Gun Control Laws Essay Sample

Gun Control Laws Pages
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Abstract

Washington DC has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the United States. This is despite having the most stringent gun control laws in the country. The District has experienced an upsurge in crime rates, mainly due to the countrywide crack pandemic of the 1980s and 90s. This is despite the city hosting numerous law enforcement agencies like DEA and FBI. In 1991, Washington’s number of homicides reached 479, hence earning the name ‘US murder capital. There has been an enactment of numerous strict gun-control and restriction laws in Washington DC. The famous Firearms Control Regulations Act (1975) barred hand gun ownership among residents except for those registered before February 1977.

This paper has shown that strict gun-restriction laws do very little in preventing criminals from accessing guns. Such laws only restrict the law-abiding citizens who, in any case, would use their guns only for legal purposes, not crime. When people are given the right of self-defense, the criminals will look around for other victims for fear of turning out to be the victims themselves. Firearms are therefore the best way to fight crime. This is because range is not very important when using a firearm and a criminal can be shot from far or close. Moreover, the criminals can be stopped immediately, since with a gun, harm can be inflicted on them before they cause harm on their victims. The victim therefore has an upper hand; hence the criminal has to reevaluate his or her career choice. A successful self defense against criminals is likely to have a ripple effect in the society. Criminals will get to know that crime is not as profitable and easy as it was once the case, hence giving up the profession.

Introduction

Washington DC has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the United States. This is despite having the most stringent gun control laws in the country. One is therefore tempted to ask the question, ‘does gun control eliminate violent crime?’

Washington DC’s violent crime is attributable to the city’s changing geography, demographics as well as its distinctive criminal justice system. In 1950, the District’s population stood at about 800,000. However, a few years later, the city had lost close to a quarter of its residents by the year 1980.

In turn, decaying neighborhoods and economic recession greatly contributed to an increase in the rate of Crime in Washington DC. The city’s loss of population to its suburbs led to the creation of a completely new demographic pattern. As a result of the pattern, the rich neighborhoods on the western side of Rock Creek Park were divided from the more blighted and crime-ridden areas on the eastern side.

Washington DC has experienced an upsurge in crime rates, mainly due to the countrywide crack pandemic of the 1980s and 90s. This is despite the city hosting numerous law enforcement agencies like the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI[1]. In 1991, Washington’s number of homicides reached 479[2]. Consequently, the city was commonly referred as the ‘US murder capital[3].

Washington’s crime started falling in the 1990s when the crack epidemic ushered in economic revitalization projects. Gentrification efforts also began transforming the distressed neighborhoods’ demographics. This led to a tremendous increase in the city’s population in more than twenty years.

Violent crime has remained a major in Washington DC, particularly its eastern neighborhoods where little or no economic revitalization has occurred. 

Gun Control Laws in Washington DC

There has been an enactment of numerous strict gun-control and restriction laws in Washington DC. The famous Firearms Control Regulations Act (1975) barred hand gun ownership among residents except for those registered before February 1977. However, this law was later overturned by the US Court of Appeals in March 2007 and later upheld by the US Supreme Court. Both courts maintained that the ban on handguns was a violation of people’s right to own guns as stipulated in the Second Amendment.[4]

However, the ruling by the two courts did not prohibit all gun control forms. Washington DC has numerous laws that require registration of firearms. Moreover, the District placed a ban on the ownership of assault weapons. In addition, Washington DC city laws prohibit the carrying of guns, be it openly or concealed.

A number of critics have questioned the efficiency and effectiveness of Washington DC’s restrictions, citing numerous statistics. Criticisms have arisen due to the District’s high rate of gun violence yet it has very strict laws to control and restrict guns. However, a big portion of guns used in violent crime either come from neighboring states or from the second hand market[5]. The high number of imported guns taking part in violent crime is as a result of the District’s strict firearm laws[6].

Literature Review

According to FBI statistics, 1,414 violent crimes have been reported in every 100,000 people in Washington DC in the year 2007. Property crimes were 4,913 in the same population over the same period. Generally, there has been a decrease in the rates of crime in Washington DC since 1995; 47 per cent and 48 per cent decrease in violent and property crime respectively. However, violent crime in Washington DC is still over 300 per cent higher than the US national average, which stands at 467 reported incidents for every 100,000 people in the year 2007[7].

Washington DC was referred to as the murder capital in the 1990s, having experienced 474 homicides in the year 1990 alone. The increased rates of crime were mainly as a result of the crack pandemic that occurred from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. This crack was introduced into Washington DC by Colombian cartels that sold it in drug market by the name ‘The Strip.’ This was the biggest market in Washington, located just a few buildings north of the US Capital[8].

Twenty-five per cent of juveniles who had criminal charges against them in 1988 were confirmed to be drug users[9]. The number of homicide incidences in the city reached its peak in 1991, although it took a downward trend in the subsequent years. Only 242 homicide crimes were reported in the year 2000 and 181 in the year 2007.

There has been an upsurge in violent crime rates on the eastern parts of the Washington DC, mainly as a result of gentrification in the city’s neighborhoods. For instance, Prince George County in Maryland has seen an acute increase in crime rates. This is because poor residents have been forced into nearby suburbs from the city as a result of high property values[10].

However, the high number of new rich residents moving into the city has caused an increase in property crimes and robberies, particularly in gentrifying areas such as Shaw, Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, Mount Pleasant, Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights. Washington DC saw an average of eleven robberies daily in the year 2006[11], a very small figure compared to the 1990s.

Data and methodology

Gun control laws do not eliminate incidents of violent crime in the society. To further verify this hypothesis, various forms of literature were used. These included journals, books, and research findings. Moreover, official websites of government agencies as well as other related agencies were used.

From these sources, the following data was gathered.

Table 1: Washington DC’s crime rates for the year 2007

Type of crime Rate per 100,000 people
Aggravated assault 626.6
Robbery 724.3
Forcible rape 32.6
Homicide 30.8
Total violent crime 1414.3
   
Motor vehicle theft 1291.9
Larceny theft 2954.7
Burglary 667.4
Total property crime 4913.9

Source: FBI (2007), UCR Data

Chart 1: Washington DC’s Crime Trends-1995 to 2007

FBI (2008) Uniform Crime Reports 

Findings

This data shows a significant drop in crime rates, particularly between 1995 and 1999. This can be attributed to Washington DC’s economic revitalization projects. Moreover, gentrification efforts began transforming the distressed neighborhoods’ demographics, hence greatly reducing rates of crime.

From the data, it can be noted that the rates of crime have had little change from 1999 to 2007. This is in spite of the city’s enactment of strict gun-restriction laws.

Implications and conclusion

This paper has shown that strict gun-restriction laws do very little in preventing criminals from accessing guns. Such laws only restrict the law-abiding citizens who, in any case, would use their guns only for legal purposes, not crime. When people are given the right of self-defense, they look around for other victims for fear of tuning out to be the victims themselves.

Crime must be reduced in Washington DC and the United States in general. However, there is need to develop and adopt only effective plans. Gun-restriction has proved to be ineffective and should therefore be revised or abandoned altogether in favor of more effective and efficient approaches.

It is now very obvious that gun-restriction laws are not only ineffective, but also unrealistic in fighting crime. Efforts should now be directed towards the control of crime as opposed to the control legal ownership of guns.

The high rate of crime in Washington DC can best be solved by the concerned authorities setting up mechanisms to deter these criminals. This can be done by increasing the criminals’ cost of going on with their business to a point where they choose other occupations. This will lead to fewer criminals, hence less crime and everybody benefits. Criminals should therefore be priced out of business so as to tackle the real issue, which is crime, as opposed to weaponry.

There are two main ways of doing this. One involves increasing penalties for those who get caught. While this can be a comparatively expensive prospect to any criminal, it cannot occur unless the government actually catches the criminal. Very few criminals entertain the belief of being caught; otherwise they would give up crime. So the idea of being caught does not normally feature in their thoughts. Therefore, the concept of affecting change among people who do not believe in being caught does not have a real value.

The second way involves increasing occupational risk factors for these criminals way beyond what they can accept. This entails increasing the risk of the criminals being killed or injured. The idea of engaging in crime will not be very appealing to the criminals once they acknowledge this risk. By increasing the risk of the criminals being resisted, killed or injured, very few people will be attracted to the field of crime. With fewer criminals in the field, there will be fewer crimes, hence crime will go down. This will also decrease public outcry since they will have less worry as far as crime is concerned.

When criminals develop a fear of being resisted by those they are about accost, they are likely to either take great care or choose some other target. If they perceive that all targets have an equal likelihood of opposing, resisting or even damaging them (the criminals), then there are high chances of them abandoning that style of livelihood and adopting another.

The most effective way to do this is by allowing people to own guns in order to arm themselves, hence defend themselves[12].

Firearms are the best way to fight crime. This is because range is not very important when using a firearm and a criminal can be shot from far or close. Moreover, the criminals can be stopped immediately, since with a gun, harm can be inflicted on them before they cause harm on their victims. The victim therefore has an upper hand; hence the criminal has to reevaluate his or her career choice.

A successful self defense against criminals is likely to have a ripple effect in the society. Criminals will get to know that crime is not as profitable and easy as it was once the case. Many of these criminals will give up this profession; hence people will feel safer and become more independent and take responsibility for their lives.

Bibliography

Barnes, Robert ‘Supreme Court Strikes Down DC Ban on Handguns’ The Washington Post, June 26, 2008

 DC Metropolitan Police Department, District Crime Data at a Glance, retrieved from www.mpdc.dc.gov, on December 07, 2008

FBI, “Violent Crime” Crime in the United States-2007, September 2008

Isikoff, Michael, Making a DC Link to the Colombian Source,  The Washington Post, September 3, 1989

Klein, Allison and Keating, Dan, Liveliest DC Neighborhoods Also Jumping With Robberies, The Washington Post, October 13, 2006

Lott, John , More Guns, Less Crime, The University of Chicago Press, 1998

Shewfelt, Scott, ‘Baltimore, Prince George’s Reign as State’s Murder Capitals’, Southern Maryland, April 24, 2007

Urbina, Ian, Washington Officials Try to Ease Crime Fear, The New York Times, July 13, 2006

US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, ‘Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative 2008’

US Drug Enforcement Agency,  DEA History Book, 1985 – 1990, retrieved from www.usdoj.gov, on December, 07 2008

Vulliamy, Ed,  ‘Drugs- Redemption in Crack City’ The Observer, October 23, 1994

Wintemute, Garen, Guns and Gun Violence, The Crime Drop in America, Cambridge University Press., 2000

[1] US Drug Enforcement Agency,  DEA History Book, 1985 – 1990, retrieved from www.usdoj.gov, on December, 07 2008

[2] DC Metropolitan Police Department, District Crime Data at a Glance, retrieved from www.mpdc.dc.gov, on December 07, 2008

[3] Urbina, Ian, Washington Officials Try to Ease Crime Fear, The New York Times, July 13, 2006

[4] Barnes, Robert ‘Supreme Court Strikes Down DC Ban on Handguns’ The Washington Post, June 26, 2008

[5] Wintemute, Garen, Guns and Gun Violence, The Crime Drop in America, Cambridge University Press., 2000

[6] US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, ‘Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative 2008’

[7] FBI, “Violent Crime” Crime in the United States-2007, September 2008

[8] Isikoff, Michael, Making a DC Link to the Colombian Source,  The Washington Post, September 3, 1989

[9] Vulliamy, Ed,  ‘Drugs- Redemption in Crack City’ The Observer, October 23, 1994

[10] Shewfelt, Scott, ‘Baltimore, Prince George’s Reign as State’s Murder Capitals’, Southern Maryland, April 24, 2007

[11] Klein, Allison and Keating, Dan, Liveliest DC Neighborhoods Also Jumping With Robberies, The Washington Post, October 13, 2006

[12] Lott, John , More Guns, Less Crime, The University of Chicago Press, 1998

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