With his reelection in November President Obama has taken a very arrogant approach toward his second-term goals, including his effort to ban certain types of guns and ammunition. Having appointed Vice President Joe Biden as point man for this effort, the president apparently believes he has nearly unlimited political capital in which to bring about further “change” in America. Using the recent massacre of both innocent children as well as adults, the president has outlined his goals for achieving far-reaching gun control legislation. He has also hinted at executing specific executive orders where he believes congress will not go.
One of these executive actions the president plans on taking that actually makes sense is releasing a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement officials. And another that improves incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
However, the president is certainly going to run into significant opposition on both sides of the political aisle as both Democrats as well as Republicans will have to once again face voters in two years, voters who do not support additional gun control laws. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California, has now introduced legislation that goes a bit further than law-abiding gun owners would like.
Feinstein’s legislation is written in a comprehensive way to cover rifles, pistols and handguns with one of any military-style features like detachable stock, pistol grips or grenade launchers. It also would ban 157 additional specific firearms, while excluding 2,258 hunting and sporting rifles and shotguns. But it would also ban magazines that accept more than 10 rounds. Yet, the roadblock facing both the president, Feinstein and other anti-gun Democrats is the fact that there is much evidence that gun control does not even deter criminal violence, much less eliminate it.
In fact, in every state where gun control has been the most restrictive there has been no decrease in criminal violence. And much to the dismay of the liberal element, some states and cities have seen record violence after passing strict gun control laws. A prime example of this is Chicago, a city that has one of the strictest gun ban laws on the books. Yet, the city has reached a near epidemic of violence generally, and murder specifically. Last year alone there were more than 500 murders in the city.
And how have strict gun control laws worked in other countries?
Well, let’s look at Australia. Five years after enacting strict laws prohibiting certain guns, the Australian Bureau of Criminology reports that there is no correlation between gun control and the use of firearms in violent crime. In fact, they report that the murder rate actually rocketed to 16.3 percent in 2006. Additionally, Australia’s Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research reports that in 2006 assaults rose 49.2 percent and robbery 6.2 percent. Sexual assault (Australia’s tern for rape) increased 29.9 percent. And its overall violent crime rate rose 42.2 percent.
In England, despite recent gun control laws, 26 percent of all English citizens have been victimized by violent crime, including murder (twice as many as before it adopted its tough gun control laws), burglary and assaults. And over a period of a dozen years, England has seen its robbery rate rise about 200%. On the contrary, Japan, which has fewer protections of the right to privacy, and fewer rights for criminal suspects than exist in the U.S., experiences a much lower rate of crime generally, and criminal violence specifically. In fact, their suspect confession rate is 95% due to the widespread respect for law and order that is engrained in the Japanese citizenry.
And what do we do about the mentally disturbed that commit mass killings like Newtown and Columbine?
I once shared a TV stage with a very astute psychiatrist who admitted his profession was flawed. In fact, he pointed out that people generally make the mistake that psychiatry is a science, when he emphatically alleged rather that it is an art. What are some of the myths about guns and the actual facts about them in their connection to criminal violence?
Beyond the much publicized term, a term used much by the National Rifle Association, “Guns don’t kill, people do”, there are many myths that do not stand up against facts.
Myth One: With a gun in the home it is more likely that a family member will be the victim.
Research conducted by Professors James Wright and Peter Rossi for a landmark study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice showed that an armed citizen is possibly the most effective deterrent to crime in the nation. Wight and Rossi interviewed more than 1,800 felons serving time in prisons across America and found that:
° 81% agreed the “smart criminal” will try to find out if a potential victim is armed.
° 74% felt that burglars avoided occupied dwellings for fear of being shot.
° 80% of “handgun predators” had encountered armed citizens.
° 40% did not commit a specific crime for fear that the victim was armed.
° 34% of “handgun predators” were scared off or shot at by armed victims.
° 57% felt that the typical criminal feared being shot by citizens more than he feared being shot by police.
Myth Two: Stiff gun control laws will lead to lower crime rates.
U.S. News and World Report as far back as 1989 indicated that America’s high crime rates can be attributed to a revolving door system of justice. In a typical year in the U.S., they reported, there are 8.1 million serious crimes like homicide, assault, and burglary. Yet, only 724,000 adults are arrested and fewer still (193,000) are convicted. Less than 150,000are actually sentenced to prison, with 36,000 serving less than a year.
Add to that the National Institute of Justice finding that the average felon released due to prison overcrowding winds up committing upwards of 187 crimes per year, costing society approximately $430,000.
As in the case of Chicago, Washington, D.C. passed significant gin restrictions that saw no significant impact in terms of reducing violence. In fact, it now has outrageously higher crime rates than any state in the union, with a homicide rate 8 times the national average.
Myth Three: Most murders are related to crimes of passion, often involving family members, friends or neighbors.
FBI date reflects that the vast majority of murders in the U.S. are committed by persons with long histories of violent criminal behavior. According to analyses by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, the FBI, and the Chicago, New York, and other police departments, about 70% of suspected murderers have criminal careers of long-standing, as do nearly half their victims. And FBI data shows that approximately 47% of murderers are know by their victims.
In order to see significant change in the violent behavior of both longstanding felons as well as the kind of severely mentally disturbed individual, our criminal justice system needs to reflect one that does not resemble “revolving doors.”
When you consider the sentence of “life in prison without the possibility of parole”, it should mean exactly that…and it doesn’t. In every state where this law is on the books an individual felon can petition either the governor and/or state supreme court for a commutation of said sentence to “life with the possibility of parole” after a specified period of time.
In California, for example, a state with more than 720 inmates on death row, and a huge number serving “life without parole”, one can receive a commutation of sentence after 12 ½ years if the crime was committed prior to 1978, and after 30 years thereafter.
And since our constitutions, both state and federal alike, forbid ambiguity in the law, such a sentence actually is ambiguous.
And for those who believe that such dangerous felons, those like the Sirhans, the Mansons, the “Onion Field” murderers, will never be released? Well, Sirhan’s September 1, 1984 release date was cancelled after being granted only by the efforts of this writer and friends who helped with a petition drive that resulted in more than 20,000 signatures and many thousands of letters.
Likewise in the case of the infamous “Onion Field” murderers. His accomplice already released in the spring of 1982, Gregory Ulas Powell was also scheduled to be released in June of that year, except for the efforts of this writer and the daughter of the Los Angeles police officer he murdered.
Valerie Campbell, daughter of slain officer Ian Campbell, and I collected 31,500 signatures demanding that Powell’s parole date be rescinded, signatures that resulted in enough public outcry that kept Powell behind bars.
Even one of the Manson family members has been released – one Steve Grogan, who was convicted of murdering Manson ranch hand, “Shorty” Shea.
So it is possible that even the most horrific criminal can be released in this, again, “revolving door” system of justice. And all the gun control laws imagined by this president will fail to reduce violent crime alone. We must demand that government perform its most important function – that of protecting its citizens by closing those “revolving doors” once and for all.
Spero columnist John Mancino writes on political and crime issues.