Gun Control and America's Cities: Public Policy and Politics
43 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2008 Last revised: 22 Sep 2015
Date Written: 2008
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.
Keywords: gun control, criminal law, legislation
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