Week Three Reaction and Analysis Journal
Armed and Considered Dangerous’ is a book that explores various dimensions and facts about ownership of guns in the United States. The book gives a detailed explanation about the use and control of firearms. Before writing the book, the writers, James D. and Peter H. Rossi, conducted a comprehensive study about guns in America. Research was conducted in eleven state prisons in an attempt to find out meaningful relationships between crime and guns.
Criminal acts take place every day in societies where we live. Such acts range from basic, harmless actions to more severe and dangerous crimes. Crime can be defined as an action that defies the rules and laws set by the governing authority. A crime is an action that results in the legal, physical or mental harm of another person. Crime could be categorized into either violent or property crime. Violent crimes could be murder, homicide, rape, aggravated assault; while property crimes could be financial fraud or burglary.
The United States, through its constitution, allows citizens to freely own guns. This has greatly attributed to the high crime rates in the country. The crime rate is measured by the number of offenses being reported per 100,000 people. Crime has been a venerable problem in the United States since the turn of the twentieth century. The crime rate in the United States is way elevated than the crime rates in European countries. For instance, in 1916, 198 homicides were reported in Chicago, a city of around two million residents. The homicide figure was only 45 in London, which had three times the population of Chicago.
The United States has the utmost imprisonment rate in the planet. As of 2006, seven million people were in jail, on trial or on parole, of which two million were confined. The United States has five percent of the world's population and twenty five percent of the worlds locked up population. Around two-thirds of the incarcerated population is in jail for drug and drug-related offenses. In 2002, approximately 93.2 % of prisoners were male. About a tenth, of all African-American males in the United States between the ages of twenty five and twenty nine were sent to the penitentiary by the end of the year, compared to 2.4 % of Hispanic males and 1.2 % of white males.
The United States had a population of three hundred and seven million people in 2009. From this population, there were around 300 million guns, with 100 million of them being handguns. Violent crime is a problem that has for many years bugged American societies. In most violent crimes, a firearm is used. “…Each year, approximately 30,000 American citizens die through the suicidal, homicidal, or accidental abuse of guns; several hundreds of thousands are injured (intentionally or accidentally); hundreds of thousands more are victimized by gun crimes.
Such nerve-racking facts make us wonder what the government is doing to curb the availability of firearms in America. The most popular approach to tackling the gun menace in America is by either interdicting the availability of firearms to individuals with a criminal record, or raising the cost of owning a firearm. For instance, an ordinance passed in Morton Grove; Illinois, forbid the possession of handguns. Washington D.C also passed such a decree in 1975. However, some cities and towns pass decrees that are the exact converse. For instance, Kennesaw, Georgia passed a decree requiringevery (noncriminal) leader of the family to maintain a firearm, for the general defense of the neighborhood.
The main goal of conducting the research on the prisoners was to find out a relatively accurate estimate of the number of guns owned by criminals and their distribution. Such data could be used by the police and other relevant authorities to effectively control the spread of unlicensed firearms and consequently crime. Knowledge of how criminals obtain and use their guns should be obtained from persons directly involved in crime. This is the main reason why the survey was carried out on convicts. Some limitations are, however, encountered and anticipated in the study. The salient limitations are: the validity of information provided by convicts, under-representation of juvenile felons in the study, the large number of lucky criminals who do not get apprehended and the fact that only male prisoners were questioned in the research. The data was collected in form of consistent questionnaires filled by 1982 prisoners. The convicts were sampled from ten different criminal holding facilities across the United States.
ACD shows a link between criminal activity and childhood development. According to the study, early exposure to firearms creates a subconscious inclination to individual ownership of guns. A majority of felons report having contact with firearms from a tender age. Children who see their parents with firearms are more likely to own guns than those whose parents do not own guns.
The data from the book reports that criminals carry guns for various reasons. A gun may be carried in order to commit a crime or for self-protection. The main reason why criminals carry guns is for self-defense in hostile or dangerous environments. “…a principal reason for acquiring one's most recent handgun was self-protection in 58% of the cases; "to use in my crimes," in only 28% of the cases. Criminals are most afraid of attacking an armed victim. As a result, they carry firearms to intimidate and just in case the victim is also armed.
ACD reports that criminals mainly obtain guns from friends or by purchasing them for cash in the black market. This creates a problem of registering and accounting for the gun. Guns are easily available from drug dealers, pawn shops or other odd-lot sources.
Studies indicate that the most common victims of crime are male African-Americans. The likelihood is even higher where the men are poor. Most crime in the United States happens in the inner cities that are inhabited by poor, black and Hispanic families. More than three-quarters of the victims of crime face emotional distress. This is characterized by fear, anxiety, anger, nervousness, shame, self-blame and insomnia. These feelings are medically described as chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. Several psychological reactions may also be noted in a victim of crime. Victims may increase their belief of personal susceptibility; begin viewing the world as incomprehensive and meaningless, and increase fear in a victim. This fear is gradually transmitted throughout the community.
The first step in avoiding criminal victimization is avoiding situations that may create suitable conditions for criminal attacks. The threefold model explains that being in the wrong place at the wrong time may lead to victimization. Stricter laws and more frequent patrols by the police in inner cities may effectively reduce the rate of crime. Individuals who are sociodemographically predisposed to crime should take extra steps to reduce the chance of criminal attacks. These individuals include being male, being poor, being young, being a minority, being single or being unemployed. Such individuals could take self-defense classes to be able to protect themselves in case of violent crime.
Inner-city communities have also taken the initiative to establish neighborhood watch groups. These are voluntary groups that patrol and keep vigil in the neighborhoods. Young African-American males are encouraged to join such groups instead of seeking refuge from gangs, and other outlawed groups.