |author=Cork, Daniel |title=Examining Time-Space Interaction in City-Level Homicide Data: Crack Markets and the Diffusion of Guns Among Youth |journal=Journal of Quantitative Criminology |volume=15 |pages=pp. 379–406 |year=1999 |id=NCJ|180974 |doi=10.1023/A:1007540007803] [cite conference |author=Grogger, Jeff, Mike Willis |title=The Introduction of Crack Cocaine and the Rise of Urban Crime Rates |booktitle=National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 6352 |publisher=National Bureau of Economic Research |year=1998] [cite journal |title=Youth Violence, Guns and the Illicit-Drug Industry |author=Blumstein, Alfred |journal=Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology |volume=86(1) |year=1995 |pages=pp. 10–36 |id=NCJ|162687 |doi=10.2307/1143998]
Crime rates in the United States are similar to those of other developed countries. Nonetheless, many developing countries have significantly higher rates of homicide and in some cases, firearm usage in homicides, including
Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, Guatemala, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia, Estonia, and Russia. [cite journal |author=Krug, E.G, K.E. Powell, L.L. Dahlberg |year=1998 |title=Firearm-related deaths in the United States and 35 other high- and upper-middle income countries |journal=International Journal of Epidemiology |volume=7 |pages=pp. 214–221 |doi=10.1093/ije/27.2.214]
Prevalence of homicide and violent crime is greatest in urban areas of the United States. In metropolitan areas, the homicide rate in 2005 was 6.1 per 100,000 compared with 3.5 in non-metropolitan counties. [cite web |url=http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/data/table_02.html |title=Crime in the United States by Community Type, 2005 |publisher=Federal Bureau of Investigation] In U.S. cities with populations greater than 250,000, the mean homicide rate was 12.1 per 100,000. [cite web |url=http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/data/table_16.html |title=Rate: Number of Crimes per 100,000 Inhabitants by Population Group, 2005 |publisher=Federal Bureau of Investigation] Rates of gun-related homicides are greatest in southern and western states. [cite web |url= http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/offenses/expanded_information/data/shrtable_06.html |title=Murder, Types of Weapons Used Percent Distribution within Region, 2005 |publisher=Federal Bureau of Investigation]
Homicide rates among 18- to 24-year-olds have declined since 1993, but remain higher than they were prior to the 1980s. In 2005, the 17 through 24 age group remains significantly overrepresented in violent
crime statistics, particularly homicides involving firearms. [cite conference |title=Too Soon to Tell: Deciphering Recent Trends in Youth Violence |author=Butts, Jeffrey A., Howard N. Snyder |booktitle=Issue Brief |url=http://www.chapinhall.org/article_abstract.aspx?ar=1437&L2=61&L3=132 |publisher=Chapin Hall Center for Children, University of Chicago |date=November 2006] In 2005, 17- through 19-year olds were 4.3% of the overall population of the United States.cite web |url=http://factfinder.census.gov |title=American Fact Finder |publisher=United States Census Bureau] This same age group accounted for 11.2% of those killed by firearm homicides. This age group also accounted for 10.6% of all homicide offenses.cite web |url=http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/offenses/expanded_information/data/shrtable_03.html |title=Expanded Homicide Data Table 3, Murder Offenders by Age, Sex, and Race, 2005] The 20- through 24-year-old age group accounted for 7.1% of the population, while accounting for 22.5% of those killed by firearm homicides. The 20 through 24 age group also accounted for 17.7% of all homicide offenses. Those under age 17 are not overrepresented in homicide statistics. In 2005, 13- through 16-year-olds accounted for 6% of the overall population of the United States, but only accounted for 3.6% of firearm homicide victims, and 2.7% of overall homicide offenses.
People with a
criminal recordare also more likely to die as homicide victims. Between 1990 and 1994, 75% of all homicide victims age 21 and younger in the city of Bostonhad a prior criminal record. [cite journal |author=Kennedy, David M., Anne M. Piehl, Anthony A. Braga |title=Youth Violence in Boston: Gun Markets, Serious Youth Offenders, and a Use-Reduction Strategy |journal=Law and Contemporary Problems |volume=59(1) |pages=pp. 147–183 |year=1996 |id=NCJ|162687 |doi=10.2307/1192213] In Philadelphia, the percentage of those killed in gun homicides that had prior criminal records increased from 73% in 1985 to 93% in 1996. [cite journal |author=McGonigal, Michael D., John Cole, C. William Schwab, Donald R. Kauder, Michael F. Rotondo, Peter B. Angood |title=Urban Firearm Deaths: A Five-Year Perspective |journal=Journal of Trauma |volume=35(4) |pages=pp. 532–536 |year=1993] In Richmond, Virginia, the risk of gunshotinjury is 22 times higher for those males involved with crime. [cite conference |author=McLaughlin, Colleen R., Jack Daniel, Scott M. Riener, Dennis E. Waite, "et al." |title=Factors Associated with Assault-Related Firearm Injuries in Male Adolescents |booktitle=Working paper |publisher=Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice]
In 2005, 75% of the 10,100
homicides committed using firearms in the United States were committed using handguns, compared to 4% with rifles, 5% with shotguns, and the rest with a type of firearm not specified. [cite web |url=http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/offenses/expanded_information/data/shrtable_07.html |title=Expanded Homicide Data Table 7 - Murder Victims by Weapon, 2001-2005 |publisher=Federal Bureau of Investigation] Due to the lethal potential that a gun brings to a situation, the likelihood that a death will result is significantly increased when either the victim or the attacker has a gun. [cite book |author=Cook, Philip J., Mark H. Moore |chapter=Gun Control |title=Crime |editor=Wilson, James Q., Joan Petersilia |year=1995 |publisher=Institute of Contemporary Studies Press] The mortality rate for gunshot wounds to the heartis 84%, compared to 30% for people who sustain stab wounds to the heart. [cite journal |author=Asensio J.A., J. Murray, D. Demetriades, "et al." |title=Penetrating cardiac injuries: A prospective study of variables predicting outcome |journal=J Am Coll Surg |year=1998 |volume=186 |pages=pp. 24–34 |pmid=9449597 |doi=10.1016/S1072-7515(97)00144-0]
U.S. President assassinations and attempts
The most notable assassination victim in early U.S. history was President
Abraham Lincolnin 1865. President Lincoln lived only a few hours after being hit in the head by a single .44-caliber handgun round fired by John Wilkes Booth.cite book |author=Koller, Larry |title=Handguns |publisher=Random House |year=1957 |pages=4] Presidents James Garfieldand William McKinleywere both assassinated with handguns; President Garfield was killed by an assailant using a .44-caliber handgun; President McKinley was killed by two rounds fired from a .32-caliber revolver. President John F. Kennedywas assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswaldwho used a bolt-action CarcanoM1891/38 rifle in 6.5 x 52 mm. Presidents Andrew Jacksonand Harry S. Trumanwere uninjured during assassination attempts, as was President Gerald Fordin two separate attempts only a few weeks apart. [cite book |title=Andrew Jackson |author=Ward, John William |publisher=Oxford University Press |pages=p. 114 |date=1962] [cite book |title=Tumultuous Years |author=Donovan, Robert J. |publisher=University of Missouri Press |pages=p. 291 |date=1996] [cite book |title=Gerald R. Ford |author=Winget, Mary Mueller |publisher=Twenty-First Century Books |date=2007 |pages=p. 86] President Ronald Reagansurvived an assassination attempt after being shot by John Hinckley, Jr.with a Röhm RG-14 .22-caliber revolver, and is the only sitting President to survive a gunshot wound.cite news|url=http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/reagan/timeline/index_3.html|title=Ronald Reagan's Life, 1979-1982|accessdate=2008-01-14|publisher=PBS] Former President Theodore Rooseveltwas shot and wounded during the 1912 presidential campaign. [cite book |title=Theodore Roosevelt |author=Miller, Nathan |publisher=HarperCollins |date=1993 |pages=p. 530]
Other violent crime
In the United States, a quarter of commercial robberies are committed with guns.cite journal |author=Cook, Philip J. |title=Robbery Violence |journal=Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology |volume=70(2) |year=1987 |id=NCJ|108118] Robberies committed with guns are three times as likely to result in fatalities compared with robberies where other weapons were used, [cite journal |author=Kleck, Gary, K. McElrath |title=The Effects of Weaponry on Human Violence |journal=Social Forces |volume=69 |pages=pp. 669–692 |year=1991 |id=NCJ|134329 |doi=10.2307/2579469] cite journal |author=Zimring, Franklin E. |title=The Medium is the Message: Firearm Caliber as a Determinant of Death from Assault |journal=Journal of Legal Studies |year=1972 |volume=1 |pages=pp. 97–123 |id=NCJ|47874 |doi=10.1086/467479] with similar patterns in cases of family violence. [cite journal |author=Saltzman, L., J.A. Mercy, "et al." |title=Weapon Involvement and Injury Outcomes in Family and Intimate Assaults |journal=Journal of the American Medical Association |volume=267 |pages=pp. 3043–3047 |year=1992 |pmid=1588718 |doi=10.1001/jama.267.22.3043] Criminologist
Philip J. Cookhypothesizes that if guns were less available, criminals may likely commit the crime anyway but with less-lethal weapons.cite book |author=Cook, Philip J., Jens Ludwig |title=Gun Violence: The Real Costs |publisher=Oxford University Press |year=2000 |chapter=Chapter 3 |id=ISBN 0-19-513793-0] He finds that the level of gun ownership in the 50 largest U.S. cities correlates with the rate of robberies committed with guns, but not overall robbery rates. [cite journal |author=Cook, Philip J. |title=The Effect of Gun Availability on Robbery and Robbery Murder: A Cross-Section Study of Fifty Cities |journal=Policy Studies Review Annual |volume=3 |pages=pp. 743–781 |year=1979] [cite book |author=Kleck, Gary |title=Targeting guns: Firearms and their control |publisher=Aldine de Gruyter |year=1997] A significant number of homicides result as a by-product of another violent crime which escalates, with the offender going into the crime without a clear or sustained intent to kill or be killed.cite book |author=Zimring, Franklin E., Gordon Hawkins |title=Crime Is Not the Problem: Lethal Violence in America |publisher=Oxford University Press |year=1997] Overall robbery and assaultrates in the United States are also comparable to other developed countries, such as Australia and Finland, notwithstanding the much lower levels of gun ownership in those countries.:"See also Assault with a deadly weapon"
uicides involving firearms
Some research shows an association between household firearm ownership and gun
suiciderates, [cite journal |author=Kellermann, A.L., F.P. Rivara, G. Somes, "et al." |title=Suicide in the home in relation to gun ownership |journal=New England Journal of Medicine |date=1992 |volume=327 |pages=pp. 467–472 |pmid=1308093] while other research indicates no such association between firearm ownership and gun suicide rates.cite journal |author=Kleck, Gary |title=Measures of Gun Ownership Levels of Macro-Level Crime and Violence Research |journal=Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency |date=2004 |volume=41 |pages=pp. 3–36 |id=NCJ|203876 |doi=10.1177/0022427803256229] cite journal |author=Lott, John, John E. Whitley |title=Safe-Storage Gun Laws: Accidental Deaths, Suicides, and Crime |journal=Journal of Law and Economics |volume=44(2) |year=2001 |pages=pp. 659–689 |doi=10.1086/338346] During the 1980s and early 1990s, there was a strong upward trend in adolescent suicides with a gun, as well as a sharp overall increase in a suicides among those age 75 and over. [cite book |author=Ikeda, Robin M., Rachel Gorwitz, Stephen P. James, Kenneth E. Powell, James A. Mercy |title=Fatal Firearm Injuries in the United States, 1962-1994: Violence Surveillance Summary Series, No. 3 |year=1997 |publisher=National Center for Injury and Prevention Control] Firearms remain the most common method of suicide, accounting for 53.7% of all suicides committed in the United States during 2003. [cite web |url=http://www.suicidology.org/associations/1045/files/2003data.pdf |title=U.S.A. Suicide: 2000 Official Final Data |publisher=American Association of Suicidology]
General Social Survey(GSS) is a primary source for data on firearm ownership, with surveys periodically done by other organizations such as Harris Interactive. [cite web |title=Gun Ownership: Two in Five Americans Live in Gun-Owning Households |url=http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=234 |accessdate=2006-11-08 |publisher=Harris Interactive] In 2004, 36.5% of Americans reported having a gun in their home, which is down from 46% as reported in 1989.cite web |url=http://gss.norc.org/ |title=GSS Cumulative Data Set (1972-2004) |author=General Social Survey] Philip J. Cook suggests that increased numbers of female-headed households may be a factor in declining household ownership figures. A National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms (NSPOF), conducted in 1994, indicates that Americans own 192 million guns, with 36% of these consisting of rifles, 34% handguns, 26% shotguns, and 4% of other types of long guns.cite web |url=http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/165476.pdf |title=National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms |date=May 1997 |publisher=National Institute of Justice] Most firearm owners own multiple firearms, with the NSPOF survey indicating 25% of adults own firearms. In the United States, 11% of households report actively being involved in hunting, with the remaining firearm owners having guns for self-protection and other reasons. Throughout the 1970s and much of the 1980s, the rate of gun ownership in the home ranged from 45-50%. Gun ownership also varies across geographic regions, ranging from 25% rates of ownership in the Northeastern United Statesto 60% rates of ownership in the East South Central States.cite journal |title=State and Local Prevalence of Firearms Ownership Measurement, Structure, and Trends |author=Azrael, Deborah, Philip J. Cook, Matthew Miller |journal=Journal of Quantitative Criminology |date=2004 |volume=20(1) |pages=pp. 43–62 |id=NCJ|205033] The GSS survey and other proxy measures of gun ownership do not provide adequate macro-level detail to allow conclusions on the relationship between overall firearm ownership and gun violence. Criminologist Gary Kleckcompared various survey and proxy measures and found no correlation between overall firearm ownership and gun violence.
Between 1987 and 1990, David McDowall found that guns were used in defense during a crime incident 64,615 times annually.cite journal |title=The Incidence of Defensive Firearm Use by US Crime Victims, 1987 through 1990 |author=McDowall, David, Brian Wiersema |journal=American Journal of Public Health |date=1994 |volume=84 |pages=pp. 1982–1984 |pmid=7998641] This equates to two times out of 1,000 incidents (0.2%) that occurred in this time frame. For violent crimes (
assault, robbery, and rape), guns were used 0.83% of the time in self-defense. Of the times that guns were used in self-defense, 71% of the crimes were committed by strangers, with the rest of the incidents evenly divided between offenders that were acquaintances or persons well-known to the victim. Of all incidents where a gun was used for self-defense, victims shot at the offender 28% of the time. In 20% of the self-defense incidents, the guns were used by police officers. During this same time period, 1987 and 1990, there were 46,319 gun homicides, [cite book |title=Uniform Crime Reports, 1987-1990 |publisher=Federal Bureau of Investigation] and the National Crime Victimization Surveyestimates that 2,628,532 nonfatal crimes involving guns occurred.
The findings of the McDowall's study for the "
American Journal of Public Health" contrast with the findings of a 1993 study by Gary Kleck, who finds that as many as 2.45 million crimes are thwarted each year in the United States, and in most cases, the potential victim never fires a shot in these cases where firearms are used constructively for self-protection.cite book |title=Guns, Crime, and Freedom |publisher=Regnery Publishing, Inc., Washington, DC |author= LaPierre, Wayne |pages=p. 23 |date=1994] The results of the Kleck studies have been cited many times in scholarly and popular media. [cite journal |title=Firearms and the killing threshold (Letter) |author=Suter, E.A. |journal=New England Journal of Medicine |date=1992 |volume=326 |pages=pp. 1159 |pmid=1552925] [cite journal |title=The value of civilian handgun possession as a deterrent to crime or a defense against crime |author=Kates, D.B. |journal=American Journal of Criminal Law |date=1991 |volume=18 |pages=pp. 113–167 |id=NCJ|132948] [cite news |title=Go ahead, make our day |publisher=The New Republic |date=February 22, 1988 |pages=pp. 7-9] [cite news |title=Do guns save lives? |publisher=Time |date=August 12, 1988 |pages=pp. 25-26] [cite news |title=Are we "a nation of cowards"? |publisher=Newsweek |date=November 15, 1993 |pages=pp. 93-94] [cite journal |title=Hold your fire: gun control won't stop rising violence |author=Kopel, D.B. |publisher=Policy Review |date=1993 |volume=63 |pages=pp. 58–65 |id=NCJ|153748] cite web |url=http://teapot.usask.ca/cdn-firearms/Suter/med-lit.html |title=Guns in the Medical Literature - A Failure of Peer Review |author=Edgar A. Suter, MD]
McDowell cites methodological issues with the Kleck studies, claiming that Kleck used a very small sample size and did not confine self-defense to attempted
victimizations where physical attacks had already commenced. The former criticism, however, is inaccurate — Kleck's survey with Marc Gertz in fact used the largest sample size of any survey that ever asked respondents about defensive gun use — 4,977 cases, far more than is typical in national surveys. [Kleck and Gertz 1995,"Armed resistance to crime." Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 86(1):150-187, p. 162] A study of gun use in the 1990s, by David Hemenway at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, found that criminal use of guns is far more common than self-defense use of guns.cite journal |author=Hemenway, D., D. Azrael, M. Miller |title=Gun use in the United States: results from two national surveys |year=2000 |journal=Injury Prevention |volume=6 |pages=pp. 263–267 |pmid=11144624 |doi=10.1136/ip.6.4.263] By the Kleck study, however, most successful preventions of victimizations are accomplished without a shot being fired, which are not counted as a self-defense firearm usage by either the Hemenway or McDowell studies.
Research and statistics have shown that guns intensify crime situations, and increase the likelihood of a more violent or lethal outcome.
Public policyapproaches generally focus on ways that law enforcement and regulatoryagencies may intervene. This includes intervention when a gun is acquired, as with policies prohibiting youths and those with criminal records from buying guns. Policies can also make it more difficult for guns to be brought to a crime scene, as in restriction or regulation of who may carry concealed weapons. Policies can also focus on use, by mandating increased sentences for those who use guns in crime, or by requiring guns to have certain safety features.
Gun control proponents often cite the relatively high number of homicides committed with firearms as reason to support stricter gun control laws. [cite journal |title=Firearms and the killing threshold. (Editorial) |author=Kassirer, Jerome P. |journal=New England Journal of Medicine |date=1991 |volume=325(23) |pages=pp. 1647–1651 |pmid=1944455] Firearm laws are a subject of great debate in the United States, with firearms also widely used for recreational purposes, and for personal protection. Gun rights advocates cite the use of firearms for self-protection and to deter violent crime as reasons why more guns can reduce crime. [cite journal |author=Baker, James Jay |title=Second amendment message in Los Angeles |journal=American Riflemen |date=July 1992 |pages=pp. 32–34] cite web |url=http://www.haciendapub.com/comm13.html |title=The Second Amendment - Reaching a Consensus as an Individual Right |author=Miguel A. Faria, Jr., MD] cite web |url=http://www.haciendapub.com/edcor12.html |title=Guns and Violence |author=Miguel A. Faria, Jr., MD] Gun rights advocates also say criminals are the least likely to obey firearms laws, and so limiting access to guns by law-abiding people makes them more vulnerable to armed criminals.
Criminologist Philip J. Cook argues for public policy goals of keeping guns out of violent encounters, and recommends approaches that limit the availability of guns to high-risk groups and the accessibility of guns in volatile situations. Cook suggests measures such as
background checks for gun purchasers; banning small, easily-concealed handguns; intensive enforcement of illegal gun carrying; and tougher sentences imposed on those convicted of using a gun in a crime.
Access to firearms
U.S. policy aims to maintain the right of legitimate users to own most types of firearms, while restricting access to firearms by those individuals in high risk groups. Gun dealers in the United States are prohibited from selling handguns to those under the age of 21, and
long guns to those under the age of 18. There are also restrictions on selling guns to out-of-state residents.
Assuming access to guns, the top ten types of guns involved in crime in the U.S. show a definite trend in favoring handguns over long guns. The top ten guns used in crime, as reported by the ATF in 1993, included the
Smith & Wesson.38 Special and .357 revolvers; Raven Arms .25 caliber, Davis P-380 .380 caliber, Ruger .22 caliber, Lorcin L-380 .380 caliber, and Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handguns; Mossberg and Remington 12 gauge shotguns; and the Tec DC-9. An earlier 1985 study of 1,800 incarcerated felons showed that criminals prefer revolvers and other non-semi-automatic firearms over semi-automatic firearms. [cite book |title=ARMED AND CONSIDERED DANGEROUS: A Survey of Felons and their Firearms |publisher=Aldine De Gruyter |author= James D. Wright and Peter H. Rossi |date=1986] In Pittsburgh, a change in preferences towards pistols occurred in the early 1990s, coinciding with the arrival of crack cocaine and rise of violent youth gangs.cite conference|title=Guns and Youth Violence: An Examination of Crime Guns in One City |booktitle=Final report |author=Cohen, Jacqueline, Wilpen Gorr, Piyusha Singh |publisher=National Institute of Justice / Carnegie Mellon University |url=http://www.heinz.cmu.edu/wpapers/retrievePDF?id=2002-46 |date=December 2002] Background checks in California, during 1998 to 2000, resulted in 1% of sales being initially denied.cite journal |author=Wright, M.A., G.J. Wintemute, B E Claire |title=People and guns involved in denied and completed handgun sales |journal=Injury Prevention |volume=11 |pages=pp. 247–250 |year=2005 |pmid=16081756 |doi=10.1136/ip.2005.008482] The types of guns most often denied included semiautomatic pistols with short barrels and of medium caliber.
Among juveniles (for example, minors under the age of 16, 17, or 18, depending on legal jurisdiction) serving in correctional facilities, 86% owned a gun at some point, with 66% acquiring their first gun by age 14. There is also a tendency for juvenile offenders to own many firearms, with 65% owning three or more. Juveniles most often acquire guns from family, friends, drug dealers, and street contacts. Inner-city youths cite "self-protection from enemies" as the top reason for carrying a gun. In
Rochester, New York, 22% of young males have carried an illegal gun, though most for only a short period of time.cite journal |title=Patterns of Illegal Gun Carrying Among Urban Young Males |author=Lizotte, Alan J., Gregory J. Howard, Marvin D. Krohn, Terence P. Thornberry |year=1997 |journal=Valparaiso University Law Review |volume=31(2)] There is little overlap between legal gun ownership and illegal gun carrying among youths.
Policy that is targeted at the supply side of the firearms market is based on limited research, with this an active area of ongoing research. One important consideration is that only 60-70% of firearms sales in the United States are transacted through federally licensed firearm dealers, with the remainder taking place in the "secondary market."cite journal |author=Cook, Philip J., S.Molliconi, T.B. Cole |title=Regulating Gun Markets |journal=Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology|year=1995 |volume=86 |pages=pp. 59–92 |id=NCJ|162689 |doi=10.2307/1144000] [cite book |author=Cook, Philip J., Jens Ludwig |title=Guns in America: Results of a Comprehensive Survey of Gun Ownership and Use |year=1996 |publisher=Police Foundation] Most sales to youths and convicted felons take place in the "secondary market," in which previously-owned firearms are transferred by unlicensed individuals. [cite book |author=Wright, James D., Peter H. Rossi |title=Armed and Considered Dangerous: A Survey of Felons and Their Firearms |publisher=Aldine de Gruyter |year=1994] [cite journal |author=Ash, Peter, Arthur L. Kellermann, et al |title=Gun Acquisition and Use by Juvenile Offenders |year=1996 |journal=Journal of the American Medical Association |volume=275(22) |pages=pp. 1754–1758 |pmid=8637174 |doi=10.1001/jama.275.22.1754] Access to "secondary markets" is generally less convenient and involves such risks as the gun perhaps having been used previously in a homicide.cite book |author=Cook, Philip J., Jens Ludwig |title=Gun Violence: The Real Costs |publisher=Oxford University Press |year=2000 |chapter=Chapter 9 |id=ISBN 0-19-513793-0] The sale of firearms at
gun shows exploits the legality of unlicensed private sales of firearms from their owner's private collection, which some view as a loophole in the law. Unlicensed private sellers are permitted by law to sell privately-owned guns at gun shows, or at private locations, in 24 states (as of 1998). [cite book |author=Boston T. Party (Kenneth W. Royce) |title=Boston on Guns & Courage |publisher=Javelin Press |year=1998 |pages=3:15] Regulations that limit the number of handgun sales in the primary, regulated market to one handgun a month per customer have been shown to be effective at reducing illegal gun trafficking by reducing the supply into the "secondary market." [cite journal |author=Weil, Douglas S., Rebecca C. Knox |title=Effects of Limiting Handgun Purchases on Interstate Transfer of Firearms |journal=Journal of the American Medical Association |volume=275(22) |pages=pp. 1759–1761 |year=1996 |pmid=8637175 |doi=10.1001/jama.275.22.1759] Taxes on firearms and ammunitionpurchases are another means for government to influence the primary market.cite book |title=Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review |year=2004 |publisher=National Academy of Science |author=Committee on Law and Justice |chapter=Chapter 4 |url=http://www.nap.edu/books/0309091241/html/72.html]
Federally licensed firearm dealers in the primary (new and used gun) market are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Firearm manufacturers are required to put
serial numbers on all new firearms. This allows the ATF to trace guns involved in crimes back to their last Federal Firearms License(FFL) reported change of ownership transaction, although not past the first private sale involving any particular gun. A report by the ATF released in 1999, found that 0.4% of federally-licensed dealers sold half of the guns used criminally in 1996 and 1997.cite news |author=Butterfield, Fox |title=Gun Flows to Criminals Laid to Tiny Fraction of Dealers |publisher=The New York Times |date=July 1, 1999] This is sometimes done through " straw purchases." State laws, such as those in Virginiaand California, that restrict the number of gun purchases in a month may help stem such "straw purchases." An estimated 500,000 guns are also stolen each year, allowing them to get into the hands of prohibited users. During the ATF's Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative(YCGII), which involved expanded tracing of firearms recovered by law enforcement agencies,cite web |url=http://www.atf.gov/firearms/ycgii/ |title=Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative (1998) |publisher=Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] only 18% of guns used criminally that were recovered in 1998 were in possession of the original owner.cite journal |author=Cook, Philip J., Anthony A. Braga |title= Comprehensive firearms tracing: Strategic and investigative uses of new data on firearms markets |journal=Arizona Law Review |volume=43 |pages=pp. 277–309 |year=2001] Guns recovered by police during criminal investigations often have been previously sold by legitimate retail sales outlets to legal owners and then diverted to criminal use over elapsed times ranging from just a few months to just a few years, [cite journal |author=Kennedy, D.M., A.A. Braga, A.M. Piehl |year=1996 |title=Youth violence in Boston: Gun markets, serious youth offenders, and a use-reduction strategy |journal=Law and Contemporary Problems |volume=59 |pages=pp. 147–196 |id=NCJ|169549 |doi=10.2307/1192213] [cite journal |author=Wachtel, J. |year=1998 |title=Sources of crime guns in Los Angeles, California |journal=Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management |volume=21 |pages=pp. 220–239 |id=NCJ|174254 |doi=10.1108/13639519810220127] which makes them relatively new compared with firearms in general circulation. [cite book |author=Pierce, G.L., A.A. Braga, C. Koper, J. McDevitt, D. Carlson, J. Roth, A. Saiz |year=2001 |title=The Characteristics and Dynamics of Gun Markets: Implications for a Supply-Side Enforcement Strategy (Final Report) |publisher=Center for Criminal Justice Policy Research, Northeastern University and the National Institute of Justice |url=http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/208079.pdf]
The first Federal legislation related to firearms was the Second Amendment, ratified in 1791. For 143 years, this was the only Federal legislation regarding firearms. The next Federal firearm legislation was the
National Firearms Actof 1934. This Act created regulations for the sale of firearms, established taxes on their sale, and required registration of some types of firearms such as machine guns. [cite book |author=Friedman, Lawrence M. |title=Crime and Punishment in American History |year=1993 |publisher=Basic Books |id=ISBN 0-465-01461-5 |pages=p. 267]
In the aftermath of the Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations, the
Gun Control Act of 1968was enacted. This Act regulated gun commerce, restricting mail ordersales, and allowing shipments only to licensed firearm dealers. The Act also prohibited felons, those under indictment, fugitives, illegal aliens, drug users, those dishonorably discharged from the military, and those in mental institutions from owning guns. The law also restricted importation of Saturday night specials and other types of guns, and limited the sale of automatic weapons and semi-automatic weapons conversion kits.
Firearm Owners Protection Act, also known as the McClure-Volkmer Act, was passed in 1986. It changed some restrictions in the 1968 Act, allowing federally-licensed gun dealers, as well as individual unlicensed private sellers, to sell at gun shows, while continuing to require licensed gun dealers to require background checks. The 1986 Act also restricted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms from conducting repetitive inspections, reduced the amount of recordkeeping required of gun dealers, raised the burden of proof for convicting gun law violators, and changed restrictions on convicted felons from owning firearms.
In the years following the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968, people buying guns were required to show identification and sign a statement affirming that they were not in any of the prohibited categories. Many
states enacted background checklaws that went beyond the federal requirements. [cite journal |author=Cook, Philip J., James Blose |title=State Programs for Screening Handgun Buyers |journal=Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science |year=1981 |volume=May 1981 |pages=pp. 80–91 |id=NCJ|79101 |doi=10.1177/000271628145500108] The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Actpassed by Congress in 1993 imposed a waiting period before the purchase of a handgun, allowing a background check. [The Brady Act did not require background checks, but mandates the waiting period so that background checks can be done. The background check provision has been challenged on grounds that it violates the Tenth Amendmentof the Constitution of the United States. In the 1997 case, " Printz v. United States", the Supreme Court voided that part of the Brady Act. (Rushefsky, 2002)] The Brady Act also required the establishment of a national system to provide instant criminal background checks, with checks to be done by firearms dealers. [cite web |url=http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=103_cong_bills&docid=f:h1025enr.txt.pdf |title=Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act |publisher=Congress of the United States / Government Printing Office] The Brady Act only applied to people who bought guns from licensed dealers, whereas most felons buy guns from a black market. [http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/ViewContentServlet?Filename=Published/EmeraldFullTextArticle/Pdf/1810210201.pdf Emerald: Article Request ] ] Restrictions, such as waiting periods, are opposed by many, who argue that they impose costs and inconveniences on legitimate gun purchasers, such as hunters.
Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, enacted in 1994, included the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, and was a response to public concern over mass shootings.cite book |url=http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/173405.pdf |title=Impacts of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban: 1994–96 |author=Roth, Jeffrey A., Christopher S. Koper |year=1999 |publisher=National Institute of Justice] This provision prohibited the manufacture and importation of some semiautomatic firearms that exhibitied military style features such as a folding stock, pistol grip and flash suppressor, as well as magazines holding more than ten rounds. A grandfather clausewas included that allowed firearms manufactured before 1994 to remain legal. A short-term evaluation by University of Pennsylvaniacriminologists, Christopher S. Koperand Jeffrey A. Roth, did not find any clear impact of this legislation on gun violence.cite journal |author=Koper, Christopher S., Jeffrey A. Roth |year=2001 |title=The impact of the 1994 federal assault weapon ban on gun markets: An assessment of short-term primary and secondary market effects |journal=Journal of Quantitative Criminology |volume=18(3) |pages=pp. 239–266 |id=NCJ|196844] However, Koper and Roth cite the grandfather clause and the infrequent use of these weapons in crimes as factors limiting the effectiveness of the ban, making it difficult to discern an effect. Given the short study time period of the evaluation, the National Academy of Sciences also advised caution in drawing any conclusions. In September 2004, the assault weapon ban expired, with its sunset clause. [cite news |url=http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2004-09-12-weapons-ban_x.htm |title=Federal ban on assault weapons expires |author=Lawrence, Jill |publisher=USA Today |date=September 12, 2004]
Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, " 'the Lautenberg Amendment' ", prohibited anyone previously convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violencefrom owning a firearm. [ This was ex post facto, in the opinion of then-representative Bob Barr, [http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/judiciary/hju58106.000/hju58106_0f.htm] House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Crime, Committee on the Judiciary, March 5, 1997] It also banned shipment, transport, ownership and use of guns or ammunition by individuals convicted of misdemeanoror felonydomestic violence. This law also outlawed the sale or gift of a firearm or ammunition to such a person. It was passed in 1996, and became effective in 1997. Some opponents believe that the law conflicts with the right to keep and bear arms protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, and this law has modified the Second Amendment to a revocable privilege from a fundamental protection. Opponents of this law tend to describe the law by the name "the Lautenberg Amendment." The law applies to everyone, including police officers and military personnel, and can cause difficulties by prohibiting active duty military and police from carrying guns, due to prior civilian misdemeanor convictions. [cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | title = Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban Fact Sheet | work = | publisher = National Center for Women & Policing | date = | url = http://www.womenandpolicing.org/gunban.asp | format = asp | accessdate = 2007-02-05 ]
In the immediate aftermath of
Hurricane Katrina, police and National Guard units in New Orleans confiscated firearms from private citizens in an attempt to prevent violence. In reaction, Congress passed the Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act of 2006in the form of an amendment to Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2007. Section 706 of the Act prohibits federal employees and those receiving federal funds from confiscating legally-possessed firearms during a disaster. [cite web |url=http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/R?cp109:FLD010:@1(hr699)|title=House Report 109-699 - Making Appropriations For The Department Of Homeland Security For The Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2007, And For Other Purposes |publisher=The Library of Congress> THOMAS Home > Bills, Resolutions]
Right-to-carry laws expanded in the 1990s as homicide rates from gun violence in the United States increased, largely in response to incidents such as the
Luby's massacreof 1991 in Texas which directly resulted in the passage of a " carrying concealed weapon," or "CCW", law in Texas in 1995. [cite web |url=http://www.chron.com/content/chronicle/nation/guns/part2/gunside1.html |publisher="San Antonio Express-News" |title=Guns in America, Part II |accessdate=2006-11-15] As Rorie Sherman, staff reporter for the "National Law Journal" wrote in an article published on April 18, 1994, "It is a time of unparalleled desperation about crime. But the mood is decidedly 'I'll do it myself' and 'Don't get in my way.'" [cite book |author= LaPierre, Wayne |title=Guns, Crime, and Freedom |publisher=Regnery Publishing, Inc. |pages=p.98 |year=1994]
The result was laws that permitted persons to carry firearms openly, known as "
open carry", often without any permit required, in 22 states by 1998. [cite book |title=Boston on Guns & Courage |year=1998 |publisher=Javelin Press |author=Boston T. Party (Kenneth W. Royce) |chapter=Chapter 3 | pages=3:15] Laws that permitted persons to carry concealed handguns, sometimes termed a "concealed handgun license," "CHL", or "concealed pistol license, "CPL" in some jurisdictions instead of "CCW", existed in 34 states in the United States by 2004. Since then, the number of states with CCW laws has increased; as of late 2006, 48 states have some form of CCW laws on the books.cite web |url=http://www.packing.org/ |title=Packing.org Concealed Carry Database |accessdate=2006-11-15]
John Lotthas argued that right-to-carry laws create a perception that more potential crime victims might be carrying firearms, and thus serve as a deterrent against crime.cite journal |author=Lott, Jr., John R., David B. Mustard |title=Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns |journal=Journal of Legal Studies |volume=26(1) |date=1997 |pages=pp. 1–68 |id=NCJ|174718] Lott's study has been criticized for not adequately controlling for other factors, including other state laws also enacted, such as Florida's laws requiring background checks and waiting period for handgun buyers.cite journal |author=Black, Dan, Daniel Nagin |title=Do 'Right to Carry' Laws Reduce Violent Crime? |journal=Journal of Legal Studies |volume=27(1) |pages=209–219 |year=1998 |id=NCJ|177169 |doi=10.1086/468019] When Lott's data was re-analyzed by some researchers, the only statistically significant effect of concealed-carry laws found was an increase in assaults, with similar findings by Jens Ludwig. [cite journal |author=Ludwig, Jens |title=Concealed-Gun-Carrying Laws and Violent Crime: Evidence from State Panel Data |journal=International Review of Law and Economics |volume=18 |pages=239–254 |year=1998 |doi=10.1016/S0144-8188(98)00012-X] Since concealed-carry permits are only given to adults, Philip J. Cook suggests that analysis should focus on the relationship with adult and not juvenile gun incident rates. He finds a small, positive effect of concealed-carry laws on adult homicide rates, but states the effect is not statistically significant. The National Academy of Sciencehas found no evidence that shows right-to-carry laws have an impact, either way, on rates of violent crime. NAS suggests that new analytical approaches and datasets at the county or local level are needed to evaluate adequately the impact of right-to-carry laws.cite book |title=Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review |year=2004 |publisher=National Academy of Science |author=Committee on Law and Justice |chapter=Chapter 6 |url=http://www.nap.edu/books/0309091241/html/120.html]
Child Access Prevention (CAP)
Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws, enacted by many states, require parents to store firearms safely, to minimize access by children to guns, while maintaining ease of access by adults.cite book |author=DeSimone, Jeff, Sara Markowitz |chapter=The Effect of Child Access Prevention Laws on Non-Fatal Gun Injuries |title=NBER Working Paper No. 11613 |date=September 2005 |publisher=National Bureau of Economic Research |url=http://www.nber.org/papers/W11613] CAP laws hold gun owners liable should a child gain access to a loaded gun that is not properly stored. In most states, CAP law violations are considered
misdemeanors. Florida's CAP law, enacted in 1989, permits felonyprosecution of violators. Research indicates that CAP laws are correlated with a reduction in unintentional gun deaths by 23%, [cite journal |author=Cummings, Peter, David C. Grossman, Frederick P. Rivara, Thomas D. Koepsell |title=State Gun Safe Storage Laws and Child Mortality Due to Firearms |journal=Journal of the American Medical Association |year=1997 |volume=278(13) |pages=pp. 1084–1086 |pmid=9315767 |doi=10.1001/jama.278.13.1084] and gun suicides among those aged 14 through 17 by 11%. [cite journal |author=Webster, Daniel, John Vernick, "et al." |title=Association between Youth-Focused Firearm Laws and Youth Suicides |journal=Journal of the American Medical Association |year=2004 |volume=292(5) |pages=pp. 594–601 |pmid=15292085 |doi=10.1001/jama.292.5.594] A study by Lott did not detect a relationship between CAP laws and accidental gun deaths or suicides among those age 19 and under between 1979 and 1996. The National Bureau of Economic Researchhas found that CAP laws are correlated with a reduction of non-fatal gun injuries among both children and adults by 30-40%. Research also indicates that CAP laws are most highly correlated with reductions of non-fatal gun injuries in states where violations are considered felonies, whereas in states that consider violations as misdemeanors, the potential impact of CAP laws is not statistically significant. [cite journal |author=Webster, D.W., M. Starnes |title=Reexamining the association between child access prevention gun laws and unintentional shooting deaths of children |journal=Pediatrics |year=2000 |volume=106(6) |pages=pp. 1466–1469 |pmid=11099605 |doi=10.1542/peds.106.6.1466] All of these studies are correlational, and do not account for other potential contributing factors.
Some local jurisdictions in the United States have more restrictive laws, such as
Washington, D.C.'s Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975, which bans residents from owning handguns, and requires permitted firearms be disassembled and locked with a trigger lock. On March 9, 2007, a U.S. Circuit Court ruled this Washington, D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional. [ [http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=azTOCL.ZiDGM&refer=us "Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down D.C. Handgun Ban"] Bloomberg News, March 9, 2007] (For more on this case, see: " Parker v. District of Columbia".) New York Cityis also known for its strict gun control laws. Despite local laws, guns are often trafficked into cities from other parts of the United States, particularly the southern states. [cite book |author=Wintemute, Garen |chapter=Guns and Gun Violence |title=The Crime Drop in America |editor=Blumstein, Alfred, Joel Wallman |publisher=Cambridge University Press |year=2000] Results from the ATF's Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative indicate that the percentage of imported guns involved in crimes is tied to the stringency of local firearm laws.
Violence prevention and
educational programs have been established in many schools and communities across the United States. These programs aim to change personal behavior of both childrenand their parents, encouraging children to stay away from guns, ensure parents store guns safely, and encourage children to solve disputes without resorting to violence.cite journal |author=Hardy, Marjorie S. |title=Behavior-Oriented Approaches to Reducing Gun Violence |journal=The Future of Children |publisher=Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and The Brookings Institution |year=2002 |volume=12(2) |pages=pp. 101–118 |id=NCJ|196785] Programs aimed at altering behaviorrange from passive(requiring no effort on part of the individual) to active (supervising children, or placing a trigger lockon a gun). The more effort required of people, the more difficult it is to implement a prevention strategy. [cite book |author=Christophersen, E.R. |chapter=Improving compliance in childhood injury control |title=Developmental aspects of health compliance behavior |publisher=Lawrence Erlbaum Associates |year=1993 |pages=pp. 219-231] [cite journal |author=Williams, A.F. |title=Passive and active measures for controlling disease and injury |journal=Health Psychology |year=1982 |volume=1 |pages=pp. 399–409 |pmid=11586556] Prevention strategies focused on modifying the situational environment and the firearm itself may be more effective. Empirical evaluationof gun violence prevention programs has been limited. Of the evaluations that have been done, results indicate such programs have minimal effectiveness.
Gun safety parent counseling
One of the most widely used parent counseling programs is Steps to Prevent Firearm Injury program (STOP), which was developed in 1994 by the
Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. STOP was superseded by STOP 2 in 1998, which has a broader focus including more communities and health care providers. STOP has been evaluated and found not to have a significant effect on gun ownership or firearm storage practices by inner-city parents. [cite journal |author=Oatis, Pamela J., Nancy M. Fenn Buderer, Peter Cummings, Rosemarie Fleitz |title=Pediatric practice based evaluation of the Steps to Prevent Firearm Injury program |journal=Injury Prevention |volume=5(1) |year=1999 |pages=pp. 48–52 |pmid=10323570] Marjorie S. Hardy suggests further evaluation of STOP is needed, as this evaluation had a limited sample size and lacked a control group.
Prevention programs geared towards children have also not been greatly successful. Many inherent challenges arise when working with children, including their tendency to perceive themselves as invulnerable to injury, [cite journal |author=Benthin, A., P. Slovic, H. Severan |title=A psychometric study of adolescent risk perception |journal=Journal of Adolescence |year=1993 |volume=16 |pages=pp. 153–168 |doi=10.1006/jado.1993.1014] limited ability to apply lessons learned,cite journal |author=Hyson, M.C., G.G. Bollin |title=Children's appraisal of home and neighborhood risks: Questions for the 1990s |journal=Children's Environments Quarterly |year=1990 |volume=7(3) |pages=pp. 50–60] [cite journal |author=Coppens, N.M. |title=Cognitive development and locus of control as predictors of preschoolers' understanding of safety and prevention |journal=Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology |year=1985 |volume=6 |pages=pp. 43–55 |doi=10.1016/0193-3973(85)90015-2] their innate curiosity, and
peer pressurethat may encourage reckless behavior.
The goal of gun safety programs, usually administered by local firearms dealers and shooting clubs, is to teach older children and adolescents how to handle firearms safely. There has been no systematic evaluation of the effect of these programs on children. For adults, no positive effect on gun storage practices has been found as a result of these programs. [cite conference |author=Cook, P.J., J. Ludwig |title=Guns in America: National survey on private ownership and use of firearms |booktitle=Research in Brief |publisher=National Institute of Justice |date=May 1997 |url=http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/165476.pdf] [cite journal |author=Hemenway, D., S. Solnek, D.R. Azrael |title=Firearm training and storage |journal=Journal of the American Medical Association |year=1995 |volume=273(1) |pages=46–50 |pmid=7996649 |doi=10.1001/jama.273.1.46] Also, researchers have found that gun safety programs for children may likely increase a child's interest in obtaining and using guns, which they cannot be expected to use safely all the time, even with training. [cite book |author=Wilson, M.H., S.P. Baker, S.P. Teret, "et al." |title=Saving children: A guide to injury prevention |publisher=Oxford University Press |year=1991]
Another approach taken is gun avoidance at the immediate level, such as when encountering a firearm at a neighbor's home. The
Eddie EagleGun Safety Program, administered by the National Rifle Association(NRA), is geared towards younger children from pre- kindergartento sixth grade, and teaches kids that real guns are not toys by emphasizing a "just say no" approach. The Eddie Eagle program is based on training children in a four-step action to take when they see a firearm: (1) Stop! (2) Don't touch! (3) Leave the area. (4) Go tell an adult. Materials, such as coloring books and posters, back the lessons up and provide the repetition necessary in any child-education program.
gun controladvocacy groups have developed their own programs, such as Straight Talk about Risks (STAR), administered by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and Hands without Guns, run by the Joshua Horwitz Educational Fund to End Handgun Violence.
Programs targeted at entire communities, such as community revitalization, after-school programs, and media campaigns, may be more effective in reducing the general level of violence that children are exposed to. [cite journal |author=Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, Committee on Preventative Psychiatry |title=Violent behavior in children and youth: Preventative intervention from a psychiatric perspective |journal=Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry |year=1999 |volume=38(3) |pages=pp. 235–241] [cite book |author=Arrendondo, S., T. Aultman-Bettride, T.P. Johnson, "et al." |title=Preventing youth handgun violence: A national study with trends and patterns for the state of Colorado |publisher=Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence |year=1999] Community-based programs that have specifically targeted gun violence include Safe Kids/Healthy Neighborhoods Injury Prevention Program in
New York City, [cite journal |author=Davidson, L.L., M S Durkin, L Kuhn, P O'Connor, B Barlow, M C Heagarty |title=The impact of the Safe Kids/Healthy Neighborhoods Injury Prevention Program in Harlem, 1988 through 1991 |journal=American Journal of Public Health |year=1994 |volume=84(4) |pages=pp. 580–586 |pmid=8154560] [cite journal |author=Klassen, T.P., I.M. MacKay, A.W. Moher, A. I. Jones |title=Community-based prevention interventions |journal=The Future of Children |volume=10(1) |pages=pp. 83–110 |year=2000 |doi=10.2307/1602826] and Safe Homes and Havens in Chicago. Evaluation of such community-based programs is difficult, due to many confounding factors and the multifaceted nature of such programs.
Sociologist James D. Wright suggests that to convince inner-city youths not to carry guns "requires convincing them that they can survive in their neighborhood without being armed, that they can come and go in peace, that being unarmed will not cause them to be victimized, intimidated, or slain." Intervention programs, such as
Operation Ceasefirein Bostonand Project Exilein Richmond, Virginiaduring the 1990s, have been shown to be effective. [cite journal |author=Braga, Anthony A., David M. Kennedy, Elin J. Waring, Anne M. Piehl |title=Problem-Oriented Policing, Deterrence, and Youth Violence: An Evaluation of Boston's Operation Ceasefire |journal=Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency |volume=38(3) |year=2001 |id=NCJ|189562] Other intervention strategies, such as gun "buy-back" programs have been demonstrated to be ineffective.
Gun "buy-back" programs
Gun "buy-back" programs are a strategy aimed at influencing the firearms market by taking guns off the streets. Gun "buy-back" programs have been shown to be ineffective, [cite journal |author=Callahan, C.M., F.P. Rivara, T.D. Koepsell |year=1994 |title=Money for guns: Evaluation of the Seattle gun "buy-back" program |journal=Public Health Reports |volume=109 |pages=pp. 472–477 |pmid=8041845] [cite book |author=Rosenfeld, R. |year=1996 |chapter=Gun buy-backs: Crime control or community mobilization? |editor=M.R. Plotkin |title=Under Fire: Gun Buy-Backs, Exchanges, and Amnesty Programs |publisher=Police Executive Research Forum |id=NCJ|161877] with the National Academy of Sciences citing theory underlying these programs as "badly flawed." Guns surrendered tend to be those least likely to be involved in crime, such as old, malfunctioning guns with little resale value, muzzleloading or other blackpowder guns, antiques chambered for obsolete cartridges that are no longer commercially manufactured or sold, or guns that individuals inherit but have little value in possessing. [cite book |author=Kennedy, David M., Anne M. Piehl, Anthony A. Braga |year=1996 |chapter=Gun buy-backs: Where do we stand and where do we go? |editor=M.R. Plotkin |title=Under Fire: Gun Buy-Backs, Exchanges, and Amnesty Programs |publisher=Police Executive Research Forum |id=NCJ|161877] Other limitations of gun "buy-back" programs include the fact that it is relatively easy to obtain gun replacements, often of better guns than were relinquished in the "buy-back." Also, the number of handguns used in crime (approximately 7,500 per year) is very small compared to the approximately 70 million handguns in the United States (i.e., 0.011%).
Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition
Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalitionis a bipartisancoalition of 210 mayorsfrom 40 different United States cities, united in their stated goal of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets."The group was formed on April 25, 2006, during a summit held at Gracie Mansionin New York Citythat was hosted by BostonMayor Thomas Meninoand New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Operation Ceasefirewas established as a strategy for stemming the epidemic of youth gun violence in Boston. Violence was particularly concentrated in poor, inner-city neighborhoods including Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan.cite book |author=Kennedy, David M., Anthony A. Braga, Anne M. Piehl |title=Reducing Gun Violence: The Boston Gun Project's Operation Ceasefire |year=2001 |url=http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/188741.pdf] There were 22 youths (under the age of 24) killed in Boston in 1987, with that figure rising to 73 in 1990. Operation Ceasefire entailed a problem-oriented policingapproach, and focused on specific places that were crime hot spots—two strategies that when combined have been shown to be quite effective. [cite journal |author=Braga, Anthony A., David L. Weisburd, "et al." |year=1999 |title=Problem-oriented policing in violent crime places: A randomized controlled experiment |journal=Criminology |volume=7 |pages=pp. 541–580 |id=NCJ|178770 |doi=10.1111/j.1745-9125.1999.tb00496.x] [cite journal |author=Weisburd, D., L. Green |year=1995 |title=Policing drug hot spots: The Jersey City drug market analysis experiment |journal=Justice Quarterly |volume=12 |pages=pp. 711–735 |id=NCJ|167667 |doi=10.1080/07418829500096261] [cite journal |author=Sherman, L.W., D. Rogan |year=1995 |title=Effects of gun seizures on gun violence: "Hot spots" patrol in Kansas City |journal=Justice Quarterly |volume=12(4) |pages=673–694 |id=NCJ|167665 |doi=10.1080/07418829500096241] Particular focus was placed on two elements of the gun violence problem, including illicit gun trafficking [cite journal |author=Braga, Anthony A., Glenn L. Pierce |title=Disrupting Illegal Firearms Markets in Boston: The Effects of Operation Ceasefire on the Supply of New Handguns to Criminals |journal=Criminology & Public Policy |volume=4(4) |year=2005 |id=NCJ|212303] and gang violence. Within two years of implementing Operation Ceasefire in Boston, the number of youth homicides dropped to ten, with only one handgun-related youth homicide occurring in 1999 and 2000. The Operation Ceasefire strategy has since been replicated in other cities, including Los Angeles. [cite book |author=National Institute of Justice |title=Research Report: Reducing Gun Violence - Operation Ceasefire in Los Angeles |date=February 2005 |url=http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/192378.pdf]
Project Exile, conducted in Richmond, Virginia during the 1990s, was a coordinated effort involving federal, state, and local officials that targeted gun violence. The strategy entailed prosecutionof gun violations in Federal courts, where sentencing guidelineswere tougher. Project Exile also involved outreach and education efforts through media campaigns, getting the message out about the crackdown.cite book |author=Raphael, Stephen, Jens Ludwig |chapter=Prison Sentence Enhancements: The Case of Project Exile |title=Evaluating Gun Policy: Effects on Crime and Violence |editor=Ludwig, Jens, Philip I. Cook |publisher=Brookings Institution Press |year=2003 |id=NCJ|203345] Project Exile was evaluated and shown to be effective, however researchers also point out that Richmond might have experienced declining homicide trends anyway during the evaluation period, owing to overall national trends.
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Project Safe Neighborhoods(PSN) is a national strategy for reducing gun violence that builds on the strategies implemented in Operation Ceasefire and Project Exile. [cite web |url=http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/html/PSNFactS.pdf |title=Project Safe Neighborhoods - Fact Sheet |author=U.S. Department of Justice |date=May 13, 2003] PSN was established in 2001, with support from the Bush administration, channelled through the United States Attorney's Offices in the United States Department of Justice. The Federal government has spent over US$1.5 billion since the program's inception on the hiring of prosecutors, and providing assistance to state and local jurisdictions in support of training and community outreach efforts. [cite web |url=http://www.psn.gov/about/faqs.html |title=Project Safe Neighborhoods: FAQs |publisher=U.S. Department of Justice] cite book |title=Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review |year=2004 |publisher=National Academy of Science |author=Committee on Law and Justice |chapter=Chapter 9]
In the United States,
researchinto firearms and violent crime is fraught with difficulties, associated with limited dataon gun ownership and use, firearms markets, and aggregation of crime data. Research studies into gun violence have primarily taken one of two approaches: case-controlstudies and social ecology. Gun ownership is usually determined through surveys, proxy variables, and sometimes with production and importfigures. In statistical analysis of homicides and other types of crime which are rare events, these data tend to have poisson distributions, which also presents methodological challenges to researchers. With data aggregation, it is difficult to make inferences about individual behavior.cite book |title=Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review |year=2004 |publisher=National Academy of Science |author=Committee on Law and Justice |chapter=Chapter 1 |url=http://www.nap.edu/books/0309091241/html/11.html] This problem, known as ecological fallacy, is not always handled properly by researchers, leading some to jump to conclusions that their data do not necessarily support.cite book |title=Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review |year=2004 |publisher=National Academy of Science |author=Committee on Law and Justice |chapter=Chapter 2 |url=http://www.nap.edu/books/0309091241/html/19.html]
Crime in the United States
Gun politics in the United States
Notes and references
* [http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Topics/Topic.aspx?topicid=87 Gun violence] - National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS)
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