Studies In Crime And Public Policy
Oxford University Press
On Sale: October 14, 2004
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Few schisms in American life run as deep or as wide as the
divide between gun rights and gun control advocates. Awash
in sound and symbol, the gun regulation debate has largely
been defined by forceful rhetoric rather than substantive
action. Politicians shroud themselves in talk of individual
rights or public safety while lobbyists on both sides make
doom-and-gloom pronouncements on the consequences of
potential shifts in the status quo.
In America today there are between 250 and 300 million
firearms in private hands, amounting to one weapon for every
American. Two in five American homes house guns. On the one
hand, most gun owners are law-abiding citizens who believe
they have a constitutional right to bear arms. On the other,
a great many people believe gun control to be our best
chance at reducing violent crime.
While few--whether gun owner or anti-gun advocate--dispute
the need to keep guns out of the wrong hands, the most
important question has too often been dodged: What gun
control options does the most heavily armed democracy in the
world have? Can gun control really work? The last decade has
seen several watersheds in the debate, none more important
than the 1993 Brady Bill. That bill, James B. Jacobs argues,
was the culmination of a strategy in place since the 1930s
to permit widespread private ownership of guns while
curtailing illegal use. But where do we go from here? While
the Brady background check is easily circumvented, any
further attempts to extend gun control--for instance,
through comprehensive licensing of all gun owners and
registration of all guns--would pose monumental
Jacobs moves beyond easy slogans and broad-brush ideology to
examine the on-the-ground practicalities of gun control,
from mandatory safety locks to outright prohibition and
disarmament. Casting aside ideology and abstractions, he
cautions against the belief that there exists some gun
control solution which, had we the political will to seize
it, would substantially reduce violent crime.
In Can Gun Control Work?, James B. Jacobs, one of our most
fearless commentators on intractable social problems, has
given us the most sober and even-handed assessment of
whether gun control can really be made to work.
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