The relationship between gun ownership and crime is a highly correlated one in both positive and negative aspects. Argument for the regulation and/or appropriateness of gun ownership lean both ways; part of the populace lend the opinion that ownership of firearm is essential to self defense while the remainder submit that it contributes to high rise in violent crime. This has been an active debate in the field of domestic security as authorities try to find a common ground for differing parties. Since gun ownership laws vary in different aspect across countries, there may be lack of a universal answer. This paper intends to give a summary of statistics on the prevalence and/or characteristics of gun crimes in a bid to understand the extent of gun crimes in US. Some of the interesting issues in gun crime will also be explored.
According to the American society of criminology, firearm related crimes have declined in the 10 years period since 1993 to 2003 although it has been on the rise since then. The scenario is the same in non fatal related crime, whereby, they had plummeted since 1993 but 2005 onwards, an increase has been noted. The number of casualties brought in to emergency department has generally taken an upward trend since 1997. This is according to the bureau of justice statistics. Perhaps majority of the gun crime source their guns from family and friends, i.e. about 80% get guns through illegal channels the remaining 12% and 2% acquire them from pawnshops and flea markets respectively. The models of guns used by offenders are various although most cut across use of handguns and rifles.
The characteristics of inmates who get incarcerated for gun related crimes tend to be people who were on parole at the time of crime, escapees from jail, drug peddlers, mental cases, drug abusers or ex-military individuals. Additionally, those found in illegal possession of firearm 74.6% used a firearm and within this percentage 112% killed the victim 14.2% injured the victim and 23.4% neither kill nor injured victims and 42.9 discharged the weapon intentionally or otherwise.
Further 70.5% of gun crimes use the firearms to scare off people in order to get away or for self defense; those who do not use firearms actively are approximately 25.4% in a total of 14,280 people in possession of military style semi automatic or fully automatic guns. The statistics about use of conventional semi automatic reveal almost the same results. Nonetheless, the most extensively used firearm is the single shot guns which stand at 80% and have higher margins in all categories i.e. those that kill the victim, injure, score or used for self defense or get away purposes. (Worrall, 2006).
Illegal use or possession of a firearm on average attracts stiffer penalties than other offenses. In the US, state inmates in possession of firearms are jailed for minimum of 18 years while the ones without guns receive sentences of 12 years. Yet, those who carry firearms and those without serve jail terms about 10 years and 7 years respectively. On a different note, violent offenders on overage take 20 years behind bars while the ones without firearms take 18 years. (Harlow, 2001).
In the same case, violent offenders carry guns but do not actively uses if jailed for 12 years while those without spend 10 years behind bars. Essentially, possession of a firearm enhances an offender’s sentence.
By and large inmates (federal and state) reveal that they were in possession of a firearm at the time of crime perspective of whether they intend to use it to intentionally cause harm or not. In particular, offenders of homicide, sexual assault robbery or other violent crimes, use guns to facilitate their crimes typically, men have higher tendency to use firearms that women. The statistics for this stand at approximately 15.5% – 19.1% for the male state and federal inmates while for female state and federal inmates the statistics are about 6.2% – 7.3%.
On the basis of age, the offenders are mostly of 24 years and younger, (29% – 19%) while the inmates on the 24-34 age bracket record a 15.5% – 16% chance of possessing a firearm. Interestingly, the majority of gun crimes incarcerated were first tine offenders. (Perkins, 2003).
According to the BJS special report on weapon use and violent crime a large chunk of the violent victimization involved use of weapons, mostly guns. The poor people from marginalized groups (blacks and Hispanics) are more susceptible to gun violence as compared to whites. Shockingly 90% of homicides are aided by guns.
It seems like the exposure of individuals to firms or rather the easy access to firearms has an effect of increasing violent crimes among adolescents. Teenagers, who come from homes with traits of abuse and criminal acts, progress to pick the habit later in life. Surveys conducted by researchers for periods between 1997 and 2005 revealed that 12% of adolescents admitted to have engaged in violent crimes such as shooting at someone, attacking someone with a weapon, gang fights among others. The beg of the question is why young teenagers carry weapons? A recurring answer to this question is often for self protection. This is in reference to the neighborhood environment. Mostly, violent prone areas have high percentage of crime rate. Adolescents who carry concealed weapons do so because they were exposed to risk factors like living in homes where guns were a norm, environments of social disorder, witnessing violence, victims of assault and such like.
The lesson learnt from review of the statistics on gun crime is that high crime rate is a function of easy access of firearms among individuals. The issue is clear that possession of a gun gives offenders a feeling of power and hence encourages him/her to engage in crime. This police and other law enforcers need to enforce more stringent laws on firearm possession. this would mean imposing stiffer penalties to offenders found in possession of firearm, regardless of whether they use it or not. This will in effect data offenders from using guns. Secondly, increase security in the porous points along borders where illegal firearms would also help. The 24 years and below age bracket represents a major proportion of offenders found in possession of firearm. This indicates a social dysfunction in families and community where they live. Perhaps, programs targeted towards aliening youth from violent delinquent behavior could be set up. Appropriately community policing and responsibility could also contribute to minimizing this issue of concern. This review does not discount the fact that firearms make positive contribution of enhancing individual security rather it recommends that before licensing a firearm to any individual thorough background check on the person and his character should be considered. This will ensure that deadly weapons are only in the hands of few responsible citizens.
Worrall, J.L. (2006). Crime Control in America: An assessment of the evidence. Boston, MA: Pearson education, Inc.
Perkins, C. (2003) National Institute of Justice. Weapon use and violent crime. 2007. Web.
Harlow, C. W. (2001) U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs National Institute of Justice). Firearm use by offenders. Web.