Throughout society many citizens are faced with wrongful deaths of family members and friends. Lives are taken away from others because of peoples stupidity or even just tragic accidents. We as a nation face crimes like this too often and even though we hope for change it just may not happen. Back in 1975 my family experienced a tragedy in the death of my Great-uncle, who was murdered with a gun. This paper will explain the acts and events that led up to his death and the effect and impact it had on the family. It will also explain how prevalent this kind of crime is in my community today. Lastly, it will explain why people commit crimes such as murder using theories learned from our class lectures.
It was a cold December thirtieth and a house party was live and happening. People were dancing, drinking, laughing and having a great night until a fight broke out. Two men began screaming and arguing over the lack of women at the party when things got physical. They began fighting. The man began losing the fight and his pride. How would it look him getting beat up in his own home? No, that definitely would not work. He saw how badly he was losing and decided to get his gun. He took the gun and began shooting in the direction of my Uncle. He ran out of the house but was hit multiple times, as was another man who happened to be standing across the street. Everyone scattered. An ambulance was called and my Uncle was rushed to the hospital, but to no avail. He died inside the ambulance before reaching Denver General Hospital. That night, December thirtieth nineteen seventy-five, my uncle lost his life, at the age of nineteen. My grandparents lost a son, his brothers and sisters lost a sibling and those that knew him lost a friend. The man, Shroud, who committed the crime was never arrested and never sentenced or punished for the crime he committed that took one life and scarred another.
What causes someone to pull out a gun on someone and murder somebody? What is it about the people who commit these crimes? Are they unstable? Was it in self-defense? Murder happens across the world. Murder by firearms is seen all the time, but why? In the article, Household Gun Prevalence and Rates of Violent Crime: A Test of Competing Gun Theories, author Anthony Hoskins, believes the high rate of gun violence in the United States is due to the easy accessibility to guns. The study he conducted shows that counties that have a higher amount of households with guns tend to have higher rates of homicide (Hoskins, 2011, pg.134). Hoskins uses information from Zimring (1968), who argues that:
The availability of firearms increases the risk of victim injury or death independent of the offenders motivation. Weapons vary in their capacity to inflict injury, and according to Zimring, the outcome of a violent incident is in large part a function of the lethality of the weapon used. The motivation to attack someone is fleeting and indeterminate, and offenders do not typically plan with any precision how much they will hurt their victims. An attack that would have just injured the target might become a murder if something as deadly as a gun is introduced. (pg. 126)
So is murder caused only by those who have easy access to guns and have situational factors that lead to them killing as opposed to just harming? Hoskins seems to believe so; if people had less access to guns, they would less likely murder with one. Authors Irshad Altheimer and Matthew Boswell bring another factor to homicide by guns in their article, Reassessing the Association Between Gun Availability and Homicide at the Cross-National Level. They state:
Gun availability was not the only indicator to exhibit variable effects on violence across regions. Several of the control variables operated to influence violence in a similar matter. For example, economic inequalityââ‚¬"one of the most robust predictors of homicide at the cross-national levelââ‚¬"exhibited strong positive effects on homicide in the models that included Eastern European nations, negative effects in Western nations, and no effects in Latin American nations. This suggests that even the effects of robust predictors of violence, such as economic inequality, are influenced by socio-historical and cultural factors. (pg. 697)
Their results indicate that social factors play as much of a role in who commits violence with gun as choice as well as the accessibility to the firearms (698-699). Whether it is accessibility or social factors, people are committing homicide across the globe. There has always been and will continue to be research on homicide by gun as long as we as a people continue harming and killing one another.
The murder of my uncle happened thirty-seven years ago, when crimes in Denver resulting in murder were not nearly as high as they are today. Dr. Jeff London stated in a Denver Post article that ââ‚¬Å“One consequence is that for young people living today, it is much safer than it was in the 1970s (Mitchell). Data from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports shows that in 2011 the Metropolitan area of Colorado experienced a total of one-hundred and thirty-two reported murders; as a state, Colorado experienced one-hundred and forty-nine murders total in two-thousand and eleven (2011). According to the Denver Police Department reports, forty murders happened between January and October of two-thousand and eleven. Their data also shows that from January to October of two-thousand and twelve there were only thirty-three murders, indicating a decrease by seven (2012). Murder rates are significantly decreasing in the Denver Metropolitan area, but there are still those random spikes of murder and terror. One example is the Columbine School shootings that took place in nineteen ninety-nine, where two teens shot up their school cafeteria murdering thirteen people and then killing themselves. This massacre happened twenty-four years after the murder of my uncle; there were approximately 185 murders that year in Colorado according to Disease Center. A more recent mass murder took place in Aurora this summer when John Holmes went into the movie theatre and opened fire, killing twelve people and wounding fifty-eight. Murders such as the Columbine and Aurora shootings are not typical and do not happen often but they are not completely unheard of in the United States.
Researchers have proposed a variety of theories in an attempt to explain criminal behavior. The different theories provide an understanding when looking at violent crimes like murder, such as the one of my Uncle Ronald. Classical theorists, such as Beccaria, came up with the Rational Choice and Deterrence Theories. The Ration Choice theory states that people had the ability to make a rational choice to follow the law or violate it. The Deterrence Theory comes from the system of punishments put in place by our government for when certain laws are broken. An individual who chooses to commit a criminal act gets pleasure from the act and in return they receive punishment to outweigh that pleasure with pain. This theory places the blame solely on the individual and implies the need for punishment; it implies that those who have committed the crime need to own up to it and face the responsibility of their criminal actions. In the case of my Uncles murderer, Shroud, he made a choice to go get his gun, aim in the direction of my Uncle and pull the trigger numerous times. He decided that looking like the winner was more important than the consequences. His glory and pride was more important than the life of another man. Shroud, however, was not punished for his crime as the theory suggests he should have been and therefore did not experience a notion that what he did was bad and that he should be held responsible for his actions. He got off free. Whether he lives with guilt about the choice that he made that December, thirty-seven years ago, is unknown to me and my family. Maybe he does live with the guilt of committing murder and injuring another, but then again maybe he doesnt and that suggests some fault within the Rational Choice and Deterrence Theories.
The General Strain Theory, by Robert Agnew, also applies in the case of my Uncles murder as well as other murders and violent crimes. The Strain Theory states that an individual commits an act of deviance in response to three different types of strain: failure to achieve a positive goal, removal of a positively valued stimuli and confrontation with negative stimuli. When an individual experiences one of these strains there is an increase in the likelihood or occurrence of criminal activity (Mazerolle and Piquero, 1997). They experience anger and frustration which can lead to an act of violence. That night Stroud was faced with negative stimuli in the fight that he and my uncle acted in. He was also faced with a failure in upholding his status and having the respect of those around him. He had failed in the fight and in return felt himself losing his sense of pride. Those strains infuriated him, causing him to react with violence, resulting in murder. While murder is not always the result of facing a strain, for some people their anger clouds their judgment and pushes them toward deviance.
December thirtieth nineteen-seventy-five Ronald Lee Johnston lost his life and his friend receive numerous bullet wounds, at the hand of Edwino Shroud. No justice was served, no punishment handed out. Rates of murder have dramatically decreased since that day thirty-seven years ago, but murder by gun violence still exists. It may not be as prevalent as it once was in Denver, but its still around. On a national and global level somebody loses their life every month if not every single day. Many have argued that it is because of the leniency on gun control, others argue that it has so much more to do with social and cultural means. Theorists have come up with ways to explain why people commit crimes, why they murder and hurt people. The General Strain Theory and Rational Choice Theory helped to explain reasons why Edwino Shroud chose the path that he did that night. We as a people will continue to face violence, murder and loss of our loved ones until we as a people find a system that truly works to serve and protect all of us. Until people find peace within themselves and society, anger and violence will happen. We can only hope that as the years go on there is a decrease and not an increase in violence and murder.