Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gun control that works

Gun control that works
Robert A. Hall
(This column was originally published in the Camden County, NJ Courier Post on August 20, 1999.)

    “Oh, God, not again,” I thought as I watched strings of frightened children being led from that Jewish Community Center. A maniac with a gun. Innocent people—including kids—dead or wounded. And politicians ripping each other over “gun control,” using this hot-button issue to gain votes.
    A significant portion of the American public believes they have a right to own a gun for hunting or self-protection. Let there be a violent crime in a neighborhood, or an escaped murderer, and gun sales jump. There’s research showing many crimes are prevented because of gun ownership.
    And politicians who draw support from gun owners need the issue to get votes.
    There’s also a significant chunk of the public who believes all guns should be outlawed or that there should be more gun control—though what form it should take depends on what kind of gun was used in the latest outrage. There’s also research showing that easy access to guns increases gun violence.
    And politicians who draw support from anti-gun folks need the issue to get votes.
    With the public sharply divided, and politicians on both sides benefiting from keeping the issue hot, is there any hope? Would any “gun control” legislation resolve the issue? 
    Not much hope. The NRA knows that any compromise on the issue will only last until the anti-gun groups file the next bill bringing the country closer to outlawing all guns. Therefore, it’s smart strategy for them to fight every gun-control bill, regardless of how reasonable.
    But down in Virginia they’ve instituted a novel “gun control” effort. It’s gun control that’s been supported by the NRA for years. It’s also been supported by such diverse gun opponents as Virginians Against Handgun Violence and Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell.
    Stung by criticism that federal prosecution of gun crimes has fallen 46% under his administration, even President Bill Clinton has claimed the idea for his own. Naturally, he didn’t mention the NRA had long been in favor of it. And he put only $5 million in his budget to cover the country. But he’s on-board, even if he’s a reluctant recruit.
    In 1997, Richmond, VA, with 122 gun murders had the second highest per capita homicide rate in the country. But in 1998, gun murders and the number of felons caught with a gun dropped drastically. Why?
    “Project Exile” started putting gun criminals in jail. You see, it’s a federal crime for a convicted felon, a fugitive or an illegal drug user to own, possess, or attempt to buy a gun. So U.S. Attorney Helen F. Fehey started a program putting federal gun violators in prison for five years. No parole. No exceptions. 
    By September of 1998, 342 individuals had been indicted for federal gun violations, 228 had been convicted and 409 guns had been seized. About 80% of those waiting trial are held without bond. Police have handed out thousands of cards and billboards have gone up to let criminals know that illegal possession of a gun means five years in the box.
    No wonder the streets of Richmond are safer.
    The program is slowly coming to New Jersey. Camden Country is part of the Philadelphia project, called “Operation Cease Fire,” and the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Faith S. Hochberg, has hired three assistants here to prosecute gun criminals. In north Jersey it’s called “Project Triggerlock,” and 15 felons were indicted in July alone.
    That’s a start, but it’s not enough. We need Project Exile in every jurisdiction in the country. And it has to include not only criminals caught with guns, but criminals who try to buy guns.
    President Clinton brags that the Brady Law and background checks have stopped thousands of criminals from buying guns. So you’d guess thousands of criminals have been prosecuted, right? 
    You’d be wrong. The vast majority of felons who attempt to illegally buy a gun walk away to try again at another store, a gun show or on the street. The New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s office wasn’t able to tell me of any prosecutions of felons for trying to buy guns. I’d bet they’re short of personnel and funds to prosecute.
    We need a commitment from our politicians to fully fund and implement Project Exile throughout the nation. Politicians need to actually do something, rather than simply pandering to pro- or anti-gun groups with empty speeches.
    And we need to apply Project Exile to criminals who try to buy guns as well as those caught with guns. Pile this on top of the Richmond results and we can make a huge dent in national gun deaths.
    The politicians on both sides have a large self-interest in keeping the issue hot. Fewer gun deaths means less votes won by calling for—or fighting against—gun control. So we have to get involved.
    Write to your Congressperson, your Senators and President Clinton, demanding that Project Exile be instituted nationwide, and that it also apply to criminals who break the law by trying to buy guns.
    That’s going to cost a lot of money for prosecutions and for prison space. But gun violence costs us millions of dollars and barrels of blood annually.
    Virginians Against Handgun Violence says all it takes is the will. But politicians won’t have the will unless you force them to. And who knows whose life you might save?


    The writer, a former Massachusetts State Senator, lives in Des Plaines, IL. He does not belong to any pro- or anti-gun organization—but any criminal targeting his home should know he’s a Marine Vietnam vet and draw the appropriate health conclusions. He is the author of several books, including The Coming Collapse of the American Republic.  His e-mail address is tartanmarine(at)

1 comment:

  1. Let's bring back confinement at hard labor and chain gangs too for those criminals. The only deals I'd cut with them would be to turn death penalty sentences to life at hard labor with no chance of getting out of prison. I heard a gentleman say on television (can't remember his name) that all the millions of guns out there aren't biodegradable so they won't be going away. I don't even own a gun and I'm not sure I want to own one but I can see how illogical it would be to prevent eligible people from being able to own/purchase a gun.