Gary Kleck

Monday, May 1st, 2000

Noted criminologist Gary Kleck is the designated recipient of the CCRKBA Gun Rights Defender of the Month Award for May.

In nominating Gary for the Award, John Michael Snyder, CCRKBA Public Affairs Director, said that, “at this time, with the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms taking central stage as a political issue, it is enlightening to turn to the work of scholars who look at the issue with an objective, academic eye. Professor Kleck of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice of The Florida State University has undertaken at least as much empirical study of the subject of firearms ownership in the United States as anyone working in the field today. A distinguished scholar, Gary certainly is most deserving of this recognition.”

One of the major sub-issues involved in the entire right to keep and bear arms – gun control controversy is the relative empirical merit or demerit of private firearm ownership. Gun control proponents, for instance, like to point out the number of times each year guns are used (we would say misused) in the perpetration of various crimes without noting the number of times guns are used to prevent crimes. The gun grabbers will note, for instance that guns are used, or misused, tens of thousands of times a year in the perpetration of such acts. It is to Gary Kleck’s great credit that his analyses have indicated that there are up to 3,600,000 defensive gun uses each year in the United States. His studies not only balance the ledger in this respect, they weight it overwhelmingly in favor of the individual Second Amendment civil right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.

In an op-ed piece in THE NEW YORK TIMES pointing out that “guns aren’t ready to be smart,” Dr. Kleck wrote that, “horrific as the picture of a first-grader wielding an adult’s carelessly stored handgun is, smart gun legislation is premature. Reliable technology not only isn’t here yet, but isn’t on the horizon.

“A gun that could be fired only by an authorized user would not only prevent tragedies involving children but also deny criminals the fruits of gun theft. But effective technology would be incorporated into the gun, would not require users to remember to lock the gun, and, since most buyers of handguns want them for self-protection, would not interfere with use of the gun for self-defense.

“Doing all this at once is difficult with current technology or any foreseeable technology. Lawsuits intended to penalize gun makers for not already having done it are unfair. So are current proposals for state laws forbidding the sale of new handguns without smart gun technology.”

Dr. Kleck noted further that, “many safety devices now available are removable and therefore unreliable: if the lock isn’t on the gun when a child or thief picks it up, there is no protection. A combination lock can be built into some guns, but since a user must engage it, a child might still find the gun unlocked. Disengaging it requires remembering a combination, which could be difficult for a threatened homeowner trying to repel an intruder bent on doing harm.

“Several companies are trying to develop better devices, but none is ready now, and all have problems. One requires the user to wear a wristband that unlocks the gun with a radio signal but is so bulky that owners would be tempted to store it with the gun rather than wearing it. Another lets the authorized user disable the gun with a magnetic ring, but it can be used only in particular handguns that make up a small part of the market, and it is expensive.

“A lock that requires a thumbprint as its key requires specific maneuvers for thumb reading, and then removal of the lock and insertion of a magazine, before the gun can be used for self-defense. Some proposed devices use batteries, limiting their reliability.

“Careful development and testing take time. An unreliable technology introduced too soon could hamper self-defense or lull owners into storing guns carelessly. And if the technology is too expensive, law-abiding low-income people, who are the most frequent crime victims, will be discouraged from acquiring guns for self-protection.”

In concluding his analysis of the current smart-gun controversy, Dr. Kleck wrote, “certainly gun makers should be encouraged to continue developing and testing smart guns. But the public should be prepared to wait for the results.”

A member of the American Society of Criminology, Gary Kleck, who was born March 2, 1951 in Lombard, Illinois, received his AB in 1973, his AM in 1975, and his Doctorate in 1979, in Sociology, from the University of Illinois at Urbana.

In 1993, Gary was the winner of the Michael J. Hindelang Award of the American Society of Criminology, for the book that made “the most outstanding contribution to criminology” (for POINT BLANK: GUNS AND VIOLENCE IN AMERICA).

The author of the book TARGETING GUNS: FIREARMS AND THEIR CONTROL, and numerous scholarly articles and opinion pieces, Gary describes himself as “a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Independent Action, Democrats 2000, and Common Cause, among other politically liberal organizations.” He indicates he “is a lifelong registered Democrat, as well as a contributor to liberal Democratic candidates.” He discloses voluntarily that he “is not now, now has he ever been, a member of, or contributor to, the National Rifle Association, Handgun Control, Inc. nor any other advocacy organization, nor has he received funding for research from any such organization.”