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Gun Policy from Criminal Justice Perspective
The conflict concerning the control of guns in the United States of America has increased over the years because of the increased number of people who are injured and killed in civilian settings. The debate climaxed in 2012 when 20 students in Newtown were killed. As a result, the administration of President Barrack Obama initiated the Gun Policy as the remedy to reduce circulation of weapons among the citizens (Masters, 2012). Ergo, the core essence of the Gun Policy in the United States of America is to reduce the number of civilian deaths due to gun violence.
The basic principle of Gun Policy is to restrict firearm ownership. As a result, there are two major philosophies that conflict when the matter is tabled for discussion: One, the Gun Policy will make the citizens less safe because they cannot protect themselves, and two, the laws make the nation safer because of less availability of lethal weapons to the public. Accordingly, this paper delves deeper to investigate the two sides of the debate from a criminal justice perspective. The paper concludes that although the Guns Policy is not 100 percent effective in eliminating crime violent, it is significantly effective in reducing injuries, deaths, and expenditures caused by violent offense in the country.
Reason for the policy
It is recorded by Webster et al. (2014) that the rate of gun ownership in the United States of America is extremely higher than any other country including those that are in the same wealth caliber. Due to this, the United States of America registers more than 31,000 deaths years due to gun violence (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012). Most of the victims of civilian gun violence offenses are youths hence making gun violence the leading cause of premature deaths in the country. It is also important to note that the violence has not only led to deaths, but also more than 300,000 hospitalization incidents per year (Truman, 2010). Therefore, the impact of gun violence has not only caused loss of lives but also huge amounts of finances in the health services department, and the criminal justice and correctional systems. For example, in 2005 the Federal government spent approximately thirty two billion dollar on deaths and injuries relating to firearms, loss of productivity (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012). In addition, after considering deaths, injuries, loss of productivity, psychological and emotional trauma, related poverty, legal impact, and social effects Cook and Ludwig (2000) calculated the total value loss due to firearm violence in the United States of America is around one hundred billion dollars annually. Moreover, a study by Shapiro and Hassett (2012) found that the cost incurred by every American citizen due to violent crimes is above one thousand three hundred dollars every year hence pressurizing the government to increase tax rates (revenue) to meet the responsibilities. As a result, the cause of Gun Policy is also geared towards reducing the huge federal and state expenditures on crimes that would have been avoided by limiting those who have the privilege of owning firearms.
By comparing the United States of America with other first world countries, the rate of crimes is almost the same but the rate of homicide for US is more than 7 times the rate of 22 other wealthy counties combined (Richardson and Hemenway, 2003). Therefore, it can be deduced that most crimes in the United States of America are assisted, succeeded or prompted by the virtue of high availability of firearms. Therefore, it is important for the country to reduce homicide rates by using the Gun Policy.
The basic principle of Gun Policy is to restrict gun ownership. As a result, there are two major philosophies that conflict when the matter is tabled for discussion: One, the Guns policy will make the citizens less safe because they cannot protect themselves, and two, the laws make the nation safer because of less availability of lethal weapons to the public. Accordingly, this paper delves deeper to investigate the two sides of the debate from a criminal justice perspective.
What problem it is trying to solve
The aim of the gun control laws can be summarized in to 4 main objectives (Webster et al., 2014) which include: a) to define specific conditions that deny people from possessing guns, b) to install regulations which prevent those prohibited from accessing or possessing firearms, c) to regulate the carrying of concealed guns from homes, and finally d) to regulate the type or design of firearms for public ownership.
The Guns Policy denies certain people from owning guns because they exhibit high threats of violent crimes and accidents. These categories of persons prohibited from gun ownership include misdemeanors of violent crime offenses, felons, those possess drug related criminal records, those addicted to drugs, fugitives, those mentally incompetent, ex-military officers who were discharged dishonorably, those who renounced their American citizenship, and illegal aliens, and those below the age of twenty one. Therefore, the policy try to solve the high rate of violent crimes (fatal and non-fatal), and firearm related accidents. This is because different data support that persons in these categories have higher chances in participating violent behaviors (Etter & Birzer, 2007; Hotaling, Straus & Lincoln, 1989).
The advantages of the policy
The first advantage of the Gun Policy is to reduce the risk of felons to commit more violent crimes. Campbell et al. (2003) posit that people who have been convicted at least once for felony are more likely to commit violent offenses than those who have never been convicted. The disposal of guns among felons increase the risk of raised deaths and fatalities because guns are deadly weapons and uplifts their confidence or motivation to commit offenses. Therefore, the policy assists in reducing the high rates of violent offenses committed by felons.
The second advantage of the policy is that it reduced the rate of fatal domestic violence incidences. Campbell et al. (2003) also supposes that the risk of homicide is multiplied by five for those with a history of assaulting their intimate partners. Therefore, restriction of such people from firearms will reduce the number of domestic violence related homicides. Moreover, a study by Hotaling, Straus and Lincoln (1989) shows that those with history of domestic violence are more likely to violently assault family and non-family members.
The third advantage of the policy is to reduce the injuries and death emanating from drug and substance users and dealers. According to Kelleher, Chaffin and Hollenberg (1994) substance abuse increase the risk of domestic violence and violent crimes in general. Moreover, drug dealers and cartels operate under the realm of fear and intimidation hence more likely to use firearms to command street respect. However, the policy reduces the deaths among or associated by drug abusers.
The policy is also a merit since it assists in reducing impact of violent mental patients. Swanson et al. (2006) opine that only a small percentage of mental ill persons are violent however due to the lack of self-control and void self-consciousness those who are violent can cause magnanimous negative impact when they have firearms. Therefore, the policy reduces the rate of injuries, deaths and costs caused by people who possess guns yet they are mentally incompetent.
Johnson, Blum and Giedd (2009) hold that the brain parts associated with risk-analysis and control of impulse are still developing during the adolescent age. As a result, persons in the adolescent age and early 20s have high risk of engaging in violence or becoming a victim of one. Since the policy restricts firearm possession from people below the age 21, the risk is largely reduced.
The Disadvantages of the Policy
The Guns Policy still allow people charged with misdemeanor in adult courts and felonies in juvenile courts to possess firearms. This is perceived as a loophole in the policy among those who believe that any criminal record increases the risk of the offender to commit violent crimes. For example, Vittes, Vernick and Webster (2012) conducted a study and found that among the 13 states in America whose guns laws absolutely mirror the federal laws allowed 60% of the convicts to possess firearms once discharged from the correction facilities. Those ex-convicts who possessed guns had committed wide range of crimes including violent felonies among juveniles, misdemeanor entailing violent actions, other types of misdemeanors, and gun-related crimes. The persons in these categories are still dangerous because a research by Wintemute et al. (1998) found that misdemeanants who possess handguns have a 6 times the probability of committing violent crimes compared to those who have never been charged at the court. This is because most misdemeanants are released based on agreements with law enforcers to assist in a greater crime investigation and not necessarily because of their innocence or state of reform.
The second demerit of the Gun Policy is among drug and substance users. The policy limit the definition of drug users who are restricted to possessing firearms to those addicted, those who have used drugs within the past one year, or have had multiple conviction of drug use within the past five years (Webster et al., 2014). However, the duration should be increased to allow for those at risk to fully recover. One year is a short period of time. The policy also omits alcoholics from restriction yet the influence of alcohol is a great perpetrator of violence (Webster et al. 2014).
The effectiveness of the policy
The effectiveness of the Gun Policy rests upon the succession of the Brady Law. The purpose of Guns Policy can only come to fruition when those selling firearms are able to distinguish people who are high risk and prohibited. Before the Guns Policy gun the business operated under the system of honor whereby the seller relied on the form filled by the purchaser. However, the sellers had limited verification options. Nevertheless, the Gun Policy has allowed for the dealer to verify the data of the purchaser by running a background check. As a result, the number of high risk individual owning guns has reduced. Supporting the observation, Bureau of Justice Statistics (2010) found that since the enactment of the Brady Law in 1994 more than two million firearm possession applications have been rejected. Although there are those dealers who still avail guns to restricted people, the problem is not based on the structure of the Guns Policy but on the implementation aspect of it. Therefore, the Guns Policy is effective reducing violent crimes in the United States of America.
The purpose of the Gun Policy is to reduce the rate of violent crimes in the United States of America. The discussion above has demonstrated that the structure and the spirit of the Gun policy are to restrict firearm possession from those who are highly risky to commit violent crimes. Therefore, it should be less o concern that the policy will raid the people off their ability to protect themselves and their homes. It is evident that the Gun Policy has not yet been highly effective in reducing violent crimes because the implementation of the Brady Law is slow. This does not negate that the Gun Policy as designed is ineffective in reducing violent civilian crimes. What is required is to foster the implementation part of the policy.
Masters, J. (2012). U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparison, PBS NewsHour. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/gun-policy/
Webster, D. W., Vernick, J.s.,Viites, K., McGinty, E. E., Teret, S.P. & Frattaroli, S. (2014). The Case for Gun Policy Reforms in America. Retrieved from https://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/publications/WhitePaper020514_CaseforGunPolicyReforms.pdf
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Johnson S.B., Blum R.W. & Giedd J.N. (2009). Adolescent Maturity and the Brain: The Promise and Pitfalls of Neuroscience Research in Adolescent Health Policy, Journal of Adolescent Health. 45(3), pp. 216-21.
Vittes K.A., Vernick J.S. & Webster DW. (2012). Legal status and source of offenders’ firearms in states with the least stringent criteria for gun ownership. Injury Prevention 2012; Epub.
Wintemute G.J., Drake C.M., Beaumont J.J. & Wright M.A. (1998). Prior misdemeanor convictions as a risk factor for later violent and firearm-related criminal activity among authorized purchasers of handguns. JAMA. 1998;280:2083-7.
Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2010). Background Checks for Firearms Transfer, 2009 – Statistical Table. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice; 2010.
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