Monday, October 25, 2004


"It was July 1998. Newspapers were full of stories about a seeming rash of shootings in schools. About 40 representatives of law enforcement, public health and other fields were summoned to Washington, D.C., to talk about ways to deal with gun violence in America. Alan Lizotte, a University at Albany criminologist, recalls with certain satisfaction the way former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno took notes as he and his colleagues spoke. The premise of the session was not quite right, he said. Like many attempts to address the problem, it was organized after an unusual but high-profile tragedy and was the product of conventional thinking: Someone broke a law, so tougher laws are needed.

Every time we start to do something sensible about gun control, somebody shoots John Lennon and then we legislate to that," he said. So Lizotte and some of his colleagues offered this advice to Reno: "School shootings are not the issue. The issue is kids selling drugs on street corners in big cities."

School shootings are rare. Disarming drug dealers would save more lives than banning certain types of guns or making it harder for otherwise law-abiding people to own one, they said. The panel identified promising strategies to reduce gun violence that appeared to be working in Buffalo, New York City and other places. The programs encourage citizens to get involved in community improvement while police step up efforts to seize illegal weapons from known criminals.

Following that strategy, Lizotte said, New York City cut homicides from 2,245 in 1990 to 598 in 2003. "No new laws were passed," he said. "New York is the shining example that something can happen while enforcing existing laws." When it comes to guns in America, experts agree that debate and legislation are driven largely by politics, paranoia, ignorance and media sensationalism -- forces that rarely result in sensible public policy."

More here

Court upholds state police gun purchase record-keeping: "The [PA] state Supreme Court says a state police database of handgun sales is not an illegal registry of firearm ownership. The court, in a three-two ruling today, rejected arguments by sportsmen who have challenged the database for four years that the database violates the state's 1995 Uniform Firearms Act. Gun owners and sportsmen sued in 2000, claiming that the information state police glean from handgun purchases violates the 1995 law that bars police from maintaining a registry of firearms ownership. But writing for the majority, Justice Ronald Castille found that the database of sales was not tantamount to an ownership registry. He says although the database may be a registry, it is not a registry of firearm ownership because it doesn't maintain a record of all firearms owned by Pennsylvanians."

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