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ISSUE 116 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/11/2002

Shot at safety

By Julie Gunderson
News Editor

Friday, October 11, 2002

The correlation between handguns and violence in our country has long been debated within political circles. The issue over whether or not gun control laws should be implemented has become a popular partisan issue and one that divides political ideologies.

On Oct. 8, Daniel Webster, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, presented statistical data in support of gun control laws. His lecture, entitled "Opportunities for Preventing Gun Violence," addressed the specific policy issues surrounding the debate.

These issues included answering two important questions: Who should be allowed to carry a gun? And how do we keep guns out of the hands of those whom we have determined should not have them?

"There are so many layers surrounding the problem of handgun violence," Webster said. "It is a complex issue that requires extensive research."

Webster started his presentation by giving statistical data that showed that 2,874 firearm deaths occurred in the United States in 1999. He broke this number down to distinguish that 57 percent of those deaths were suicides and 39 percent were homicides. 80 percent of those homicides, Webster pointed out, were committed with handguns..

In princple, supporters and opponents of gun control regulations agree that dangerous people should not have access to handguns. Disagreement begins in the determination of who is considered a dangerous person.

Citing the federal law that restricts those who have been convicted of a felony from obtaining a handgun, Webster said that he wished to see the law changed to include the preventingthose who have been convicted of a violent misdemeanor from acquiring a gun.

"There are plenty of dangerous people out there who have not committed felonies, but who should not be carrying guns," Webster said.

After determining who should and should not be allowed to carry handguns, Webster identified that there was a problem of keeping guns out of these people’s hands.

The structure of the gun market, for instance, makes this difficult. The primary market, which accounts for 60% of the guns, is regulated, but the secondary market allows for 40% of guns being bought going unregulated.

"Criminals get there guns from the unregulated market," Webster said. "But that doesn’t mean their can’t or shouldn’t be any regulation of gun trafficking.

Webster cited a study, which looked at juveniles and their relations with handguns. The study found that 67 percent of juveniles convicted of a crime had ownership of more than one handgun and that these guns were purchased from gun traffickers.

Webster however also found that there was a push among young criminals to use new models of handguns.

"They want the new guns because they know that police can check ballistics and use that information to trace crimes back to the gun that they came from," Webster said. "They don’t want to be found having a gun that was used to commit another crime. This trend toward newer guns will make it easier to regulate traffickers."

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