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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 75214 Find in a Library
Title: Gun Control - The Good Outweighs the Evil
Journal: Civil Liberties Review  Volume:3  Issue:3  Dated:(August/September 1976)  Pages:44-59
Author(s): R F Drinan
Date Published: 1976
Page Count: 16
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article refutes a previous article that asserted that gun control legislation would be costly in terms of civil liberties; the author then responds to the criticism of his work.
Abstract: The article states that the earlier essay by Don B. Kates, Jr., was based on three assumptions: that laws prohibiting the ownership of handguns by private citizens and requiring the registration of long guns would give the police and the military a monopoly of arms; that selective nonenforcement of the gun control laws would pose a serious threat to the rights of dissenters; and that handguns are valuable tools of self-defense. Prohibiting the ownership of handguns would not create an arms monopoly in the military and police forces; citizens who feared for their safety could own rifles and shotguns to use as protection. Dissenters would be protected, not threatened, by gun control laws. They could still own long guns for protection and would be safe from the peril that accompanies ownership of handguns -- the guns that are frequentally accidentally or otherwise turned on the owner, his friends, or family. The stringent law might not be enforced 100 percent of the time, but the violence-prone people who most often turn their animosity on dissenters will be far less likely to be able to purchase guns for that purpose. In States that have adopted even harsher gun control laws, there have been no serious problems with selective nonenforcement. Kates also asserted that the new law would be impossible to enforce, like Prohibition, and that enforcement would cause erosion of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. This can be refuted by the facts that ownership of a handgun is not a strong desire of most people; in fact most people favor strong gun control legislation. Also the legislation would not in any way change the rights of citizens under the Fourth Amendment; warrants would still be required. The contention that women particularly need handguns for self-protection is challenged by the number of women's organizations supporting the legislation. The strict gun control law would not end crime, but it would greatly reduce the chances of guns purchased for self-protection being turned on their owners and would create an obstacle for armed robbers. In defense of his earlier article, Kates responds to the above arguments by showing that long guns are far more injurious and indiscriminant to their targets than handguns; that banning handguns would not reduce violence; that police in a strict gun control jurisdiction have enforced the law to conduct unreasonable searches and seizures against selected minorities; and that dissenters are the targets of violent attacks to which the police frequently refuse to respond, leaving the dissenters to defend themselves as best they can. Kates further contends that the lack of statistics on the effectiveness of handguns for self-defense renders all speculation to the contrary meaningless, and that handguns provide women with a workable defense to attacks. He concludes by arguing that handguns are like alcohol; the danger asociated with each comes not from bare ownership, but from misuse, which a ban on ownership would not affect.
Index Term(s): Constitutional Rights/Civil Liberties; Firearms; Gun Control; Handguns
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