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Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America

NCJ Number
G Kleck
Date Published
517 pages
Major issues concerning the relationships among guns, gun control, and violence are examined, with emphasis on the disputes regarding gun control.
Existing research and the author's own research are used to examine issues such as the ideology of the gun debate, who owns guns and why, the consequences of people owning and using guns for defense against criminals, the effects of guns on the incidence of violent crime, the involvement of firearms in suicide and accidents, and the impacts of gun laws on crime rates. Data sources include police-based crime statistics, victim surveys, public opinion polls, and the advocacy materials of groups that support and oppose gun control. The analysis concludes that the common rationale for gun control rests on an unduly simplified conception of the role of weapons in violence and that levels of general gun ownership appear to have no significant net effect on rates of homicide, rape, robbery, or aggravated assault, even though they do apparently affect the fraction of robberies and assaults committed with guns. General gun ownership levels also seem to have no net effect on suicide rates and appear to be unrelated to rates of fatal gun accidents. Nevertheless, a valid rationale exists for some kinds of gun control. Gun owner license laws appear to reduce gun accidents, and purchase permit laws seem to reduce murder. Prohibitions of gun possession by convicted criminals may reduce aggravated assaults and robberies, while bans on possessions by mentally ill persons may reduce suicides. Strict carry laws may reduce robbery and homicide. Beyond these and other exceptions, the gun controls currently in operation seem to have no net impact on total rates of violence. Recommendations, tables, index, and approximately 500 references