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Gun Control and America's Cities: Public Policy and Politics

Carl T. Bogus

Roger Williams University School of Law


Albany Government Law Review, Vol. 1, p. 440, 2008
Roger Williams Univ. Legal Studies Paper No. 62

America's cities are dangerous places. One has a far greater chance of being murdered or robbed at gunpoint in a major city in the United States than in any other high-income nation. According to conventional wisdom, this bleak state of affairs is hopeless. Our high rate of violent crime is due to an American exceptionalism created by a unique frontier history. A high crime rate is part of the American cultural DNA, and immutable. Furthermore, it would not matter even if gun control worked because it is politically impossible. That anyway is the conventional wisdom.

This article argues that both prongs of the conventional wisdom are wrong. Gun control - but only a certain kind of gun control - can be both effective and politically feasible. Research and experience show that gun control works when it reduces the availability of handguns in general circulation. In contrast, the data do not support claims that more modest measures - waiting periods, background checks, enhanced sentences for using a gun in the commission of a crime, and firearm training programs - actually reduce firearm deaths and injuries.

Pursing an incrementalist strategy, the gun control movement has supported moderate measures because they were deemed politically feasible in the short run, in the hope that they would pave the way for more effective measures in the future. But this strategy has been counterproductive. It is politically preferable to be frank and forthright with the American people about what kind of gun control works and what does not. While this period of education will be neither easy nor brief, over time it will produce the political prerequisite for meaningful gun control: a sufficiently motivated majority.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 43

Keywords: gun control, criminal law, legislation

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Date posted: June 5, 2008 ; Last revised: September 22, 2015

Suggested Citation

Bogus, Carl T., Gun Control and America's Cities: Public Policy and Politics (2008). Albany Government Law Review, Vol. 1, p. 440, 2008; Roger Williams Univ. Legal Studies Paper No. 62. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1140442

Contact Information

Carl T. Bogus (Contact Author)
Roger Williams University School of Law ( email )
10 Metacom Avenue
Bristol, RI 02809
United States
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