JANUARY 1999

Friday, January 1st, 1999

In New York City early several City Council members, while displaying a cache of “lethal-looking weapons made of plastic,” according to THE NEW YORK TIMES, introduced a bill to outlaw all toy guns that look like the real thing.
The December 10, 1998 move followed a number of incidents, like the shooting last August of Michael Jones, 16, by police officers responding to a call about an armed bicyclist. The youth, who was shot in the legs, was carrying a water gun resembling a real Tec-9 machine pistol, the police said. The Brooklyn District Attorney, Charles Hynes, said that the officers acted properly.
There already are federal, state and city regulations against realistic-looking toy guns, but critics say that toy guns, such as the ones purchased in New York for the politicians’ news conference, are readily available. Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, a sponsor of the bill, said she wants to strengthen the existing city law. Her bill would outlaw the sale, possession or use of any toy that resembles a firearm so much “as to lead a reasonable person to conclude that the toy or imitation firearm is a firearm.”
Violations would be punishable by up to a year in jail, a $1,000 criminal fine and a $1,000 civil penalty.
Britons are chagrined by a U.S. Department of Justice study that finds a person twice as likely to be robbed or assaulted in heavily gun-controlled and gun-banned Britain as in the U.S. reports Toni Marshall in INSIGHT Magazine.
The study, prepared by a Cambridge University professor and a Justice statistician, compares crime rates in England and Wales with those in the United States for the years 1981 to 1995. Robberies rose 81 percent in England and Wales, but fell 28 percent in the United States. Assault increased 53 percent in England and Wales but declined 27 percent in the United States. Burglaries doubled in England but fell by half in the United States, and motor vehicle theft rose 51 percent in England but remained the same in the United States.
In 1995, the last year for which complete statistics are available for both countries, there were 20 assaults per 1,000 people or households in England and Wales, but only 8.8 per 1,000 in the United States.
The United States recorded nearly six times as many murders as Britain, but that rate is down from nine times as many in 1981. Guns were used in 68 percent of U.S. murders and in seven percent in England and Wales.
Although “common sense says America is the most crime-ridden country on Earth while Britain is an oasis of peace and tranquility,” commented the London SUNDAY TIMES, “common sense is wrong. We urgently need to reexamine our cozy assumptions about law and order.”
The report suggests the trends in both countries could be attributed to stiffer penalties for criminals in the United States, and falling conviction rates in England and Wales. Sentences in the United States were three years longer for murder, four years longer for rape and robbery, almost three years longer for assault, more than two years longer for burglary and more than one year longer for car theft.
In New Jersey, Republican voters would support mandatory “child proofing” of handguns by a wide margin, according to a poll commissioned by an anti-gun state group.
The poll found that 73 percent of respondents supported requiring safety measures like firing mechanisms that responded only to the owner’s palm or fingerprints, said Bryan Miller, Executive Director of Cease-Fire New Jersey, which commissioned the poll. The poll, which surveyed 500 registered Republicans in mid-October, 1998, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points, Miller said.
The release of the poll results is intended to bolster support for “child-proofing” bills in the State Senate and Assembly. Focusing on Republicans was a tactic to show majority lawmakers that they would not be punished by core constituents for supporting the bills, Miller said.
A spokeswoman for the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, Nancy Ross, said no children died as a result of a handgun accident in 1995, the latest year for which statistics are available. “We’re not opposed to any of these technologies,” she said. “Just don’t mandate them.”
After Mayor Richard Daley and the City of Chicago filed a lawsuit against gun makers and dealers seeking $433 million in compensation for injury to the public health, welfare and safety, Daniel John Sobieski of Chicago wrote in THE WASHINGTON TIMES that “the notion of individual responsibility for one’s actions is completely foreign to the grandstanding politicians and greedy lawyers entertaining this silliness. Can we sue the lawyers and politicians
and judges whenever there is an assault, a rape, a carjacking or a murder by a criminal out on probation or parole, or who has a prior criminal record? Can we sue when judges release dangerous criminals early or when felons are released by a silly judge more concerned with the ‘harmful’ effects of prison over-crowding? According to John Lott, a fellow at the University of Chicago Law School, about 90 percent of adult murders have a prior adult criminal record.
“Of course, we are not told the other side of the equation – how many crimes are thwarted and lives are saved by potential victims being armed. Florida State criminologist Gary Kleck found that law-abiding citizens successfully use guns at least 2.5 million times each year in defense of themselves, their families and, yes, their children.
“Shouldn’t we then also financially reward manufacturers and dealers when armed victims successfully defend themselves and save lives and property? There are no headlines when public shootings are stopped before they happen. Stories about mothers using guns to prevent their children from being kidnapped by carjackers, or themselves from being raped or worse, seldom make the evening news.
“The Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey reports that the probability of serious injury or death from an attack is 2.5 times greater for women offering little or no resistance than for those resisting with a gun.
“The fact is that only 0.2 percent of firearms and 0.4 percent of handguns are used in crimes each year. If we are to punish gun makers for every time their product is used in a crime, then we should reward them every time their product saves lives in self-defense, enabling a potential victim to ward off, capture, wound, or kill a violent criminal.”