[Guest Post] Supply-side murder control?
This is the first in a series of guest posts from Peter Wagner of the Prison Policy Initiative. These will be short posts on a range of criminal justice topics (not just prison legal issues) that I hope will spark discussion. All opinions are his, etc.
by Peter Wagner
The National Rifle Association is concerned that we aren’t using enough guns. An article in today’s New York Times explains that the National Rifle Association is pushing back against efforts to control gun ownership and use by advancing “Stand Your Ground” laws that actually encourage people to use their weapons. The laws expand the self-defense doctrine to make it easier for someone to shoot another person and claim “self-defense”. These laws are in the news due to the Trayvon Martin case, where an unarmed 17-year-old African-American was shot and killed by a Neighborhood Watch leader in Florida. Last night, after 6 weeks, the prosecutor finally announced that murder charges are being filed.
The NRA bumpersticker declares that guns aren’t the problem: “Guns don’t kill people, People kill people”. But it’s hard to deny that guns are facilitating the result. Internationally, the evidence is clear that nations with higher gun availability have higher gun homicide rates. (See page 43 of this UN report for a fascinating, if overly academic, chart showing the clear correlation.)
Within the U.S., the historical trend is quite clear. Check out this graph that matches the number of handgun homicides each year with the number of handguns produced:
The gun lobby would rather not talk about the correlation between the production of handguns and dying. The evidence there is clear. So the question, then, is whether the gun lobby is trying to distract from the problems that guns cause, or are they trying to create them?
The author is Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative. This article is one in a series of short articles exploring under-discussed facts about the criminal justice system.