From: "Clayton E. Cramer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Criminal Control
Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 13:38:56 -0700
J. A. James wrote:
> Okay, let's try this again. 100% of all murderers are criminals.
> 100% of all law abiding citizens are not murderers. These two sets are
> completely exclusive of each other. You can not both commit murder and
> abide by the law. You can not abide by the law and commit murder.
> Murder is against the law. Therefore, no murderers are law abiding, do
> you see the pattern?
This statement is true, but for purposes of the debate about gun ownership,not
terribly relevant. The question is whether people that commit murder
have unique defining characteristics that make it practical to discriminate
against them in the possession of firearms. Gun control advocates like
to claim that otherwise sensible people can turn into murderers if they have
access to a firearm. While it does sometimes happen that otherwise
stable, law-abiding adults suddenly commit murder, and this is their first
serious crime, this is not the norm. More typical is that murderers are
minors (and I think anyone that has raised kids can see why this might have
a causal connection); or have long arrest records and prior convictions for
felonies and violent misdemeanors (indicating a predisposition towards
violent antisocial behavior); or have histories of drug or alcohol abuse
(and the causal connection between those and murder are also pretty
When I down in San Diego for the American Society of Criminology
conference, I had a chance to talk to the San Diego sheriff's deputy
who is the department's firearms examiner. Not surprisingly, he is
called to testify as an expert witness in firearms murders. I asked him
about this very subject of "law-abiding adults" and he told me that
gun murders in San Diego County (where the sheriff's department has
primary responsibility) are in three categories:
1. The big one is gang-related murders. He said that most murders
that he had investigated in the more than 10 years on the job had
been gang members killing each other, killing victims picked at random
for a crime like robbery or rape, or killing innocent bystanders to
a gang war.
2. The next category were people with criminal histories but not
gang-related. These weren't quite so common, but he still saw a
few of these. The killers were generally well-known to the police,
and usually had long criminal histories, even if most of the offenses
weren't felonies (often drug offenses).
3. The rarest gun murders were nice, stable, law-abiding adults without
prior history. He said that they do happen, but his recollection was
that his department usually didn't even see one of these a year.