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Posted at 5:38 PM ET, 11/25/2010

How to keep guns out of criminals' hands

By Daniel Webster, Baltimore

Hats off to The Post for its in-depth examination of how guns get into the hands of criminals, a huge public safety problem that the gun lobby has worked so effectively to hide from the public [" 'Officer down'; How firearms wind up in the hands of police-killers," front page, Nov. 21].

The quotes from licensed retail gun sellers were predictable, claiming that they can't control whether the guns they sell end up in criminals' hands. But there is great variation among gun dealers in the rate at which guns make their way to criminals. Research shows that greater gun dealer oversight is linked with fewer guns diverted to criminals soon after retail sales.

While the stories you present illustrate common paths guns take, the data may be skewed because most guns in these shootings are not recovered. A felon who murders a police officer with a gun from a trafficker is likely to quickly discard the weapon. But when a police officer is shot when responding to an incident of domestic violence, the gun is typically found. This may explain the surprising finding that most guns that kill police were purchased legally by the perpetrator. Perpetrators of domestic violence are less likely to have convictions that disqualify them from gun ownership.

Your reporting points out the many weaknesses in our gun laws and their enforcement. Both could be addressed to reduce gun violence with little or no impact on law-abiding citizens' ability to own guns.

The writer is a professor and co-director of the Center for Gun Policy Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public
Health.

By Daniel Webster, Baltimore  | November 25, 2010; 5:38 PM ET
Categories:  Fairfax County, HotTopic, Prince William County, Va. Politics, Virginia, crime, guns, police  
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Comments

What I found most amazing in an article a few days back was how one of the future cop killers escaped from the efforts of several police officers to arrest him sometime before the murder of the officer.

Society has elected to hire police officers who are not physically capable of the demands of police work. Incidents like this, where the offender basically threw cops around like rag dolls before walkiing off, will happen again and again.

No citizen in his right mind, unless he is in a wheelchair, really believes that the cops who arrive to help them are any more physically capable than the citizen himself is.

Combatives cannot be learned from kickboxing class at Bally's, or the compliance in training oriented defensive tactics of police academies.

Posted by: john_bruckner | November 26, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

What I found most amazing in an article a few days back was how one of the future cop killers escaped from the efforts of several police officers to arrest him sometime before the murder of the officer.

Society has elected to hire police officers who are not physically capable of the demands of police work. Incidents like this, where the offender basically threw cops around like rag dolls before walkiing off, will happen again and again.

No citizen in his right mind, unless he is in a wheelchair, really believes that the cops who arrive to help them are any more physically capable than the citizen himself is.

Combatives cannot be learned from kickboxing class at Bally's, or the compliance in training oriented defensive tactics of police academies.

Posted by: john_bruckner | November 26, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Nothing illustrates the limits of laws on social behavior than the fruitless efforts of the left to control guns with laws and the equally stupid efforts of the right to control drugs with laws.

Prohibitions do not work.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | November 26, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Let's try severe, fixed mandatory additions of hard prison time to the sentence for crimes in which a gun is used and also when a legal prohibition against having a gun is violated.

Severe -- say a fixed 10 years, and that this be at hard labor (8 hrs./day of hard work).

Transparency and accountability are needed:

Post when a gun is used in the report of a crime. Then, when there is an arrest, post whether or not the DA sought the additional hard time for using a gun. and what reductions may have occurred in the other charges. (The goal: substantially increase the prison time when a gun is used.) Finally, when there is a guiilty verdict, post whether the severe gun use sentence substantially increased the time served.

Posted by: jimb | November 26, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

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