Why Americans Are a People of Exceptional Violence

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law Working Paper No. 08

to appear in 2023 in Crime and Justice—A review of Research, Vol. 52

27 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2023

See all articles by Michael Tonry

Michael Tonry

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law

Date Written: August 1, 2023

Abstract

Among Western countries, the United States is an exceptionally violent place. Serious intentional violence—homicides, other violent gun crimes, mass killings, and police killings of civilians—is dramatically more common. Many American laws—self defense retreat doctrines, stand your ground laws, permissive or minimal regulation of access to handguns and semi-automatic weapons, corporal punishment of children—are much more tolerant of behaviors that inherently present increased risks of violent behavior and victimization. American laws governing sentencing are unique among those of Western countries in both the absolute severity of the punishments they prescribe and allow and in the absence of viable legal mechanisms for challenging sentences on the basis either that their absolute severity violates minimum human rights standards or that they are disproportionately severe in relation to the seriousness of the wrongdoing for which they are imposed (in either case a form of unjustifiable state violence).

Keywords: race relations, racial enmity, racial disparities, frontier values, fatalism, indifference

JEL Classification: K

Suggested Citation

Tonry, Michael, Why Americans Are a People of Exceptional Violence (August 1, 2023). Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law Working Paper No. 08, to appear in 2023 in Crime and Justice—A review of Research, Vol. 52, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4560664 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4560664

Michael Tonry (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law

Guenterstalstr. 73
Freiburg, 79100
Germany

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