GUIDELINES FOR CONTRIBUTORS
(with sample entries from the Second Edition)
Guns in American Society:
An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law
Entry Length, Organization, and Submission
Please aim for the target word count that was provided with the entry list. If you have misplaced that information, please contact me. Tight, dispassionate, factual, and fluid writing is the aim, regardless of entry length.
The organization of your entry should be:
See also [don’t feel compelled to make this complete, as I will fill in the gaps]
For Further Reading [the references you site in the body of your entry, plus a highly selective suggested reading or readings]
File Name and File Submission
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Chilver, G. E. F. A Historical Commentary on Tacitus’ Histories I and II. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979.
Heckathorn, Douglas D. “Collective Sanctions and Compliance Norms: A Formal Theory of Group-Mediated Social Control.” American Sociological Review 55 (1990): 366-84.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Sophia Hayden Bennett,” http:/www.mit.edu/museum (cited August 5, 1999).
Edited or translated work
Adorno, Theodor W., and Walter Benjamin. The Complete Correspondence, 1928-1940. Edited by Henri Lonitz. Translated by Nicholas Walker. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.
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End-of-entry cross-references (See also’s) must (1) correspond exactly to the entry heads, (2) be in alphabetical order; (3) be separated by semicolons; and (4) be complete (shortened references will not suffice): See also Abolitionism; Brown, John; Harper’s Ferry Raid; Kansas-Nebraska Act.
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Sample Entries from the Second Edition of the Encyclopedia
Gun amnesty programs, often run in conjunction with gun buyback programs, have been used by law enforcement agencies to remove firearms from circulation. In such programs, weapons that are turned in (often for cash or some other material inducement) are accepted with “no questions asked.” Also, those turning in illegal guns are not prosecuted for illegal possession of a firearm. Typically, no background checks or criminal investigations of participants are conducted. Not all gun buyback programs include amnesty provisions. Individuals who turned in guns through local programs funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (1999–2001) were required to show identification. The guns were then checked to determine whether they were stolen or used in a crime. While amnesty and buyback programs have been politically popular (Callahan, Rivara, and Koepsell 1994, 472), there is no empirical evidence that they actually succeed in reducing gun violence. Many of the guns that are turned into these programs are obsolete and therefore not likely to be used in criminal activity. In 2009, a World War II–era mortar launcher was turned into the Syracuse, New York, police (Baker 2009). Also, those who turn in guns tend to be older people, who are less likely to be engaged in criminal activity. A study of the gun amnesty program in Sacramento, California, found that 40 percent of the program participants were 55 years of age or older, and none were under the age of 25 (Romero, Wintemute, and Vernick 1998). There has also been some concern about amnesty programs in which guns are not checked. A gun, used in a crime, might be turned in anonymously. The gun is then destroyed, depriving the authorities of evidence and allowing a criminal to escape prosecution. Even gun control advocates have recognized the limitation of such programs. In a 1998 interview, Robin Terry, a spokesperson for Handgun Control, Inc. (now called the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence), said that “any effort to get guns off the street is worthwhile. But I think they are more effective when they are used in connection with gun violence programs” (Newark Star-Ledger 1998, 4). In recent years, advocates of these programs have tended to emphasize the safety aspects of the programs rather than crime control. Representative of this point of view was Newark, New Jersey, mayor Cory Booker, who, when announcing the 2009 amnesty program, said that “Many residents of Newark and surrounding communities may have unwanted firearms in their homes, inherited from family members, left behind by a building’s previous occupants, or weapons discarded by fleeing criminals. These weapons could fall into the hands of dangerous criminals or persons unskilled in their use, and lead to tragedy. If you have an unwanted gun in your home, turn it in. You may save the life of yourself or a loved one” (Newark Press Information Office 2009).
See also: Crime and Gun Use; Gun Buyback Programs; Guns in the Home
“Newark Resurrects Gun Swap Program.” Newark Star-Ledger, February 10, 1998.
Baker, Robert A. “Artillery Piece Received during Gun Amnesty Program.” Syracuse.com, February 11, 2009. http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2009/02/syracusans_turn_in_more_illega.html (accessed June 16, 2011).
Callahan, Charles M., Frederick P. Rivara, and Thomas D. Koepsell. “Money for Guns: Evaluation of the Seattle Gun Buy-Back Program.” Public Health Reports 109 (1994): 470–77. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1403522/pdf/pubhealp40threp00059-0010.pdf (accessed June 16, 2011).
Newark Press Information Office. “Newark Gun Amnesty Buyback Program Resumes.” http://www.thejerseytomatopress.com/stories/NEWARK-GUN-AMNESTY-BUYBACK-PROGRAM-RESUMES,2714?print=1 (accessed June 16, 2011).
Plotkin, Martha, ed. Under Fire: Gun Buy-Backs, Exchanges and Amnesty Programs. Washington, DC: Police Executive Research Forum, 1996.
Romero, Michael, Garren Wintemute, and Jon Vernick. Reduction in Prevalence of Risk Factors for Firearm Violence among Participants in a Gun Amnesty Program. Monterey, CA: Program on Security and Development, Monterey Institute of International Studies, 1998. http://blogs.miis.edu/sand/files/2011/02/sacgbb.pdf (accessed June 16, 2011).
Van Horn, Dwight. “What’s Wrong with Gun Amnesty Programs.” Law Enforcement Alliance of America Newsletter (1992): 2.
Automatic Weapons Laws
Federal government regulation of automatic weapons—those capable of firing bullets in rapid succession by depressing and holding down the gun trigger—dates to 1934. The use of submachine guns, such as the infamous Tommy gun, by gangsters in the 1920s and 1930s sparked public outrage and calls for government regulation. Created for military use at the end of World War I, the Tommy gun was developed by U.S. Army colonel John M. Thompson for use in trench warfare. Referred to by Thompson as a “trench broom,” it was designed so that a single soldier could deliver numerous shots in a brief space of time, comparable to the heavier and more cumbersome machine guns used so devastatingly in the war. After the war, Thompson tried to market his gun, but had little success until Chicago gangsters began using the gun in 1925. Soon, other gangsters followed suit. Because automatic weapons could fire hundreds of rounds in a minute and produced recoil that made aim and control difficult to impossible, they had no legitimate hunting or sporting use and posed a considerable danger to anyone in the vicinity of such a weapon. In response, several states passed anti–machine gun laws, but the federal government failed to act until 1934. In a bill backed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and referred to as the “Anti-Machine Gun Bill,” Congress considered a measure that would have required national registration and taxation of several types of firearms that were considered appealing to criminals, including handguns, sawed-off shotguns, cane guns, and automatic weapons. The original proposal also called for fingerprinting individuals who purchased such weapons. This proposal drew opposition from the National Rifle Association and other gun interests. Responding to these pressures, the bill that was reported out of committee omitted pistols. As enacted, the National Firearms Act of 1934 (48 Stat. 1236) requires automatic weapons to be registered with the U.S. Treasury Department. The owner must be fingerprinted, undergo a background check, and pay a fee. There were no major changes in the law until the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986, which barred future possession or transfer of automatic weapons. However, pre-1986 weapons can be sold by federally licensed Class III firearm dealers if the buyer passes the necessary background check and pays the federal tax. About a quarter-million fully automatic weapons are registered in the United States. Half are owned by private individuals, and the other half by various law enforcement and other government agencies. Law enforcement officials have noted that automatic weapons hold special appeal for criminals, especially those involved in drug trafficking, but crime statistics do not support the idea that such weapons are widely used by criminals, probably owing to the government’s early and strict regulation of such weapons.
See also: Assault Weapons; Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986; Gun Control; National Firearms Act of 1934; Tommy Gun
Robert J. Spitzer
Kennett, Lee, and James LaVerne Anderson. The Gun in America. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1975.
Leff, Carol Skalnik, and Mark H. Leff. “The Politics of Ineffectiveness: Federal Firearms Legislation, 1919–38.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 455 (1981): 48–62.
Yenne, Bill. Tommy Gun: How General Thompson’s Submachine Gun Wrote History. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2009.
Ballistic Identification System
In 1999, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) established the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) to administer and provide Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS) equipment to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. This equipment acquires digital images of markings on spent ammunition taken from crime scenes or from test-fired crime guns. The IBIS equipment then automatically compares the markings to a database of digital images taken from earlier crime scenes or guns. If the equipment scores a match or “hit,” the firearms examiner compares the two to confirm. This system allows NIBIN partners to discover links between crimes much more quickly, in a matter of hours, and in some cases making connections that would have been undiscovered without the technology (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives 2011). The ATF’s annual appropriations by Congress prohibit the agency from collecting information related to the capture or storage of ballistic information relating to the manufacture, importation, or sale of guns. Therefore, the equipment is limited to collecting ballistic information related to criminal investigations. However, the technology has allowed 156 NIBIN partner agencies to record over 1.6 million acquisitions, resulting in over 34,000 hits, linking two or more crime scene investigations to the same weapon. Importantly, the system does not match the bullets or casings fired from the same weapon, which is the duty of the firearms examiner. However, the system does provide a list of probabilities for a match according to a numerical scoring A computer monitor displays the markings of a cartridge case using the Integrated Ballistics Identification System.(AP Photo/Gail Burton) system, which greatly speeds up the process for matching and aids the examiner by eliminating unlikely candidates (Ballistic Information Network 2011).
See also: Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners (AFTE); Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
Robert H. Wood
Ballistic Information Network. Program Overview. 2011. http://www.nibin.gov/ (accessed June 26, 2011).
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. ATF Fact Sheet—National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). March 2011. http://www.atf.gov/publications/factsheets/factsheet-nibin.html (accessed June 26, 2011).
Obama, Barack (1961– )
When Democrat Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, gun control advocates believed they had a strong ally in the White House, despite the lukewarm positions on the issue that he had taken during his campaign. Obama had been a supporter of limiting access to guns as a member of the Illinois State Senate and the U.S. Senate, and both gun rights and gun control groups presumed that he would work to reverse the pro-NRA (National Rifle Association) actions of his predecessor, George W. Bush. However, Obama’s term in office has thus far been largely marked by silence regarding gun control. Obama was born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. After working as a community organizer in Chicago and receiving his degree from Harvard Law School, he worked as a civil rights attorney and held a position at the University of Chicago Law School teaching constitutional law. In 1996, Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate, and then reelected in 1998 and 2002. In 2004, Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate. Serving less than one term in the Senate, he defeated Republican Senator John McCain in 2008 to become the first African American president in U.S. history. As a state and U.S. senator, Obama’s positions placed him squarely in the gun control camp. In 2001, he told a Chicago newspaper: “I know that the NRA believes people should be unimpeded and unregulated on gun ownership. I disagree” (FactCheck.org 2001). During his time in the state legislature, Obama supported further state restrictions regarding the possession and purchase of guns, banning the sale of semiautomatic weapons, and compelling manufacturers to include childproof locks. As a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2004, he voiced strong disapproval of Bush’s willingness to the let the 10-year-old federal Assault Weapons Ban expire, stating: “I think it is a scandal that this president did not force a renewal of this assault weapons ban” (Alan Keyes Archives 2004). Once elected, Obama voted against a bill to shield gun manufacturers and sellers from lawsuits, which was passed with strong support from newly elected Republican majorities in Congress and signed by Bush in October 2005. In the midst of the financial crisis, guns were not a significant issue in the 2008 presidential campaign, and Obama downplayed it even further. While his campaign website outlined his support for reinstituting the ban on assault weapons, closing the “gun show loophole,” and child-safety locks, Obama did not actively campaign for these reforms. In the Democratic primaries, the topic emerged following his off-message remark that residents in small-town Pennsylvania, amidst the failing economy, “get bitter [and] cling to guns or religion” (Seelye and Zeleny 2008). Yet, Obama neutralized this mistake by gaining the support of the moderate gun rights group, the American Hunters and Shooters Association, and supporting the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), which interpreted the Second Amendment as a protection of an individual’s right to bear arms. Obama’s ambiguity as a candidate frustrated gun control advocates, but politically, his position made strategic sense. Many attributed Democratic candidate Al Gore’s loss of key states, such as Tennessee and West Virginia, in the 2000 presidential election to his strong support of gun control. To help defeat Gore, the NRA spent just over $200,000 on negative advertising. In 2008, the association dedicated more than $10 million to attack Obama, claiming that he would be “the most anti-gun president in American history” (NRA-ILA 2008). Despite these attacks, Obama won many gun-friendly states including Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Yet, the rhetoric of the NRA was effective in convincing gun rights advocates that Obama was a “gun snatcher,” and his election was followed by a spike in firearm sales. Despite the NRA’s concerns, Obama’s first years in office brought major disappointments for gun control advocates. In May 2009, the president signed a credit card reform bill that included a provision allowing firearms to be carried in national parks. In December 2009, he signed an appropriations bill that included language reversing the post-9/11 ban on transporting guns in locked luggage on Amtrak trains. The White House also silenced Attorney General Eric Holder after he commented, in February 2009, that the administration supported reinstituting the federal Assault Weapons Ban. As a result of these actions, as well as the president’s silence on gun control proposals, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave Obama a failing report card for his first year in office. In terms of the political calculus involved, however, Obama’s timidity was not surprising. The president did not have the support in Congress—even among members of his own party—to pass gun control legislation. For example, in the wake of Holder’s comments, the NRA organized a letter to the White House from 65 House Democrats warning Obama against pushing for the ban. Following the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ, Eighth District) and 18 others in Tucson, Arizona, in January 2011, Obama continued to largely ignore pressure from gun control advocates. He was noticeably silent on the issue, avoiding it in his State of the Union address and failing to deliver a promised speech on the topic. In an op-ed published by the Arizona Daily Star in April, Obama offered only vague goals, including better enforcement of gun laws and improving the background check system. Most frustrating to gun control advocates was Obama’s use of this op-ed to highlight his support for an individual’s right to bear arms. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) declared that the administration had “not shown the leadership to combat gun violence” (Lautenberg 2011), and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence defined the president’s inaction as “cowardice” (Coalition to Stop Gun Violence 2011). While disappointing gun control advocates, Obama has continued to be attacked by the gun rights lobby as well. In March 2011, the president invited both gun control and gun rights groups to discuss ways of moving forward on the issue. His request was publicly rebuked by the famed executive of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, who replied: “Why should I or the N.R.A. go sit down with a group of people that have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment in the United States” (Calmes 2011).
See also: Assault Weapons Ban of 1994; Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV); District of Columbia v. Heller; LaPierre, Wayne R., Jr.; Lautenberg, Frank R.; National Rifle Association (NRA); Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005; Tucson, Arizona, Massacre
Richard Holtzman Citations:
Alan Keyes Archives. “U.S. Senate Debate Sponsored by the League of Women Voters in Illinois, Alan Keyes and Barack Obama.” October 21, 2004. http://www.keyesarchives.com/transcript.php?id=370 (accessed July 18, 2011).
Calmes, Jackie. “Administration Invites N.R.A. to Meeting on Gun Policies, But It Declines.” New York Times, March 15, 2011, A24. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/us/politics/15guns.html (accessed July 18, 2011).
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “The Latest (Cowardice) from the White House.” February 9, 2011. https://app.e2ma.net/app/view:CampaignPublic/id:1404253.6957417978/rid:4739f85e938a168c0be46885970b2c76 (accessed July 18, 2011).
FactCheck.org. “NRA Targets Obama.” September 22, 2008. http://factcheck.org/2008/09/nra-targets-obama/ (accessed July 18, 2011).
Johnson, Kirk. “Buying Guns for Fear of Losing the Right to Bear Them.” New York Times, November 7, 2008, A20. http://www.chrismartenson.com/forum/buying-guns-fear-losing-right-bear-them/8423 (accessed July 18, 2011).
Lautenberg, Frank R. “Lautenberg to President Obama: White House Must Show More Leadership on Guns.” Office of Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, June 15, 2011. http://lautenberg.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=333186 (accessed July 18, 2011).
Moscoso, Eunice. “NRA Campaign against Obama Carries $10 Million Price Tag.” Palm Beach Post, October 21, 2008. http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/content/shared/news/stories/2008/10/NRA_ELECTION19_PBP.html (accessed July 18, 2011).
National Rifle Association, Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA). “On the Second Amendment, Don’t Believe Obama!” 2008. http://www.nraila.org/barackobama/barackobama4.htm (accessed July 18, 2011).
Obama, Barack. “We Must Seek Agreement on Gun Reforms.” Arizona Daily Star, March 13, 2011. http://azstarnet.com/article_011e7118-8951-5206-a878-39bfbc9dc89d.html (accessed July 18, 2011).
Seelye, Katharine Q., and Jeff Zeleny. “On the Defensive, Obama Calls His Words Ill-Chosen.” New York Times, April 13, 2008, A01. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/13/us/politics/13campaign.html (accessed July 18, 2011).
Wright, James D. (1947– )
Author of three major books on the sociology of firearms, James D. Wright has played a significant role in bringing serious techniques of social science to bear on the firearm controversy.
During the Ford administration, Attorney General Edward Levi called for banning handguns in cities that had crime rates above a certain level. Gun-rights activist Neal Knox responded by filing a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Justice, asking what research the department had that supported handgun bans. The department had none. At about the same time, Philip Cook and Mark Moore submitted research-grant proposals to the Justice Department suggesting that the main reason why more stringent gun control laws had not been enacted was that advocates had failed to make a serious scholarly case for them.
Like the Ford administration, the Carter administration supported gun control. Accordingly, President Jimmy Carter’s Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) offered research grants for teams of scholars to study the firearm issue. (The LEAA was later abolished and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) took over as administrator of most federal criminal justice research grants. ) The grants yielded several reports: “Weapons Policies: A Survey of Police Department Practices Concerning Weapons and Related Issues,” by Eleanor Weber-Burdin, Peter Rossi, James D. Wright, and Kathleen Daly; “Effects of Weapons Use on Felony Case Disposition: An Analysis of Evidence from the Los Angeles PROMIS System,” by Rossi, Weber-Burdin, and Huey-tsyh Chen; an “Annotated Bibliography,” by Wright, Chen, Joseph Pereira, Daly, and Rossi; and an “Executive Summary,” by Wright and Rossi. But the report that reshaped the American firearm debate was “Weapons, Crime, and Violence in America: A Literature Review and Research Agenda,” which was eventually revised and published as the book Under the Gun: Weapons, Crime, and Violence in America, by Wright, Rossi, and Daly. Until the publication of Gary Kleck’s Point Blank in 1991, Under the Gun was the most complete source of social science research about firearm policy.
Who were the Wright and Rossi who were to become such familiar names for people who cared about gun policy? James D. Wright was a professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts. He had previously coauthored an antigun paper titled “The Ownership of the Means of Destruction: Weapons in the United States,” analyzing National Opinion Research Center data about gun ownership (Wright and Marston, 1975). He had also written a major newspaper opinion piece in favor of strict gun control. Wright was already well established as an important sociology scholar and was serving as director of the Social and Demographic Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts. Wright’s colleague, Peter Rossi, would later become president of the American Sociology Association.
When Wright, Rossi, and Daly produced their report for the NIJ in 1982, they delivered a document quite different from the one they had expected to write. Carefully reviewing all existing research to date, the three scholars found no persuasive evidence that America’s gun control laws had reduced criminal violence. For example, the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, which banned most interstate gun sales, had no discernible impact on the criminal acquisition of guns from other states. Washington, D. C. ’s 1977 ban on acquiring new handguns was not linked to any reduction in gun crime in the District of Columbia. Even Detroit’s law providing mandatory sentences for felonies committed with a gun was found to have no effect on gun-crime patterns, in part because judges would often reduce the sentence for the underlying offense
James D. Wright. (Photo by Charlie Brody)
in order to balance out the mandatory two-year extra sentence for use of a gun.
The authors discussed the data showing that gun owners—rather than being a violent, aberrant group of nuts—were at least as psychologically stable and morally sound as the rest of the population. Polls claiming to show that a large majority of the population favored “more gun
control” were critiqued as the product of biased questions and of the fact that most people had no idea how strict gun laws already were. As Wright, Rossi, and Daly frankly admitted, they had started out their research as gun control advocates and had been forced to change their minds by their review of the evidence.
In 1981, the NIJ awarded Wright and Rossi (this time, without Daly) a new grant to investigate the gun habits of America’s felons. Studying felony prisoners in eleven prisons in ten state correctional systems in 1981, Wright and Rossi found that gun control laws had no discernable effect on criminals obtaining guns. Only 12 percent of criminals, and only 7 percent of “handgun predators,” had acquired their last crime handgun at a gun store. Of those, about a quarter had stolen the gun from a store; a large number of the rest, Wright and Rossi suggested, had probably procured the gun through a legal surrogate buyer, such as a girlfriend with a clean record.
Fifty-six percent of the prisoners said that a criminal would not attack a potential victim who was known to be armed. Seventy-four percent agreed with the statement that “one reason burglars avoid houses where people are at home is that they fear being shot during the crime. ” Thirty-nine percent of the felons had personally decided not to commit a crime because they thought the victim might have a gun and 8 percent said the experience had occurred “many times. ” Criminals in states with higher civilian gun-ownership rates worried the most about armed victims.
Notwithstanding popular assertions that criminals preferred small, inexpensive handguns (so-
called Saturday night specials), the felony prisoners preferred larger, more powerful handguns—equal to the guns that they expected the police would have. Although the criminals rarely bought guns in gun stores, the overwhelming majority stated that obtaining a gun after their release from prison would be a simple project, which might take a few hours to a few weeks.
The report for the NIJ was eventually published as the book Armed and Considered Dangerous: A Survey of Felons and Their Firearms. Both Under the Gun and Armed and Considered Dangerous became a major element of the gun control debate. Scholars who were skeptical of gun control, such as Don B. Kates, worked hard to disseminate this research. Eventually, the Wright/Rossi/Daly material trickled down to many gun-rights activists as they either bought the books themselves or read about them in articles by Kates and others. The Wright/Rossi/Daly research became a frequent subject of letters to the editor from gun-rights advocates.
Wright moved to Tulane University, where he became the Charles and Leo Favrot Professor of Human Relations in the Department of Sociology. He continued to serve as editor of a series of books and monographs on “Social Institutions and Social Change,” published by Aldine de Gruyter. Wright also kept up a prolific pace in writing his own articles and books. Among his books, for which he always works with a coauthor, are Drugs as a Social Problem; Beside the Golden Door: Policy, Politics, and the Homeless; Address Unknown: The Homeless in America; The Dissent of the Governed: Alienation and Democracy in America; The State of the Masses; and Social Science and Natural Hazards. His overall approach is aptly expressed by the title of his book The Greatest of Evils: Urban Poverty and the American Underclass, which sees the hopelessness of the urban underclass as the central problem in American society, the root of diverse social maladies.
Along with Tulane University’s Joseph Sheley, Wright returned to the gun issue with a series of articles that culminated with the 1995 publication of the book In the Line of Fire: Youths, Guns, and Violence in Urban America. The book remains the most comprehensive study of the firearm attitudes and practices of at-risk youths in the United States—based on surveys of 835 juvenile male inmates at 6 correctional facilities, and 758 male students at 10 inner-city high schools.
Sheley and Wright found that so-called assault weapons were, despite popular imagery, not greatly important to juvenile gun crime. The more an individual engaged in delinquent behavior (e.g., selling drugs, participating in organized gangs), the greater the risk of gun injury. Of the inmates, 70 percent had been “scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured” by an armed victim at least once. But Wright and Sheley’s broader point was that guns, drugs, and gangs were all merely symptoms. A Wright and Sheley article in Peace Review expressed their ultimate point more boldly than their book did:
Until we rectify the conditions that breed hostility, estrangement, futility and hopelessness, whatever else we do will come to little or nothing. … Widespread joblessness and few opportunities for upward mobility are the heart of the problem. Stricter gun control laws, more aggressive enforcement of existing laws, a crack-down on drug traffic, police task forces aimed at juvenile gangs . . . and other similar measures are inconsequential compared to the true need: the economic, social, and moral resurrection of the inner city. Just how this might be accomplished and at what cost can be debated; the urgent need to do so cannot (Wright and Sheley, 1992, p. 34).
Cook, Philip J.; Gun Control Act of 1968; Kates, Don B., Jr.; Knox, Neal
David B. Kopel
For Further Reading:
Sheley, Joseph F., and James D. Wright. 1995. In the Line of Fire: Youth, Guns, and Violence in Urban America. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.
Wright, James D. 1995. “Ten Essential Observations on Guns in America.” Society (March-April) 32: 62–67.
Wright, James D., and Joseph Sheley. 1992. “Teenage Violence and the Underclass. ” Peace Review (Fall) 4, 3: 32–35.
Wright, James D., and Linda Marston. 1975. “The Ownership of the Means of Destruction: Weapons in the United States.” Social Problems 23: 93–107.
Wright, James D., and Peter H. Rossi. 1994. Armed and Considered Dangerous: A Survey of Felons and Their Firearms. Enl. ed. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.
Wright, James D., Peter H. Rossi, and Kathleen Daly. 1983. Under the Gun: Weapons, Crime, and Violence in America. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.
Robertson v. Baldwin (1897)
The significance of the case of Robertson v. Baldwin (165 U.S. 275 (1897)) for the issue of gun control law lies exclusively in a paragraph-long interpretation of the Bill of Rights inserted by the U.S. Supreme Court in an opinion concerned with the right of Robert Robertson and three other seamen to have a criminal conviction overturned. Robertson and the others had left the ship on which they had contracted to serve. When returned by the authorities to the sailors’ ship, the Arago, they refused to perform their assigned tasks. The seamen argued, among other things, that the law obligating them to fulfill their shipboard commitments was unconstitutional because it violated the Thirteenth Amendment protection against involuntary servitude. The opinion by the Supreme Court decreed otherwise. The judges believed that each amendment in the Bill of Rights admitted exceptions, and that this was well understood by the framers of the Constitution. The decision also traced maritime rules through history, going back to sites such as pre-Christian Rhodes and the Hanseatic League, and concluded that the historical record demonstrated that seamen traditionally worked under an exceptional form of contract, and that similar kinds of exceptions were implicit in the Second Amendment as well. The opinion in Robertson is significant as an entry in the gun control debate because it represents an early enunciation by the U.S. Supreme Court of the principle that neither the Second Amendment nor other amendments to the Constitution are to be read as categorical and immutable declarations of particular rights. Expressing the majority opinion of the court, Justice Henry Brown pointed out that the First Amendment guarantee of free speech did not extend to permitting the publication of libelous, blasphemous, or indecent material. Nor did the constitutional requirement that an accused person in a criminal trial be confronted by the witnesses against him rule out the admission of dying declarations or the use of prior testimony of persons who had since died. Justice Brown’s words on this general subject were these:
The law is perfectly well settled that the first ten amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights, were not intended to lay down any novel principles of government, but simply to embody certain guarantees and immunities which we had inherited from our English ancestors, and which had from time immemorial been subject to certain well-recognized exceptions arising from the necessities of the case. In incorporating these principles into the fundamental law there was no intention of disregarding the exceptions, which continued to be recognized as if they had been expressed (1897, 281).
Among examples of such well-recognized exceptions, Justice Brown spotlighted his belief that the guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms was “not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons” (1897, 281–82).
See also: Gun Control
Robertson v. Baldwin. 165 U.S. 275 (1897). http://laws.findlaw.com/us/165/275.html (accessed January 18, 2011).
Acoustic Gunshot Detection Technologies
Acoustic gun detection systems utilize sound detecting technology to identify, classify, and report gunshots to the police within seconds of firing. According to ShotSpotter, a leading detection, location, and forensic analysis company, these systems are comprised of acoustic sensors to identify gunshots, transmitters to relay the information to police, and computers for receiving and displaying the message.
Acoustic sensors are the size of a thick stick of gum. These devices are enclosed in a watertight box, which is similar in size to a cup and is usually fixed on top of telephone poles or a roof. As per the manufacturer, these detectors are sensitive to an extent that they can distinguish between gunfire and the backfiring of a car. A field trial conducted indicated that the system is capable of accurately sensing 84% of gunshots with a maximum error of 41 feet in pinpointing the exact location of the shooter (Mazzerole et al. 2000). Sensors typically are installed strategically in public areas that are known to have higher rates of crime. However, for the detection to be effective, at least three sensors should concurrently detect acoustic sound waves originating from gunshots so that the exact location can be triangulated. Similarly, to improve the efficiency of these systems, sensors should be functional, possess minimal false alarm rates, maintain robustness to contextual noises, and have minimal processing time (Ahmed, Uppal, and Muhammad 2013).
Many nations across the world, including the United States, England, South Korea, and Australia, have embraced this technology to help law enforcement in their daily crime detection practices. The use of acoustic gun detection systems for urban areas was initiated by the United States’ Department of Defense in the 1990s. Its aim was to combat the widespread cases of shootings in cities that made up 69.5% of murders in 1993. However, despite its use by law enforcement, acoustic gunshot detection technologies remained unknown to the public until the late 1990s when the FBI utilized it to locate the Beltway Snipers in the metropolitan Washington, DC area.
The use of acoustic gunshot detection systems comes with advantages compared to alternative methods, such as dialing 911 to report a crime to the police. Since the acoustic detection system notification is faster than the time it would take for a person to call 9-1-1 and report the necessary information, police response is expedited, thereby reducing the likelihood of additional crime incidents. This goes hand in hand with the assumptions of situational crime prevention, such that if criminals perceive the likelihood of getting caught to be high, their motivation to commit a crime is reduced, thereby minimizing offending rates.
Today, the leading manufacturers of these systems include Trilon Technology, which develops ShotSpotter; Alliant Tech Systems that manufactures Secures; and Safety Dynamics, which makes Sentri. Of these technologies, ShotSpotter remains the leading brand and is utilized worldwide. One major aspect that prevents this technology from being used across every municipality or neighborhood is cost. Moreover, ongoing maintenance costs, including software updates and replacement sensors, must be considered. Another drawback of this system is that this technology cannot ensure 100% accuracy when detecting gunshots and pinpointing their locations (Collins, Librett, and Choi 2014). Therefore, law enforcers cannot exclusively rely on
data from these systems to lead their response. Gunshot detections can serve their purpose well if they are supplemented with citizen reports. Acoustic gunshot detection systems notify the police that there is a possibility that a criminal activity is taking place. From there, police can conduct further investigations regarding the source and cause of the gunshots.
Even though acoustic gunshot detection systems have shortcomings of inaccuracy and cost, there are ways in which their value can be further improved. To improve the reliability of the detection, the acoustic gunshot system should be complemented with Closed Circuit Television (CCTV). In pairing the two technologies, the cameras can automatically pick up the videos from the suspected scene of crime once the gunshot was detected acoustically. By implementing this, the CCTV serves as the “eye” while the acoustic sensors are the “ears.” This will allow for the potential for a swifter response from the police officers. If the sensors detect a gunshot but the CCTV cameras show that the sound was actually attributable to a car backfiring, the event is closed immediately instead of sending police officers to the scene.
Collins, Librett, and Choi (2014) propose that acoustic gunshot detection systems ought to do away with the role of a dispatcher. Their study concluded that police cars should be fitted with ShotSpotter dispatch screens that alert of gunshots which were previously located in the department’s main dispatch center. In doing so, response time can be reduced as officers will respond quicker to the signals instead of waiting for dispatch hint from the department. Lastly, to adequately curb crime, especially those involving gunfire, acoustic gunshot detection systems should be mobile such that they can be moved from one place to another when need arises rather than only fixing them in particular localities.
Acoustic gunshot technology cannot detect gunshots fired indoors or those fitted with silencers. In order for the system to sense gunfire, the shots must occur in the streets or an open place. This contradicts the findings of the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2009) that established that 22% of violent attacks occurred indoors, whereas 20% happened on ones’ way to or from work. This points out to the fact that more crimes involving guns take place on the streets as compared to rural areas and outskirts of cities. Hence, it is evident that this system guarantees detection of a significant number of all gunfire shot. Through advanced research, indoor systems are being developed to overcome these limitations. South Carolina’s Charleston International Airport, for example, is piloting indoor gunshot detection systems in their passenger terminals.
Acoustic gunshot detection systems have been found to have an impact on police workloads. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) utilized Secures to assess the effect of these systems on police workloads. Of the 182 shots fired, police were dispatched to 151 scenes detected by the technology and 39 other scenes reported by citizens through 911. The two dispatches accounted for a 287% rise in the number of law enforcement officers responding to suspected crime scenes. This indicates that there is a significant increase in police workloads because acoustic sensors may generate non-existent gunfire alerts, which demands police officers to respond. The Police Chief Magazine in St. Louis noted the shift in the number of reported ‘shootings’ after the expansion of acoustic gunshot detection systems in 2013. The study found that there was a 25% reduction in emergency calls from citizens within affected neighborhoods. . When the system was discontinued in 2016 due to budgetary constraints, the number of calls from citizens increased to a volume consistent with before its introduction. The efficacy of the system as it
relates to crime reduction remains in question. As this study found, out of more than 19,000 police responses to acoustic gunshot detections, only thirteen arrests could be traced to calls made in conjunction to the detection.
Acoustic gunshot detection systems have been found to reduce residents’ willingness to contact the police when they hear gunshots. According to Blackburn and Mares (2013), this may be caused by people assuming that someone else already called the police and therefore are reluctant to do so. Additionally, since residents are aware of the existence of acoustic sensors in their neighborhoods, they may assume that police officers do not need the public’s contribution to locating the origin of the detected gunshots.
The success of acoustic gunshot detection systems can largely be linked to its availability in the police technology market. The advent of acoustic gunshot detection systems was timely in a period marked by the rising crimes in most states nationwide. The Police Chief Magazine established that it is easier to superficially state that the acoustic gunshot detection technology has led to a decline in gun crimes. However, once deeply looked into, the findings disappear. Similarly, several highly broadcasted cases where this technology has resulted in high-profile arrests or halting of an active shooting are surely startling and can move police administrators and politicians into buying the idea. However, these are not usual happenings. Moreover, most of the manufacturers have a tight grip on the systems’ data making it impossible for administrators to evaluate the efficiency of these technologies. Lastly, Blackburn and Mares (2013) blame AGDS manufacturing companies for publishing flawed information on their websites such as that before the arrival of this technology, people reported only an “average of 20% of gunshot instances” via 911. Unfortunately, this claims that without these systems, the police work under an 80% deficit.
The study on acoustic gunshot detectors recommends that a good plan should be put in place to assess the enactment of new technology such as the acoustic gunshot detection system. More importantly, police departments should work together with autonomous analysts and researchers in the same field before embracing any kind of technology. In most cases, retailers are more likely to champion wide coverage in every crime situation and in the end claim that grants bear a greater percentage of the cost. Additionally, Acoustic gunshot detection systems should come up with databases that will make it possible for particular properties to be measured and analyzed to guarantee that the leadership makes well-informed decisions.
Lastly, in studies, such as those conducted by the National Institute of Justice, a dramatic reduction in police time response with a couple of studies noting the existence of a thin margin difference between working under this technology and relying on 911 callers. Similarly, gunshots detected by acoustic systems are seldom reclassified as acts of crime. This can be interpreted to mean that a very negligible amount of gunshots detected by this system are criminal. Most importantly, existing proactive and reactive attempts to fight crime within marginalized neighborhoods that are characterized by poverty and marginalization should be considered to root for basic socio-political that result in violent crimes in the first place.
Добавлено примечание ([JS1]): This needs to be addressed please. You do not have a study listed for NIJ. You also cannot cite Police Chief Magazine citing another study – you should be pulling the original source and citing that. Instead of saying “the study”, it needs to be clear what study you are referencing.
Добавлено примечание ([JS2]): This is not in your references list. Please add.
Добавлено примечание ([JS3]): The magazine did not establish anything. Blackburn and Mares may have in their article and if that is who you got this information from, they should be cited please.
Добавлено примечание ([JS4]): What study?
Добавлено примечание ([JS5]): Again, what studies? NIJ does not conduct their own studies typically – they fund other people’s research.
Ahmed, Talal, Momin Uppal, and Abubakr Muhammad. “Improving efficiency and reliability of gunshot detection systems.” 2013 IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing. IEEE, 2013.
Choi, Kyung-Shick, Mitch Librett, and Taylor J. Collins. “An empirical evaluation: gunshot detection system and its effectiveness on police practices.” Police Practice and Research 15.1 (2014): 48-61.
Mares, Dennis, and Emily Blackburn, “Evaluating the Effectiveness of an Acoustic Gunshot Location System in St. Louis, MO,” Policing 6, no. 1 (2012): 26–42.
Gun Safety Technology. National Institute of Justice. Retrieved 30, 2019, from https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/gun-safety-technology
Gun Violence Archive (2019) Retrieved October 1, 2019, from https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/mass-shooting
Mazerolle, Lorraine Green, et al. “Using gunshot detection systems in police departments: The impact on police response times and officer workloads.” Police Quarterly 1.2 (1998): 21- 49. Retrieved from Sage.
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