Criminal Justice Final Paper
In recent years, the United States has had many horrific mass shootings. One of the mass shootings that really stays in peoples minds is the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting, where twenty children were gunned down along with six educators and the shooter himself. In response to this, the criminal justice system is working hard to try and find solutions to combat these mass shootings and prevent them from occurring in the future. The United States leads the world in the number of gun related violence per year. The State of California passed a 2014 law following the Santa Barbra shooting authorizing judges to issue a gun violence restraining order that temporarily seizes the guns of someone who is shown to pose a danger to himself or to others, upon the testimony of a police officer or a family member. I do believe that police in Massachusetts should fully support this law and should issue gun violence restraining orders to people who could pose a danger to himself or others.
With the many recent mass shootings and other gun related violence, the big question is, What can we do to stop these tragedies from occurring? The answer is not so simple. It is very hard to predict that an individual will be violent towards others, and with there being roughly 310,000,000 guns in circulation in the United States alone, it is hard to keep track of them all and instill restrictions especially when the Democratic Party and the Republican Party disagree greatly on the topic of gun control, with Democrats wanting more restrictions on firearms and Republicans being advocates for the second amendment, they say that more gun restriction goes against their right to bear arms. The main weapon of choice in most of these mass shootings is a military style assault weapon, these weapons are capable of firing high caliber rounds with a high capacity magazine, which makes these weapons cable of immense damage. The assault weapons are not the only military style gear that attracts the mass murderers, it is tactical attachments as well such as suppressors and body armor. However these assault rifles only account for a small percentage of gun violence per year, the majority of gun violence is committed with handguns. While it is very different to try and control guns, Harold Pollack who authored What can we do about gun violence suggested three proposals in attempt to put a halt to gun violence. The control of military styled weapons such as the assault rifle and other large weapons with high capacity magazines, more regulations on the age that a person is legally able to purchase firearms, which was proposed that the age be 25 and finally harsher penalties for illegal gun carrying. Another way we can combat gun violence is the Gun Violence Restraining Orders, with this new law in place, we could prevent people who are mentally ill, people with prior criminal history or anyone who poses a threat to their own safety or to the safety of others from being in possession of firearms. This law would allow law enforcement officers to go and confiscate guns from individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others, a hearing would determine for how long the guns would be taken away for. A receipt would be given to the individual and the guns would be returned by the police at the end of the restriction. This new law could possibly prevent future gun violence by keeping the guns out of the hands of the suspected individual. This would no way guarantee that the person who has a gun restriction on them would remain weapon free, unfortunately there is a thriving black market for illegal gun sales, and it is fairly easy for a bad criminal to obtain a firearm. “A young adult who can’t legally buy a gun typically obtains one through a relative, friend, or gang associate. If he has no relationship of trust with someone willing to help, he’ll often fail in this effort. This is good news. It suggests that basic measures to deter straw purchases, illegal gun transfers, or interstate trafficking could make a real difference.” if we could prevent young adults who pose a threat to their safety or others, who doesn’t have any real connections to the back market for illegal gun sales, then we could possible make a big difference with the implementation of the GVRO law. We do have laws in place that prevent certain people from buying guns, such as the mentally ill, people with criminal history, people on no fly lists and so on. These laws could be made stronger. The big picture with the Gun Violence Restraining order is to make guns even harder to get for the bad criminals, I believe that most people with the restraining order on them and that have had their guns taken from them, would not try to continue to get another firearm. Which is exactly the idea of this new law. This could potentially save many lives alone. “Gun violence restraining orders may also be helpful in monitoring and helping obviously troubled young men such as Elliot Rodger, who committed a rampage killing in Santa Barbara in 2014. The proposed GVRO process would restrict access to weapons by people who show signs that they pose at least temporary danger to themselves or to others.” The goal of this law is to see a decline in gun violence in the United States. For example a study conducted on the Brady Law, showed a decline in suicide rates. “Ludwig and Cook (2000) conducted research showing that the implementation of the Brady Law in states with waiting periods for a gun purchase was responsible for a 6% decline in the suicide rate for adults over the age of 55.”
A large factor of these mass shootings such as the Sandy Hook shooting, is mental illness. Many of these individuals who commit these mass murders have had some form of mental illness. With this new law in place, we could restrict these individuals with a mental illness from purchasing any form of firearms, for the safety of themselves and the general public. In the Consortium for Risks-Based Firearm Policy, It was said that most of the dialogue that follows the mass shooting crisis revolves around the relationship with mental illness and violence. As it turns out, evidence showed that the large majority of people with mental illness did not engage in any form of violent behavior against others, and that most of the violence that has occurred, occurred with factors other than mental illness. With this being said, research suggested that at certain times, such as the period surrounding a psychiatric hospitalization or for the first psychosis, small subgroups of individuals with serious mental illness are at an elevated risk of violence. Even with this statistic, that the vast majority of people with mental illness do not pose a threat to commit any act of violence, all it takes is one person. One person with a mental illness to commit a mass murder such as the Sandy Hook massacre. This thought alone should push people to want to have these gun restrictions put in place, to completely take away the fear of anyone with a mental illness who could possibly harm themselves or others, to possess a firearm. With the elevated risk of violence during the period of time that surrounds a psychiatric hospitalization, it was proposed by the Consortium that current laws be strengthened to include a temporary firearm prohibition following short term involuntary hospitalization. Not only are we worried about the mentally ill harming others, we are worried about their safety as well. Depression, a form of mental illness, greatly increases the risk for suicide. Suicide by mentally ill people accounts for more than half of the gun related deaths in the United States alone. ” The Consortium supports three distinct paths for intervention at the state level. The First concerns a needed expansion of current state mental health firearm disqualification policies. The second path extends the state firearms prohibitions to include people who meet specific, evidence based criteria that elevate their risk of committing violence. The third introduces a new mechanism to remove firearms from individuals who pose serious risk of harm to self or others.”
It is to be expected that when a new law is proposed, that there will be an opposition to it. In regards to California passing the Gun Violence Restraining orders, it is argued that the new law can and will be abused. “The restraining order’s greatest danger is not its obvious unconstitutionality (trampling due process) or irrelevance (deranged individuals ignore firearms prohibitions). The main problem is the huge potential for abuse by disaffected spouses and/or angry, jealous or greedy relatives.” The fear is that small family feuds could possibly result in the mentally fit individuals gun rights taken away for years or indefinitely, and the penalty for a false testy given by a family member is simply a misdemeanor. The thought of the government being able to come and take away your guns is not fond in the minds of many gun owners, but it can only happen if a family member feels as though you are a danger to yourself or to others. With gun violence being at an all time high, the number of gun related deaths is about the same as the number of car crash fatalities, a change has to be made. New laws will always seem unfair to some, but with the recent amounts of mass shootings and the number of gun violence related deaths nearing the amount of deaths caused by car accidents, changes need to be made. The United States leads the world in the number of gun related violence per year, and it is by a lot. “In Poland and England, only about one out of every million people die in gun homicides each year — about as often as an American dies in an agricultural accident or falling from a ladder.” Some of these comparisons seem ridiculous, but unfortunately it is the truth. America has a serious gun violence problem. Mass shootings only account for a small percentage of gun violence per year, the main issue here is located in the run down projects in high crime areas. The GVRO’s focus on the individual person, unlike some attempts gun control policies that for example, focus on things like high capacity magazines or assault rifles. This new law would require a family member or a law enforcement officers recommendation that the suspected person is not mentally fit to be in possession of firearms. This law doesn’t just relate to people with a mental illness, but other issues as well, such as anger issues and so on. Suicide is a big problem here in the United States as well, and the number firearm of suicides has been rising. These Gun Violence Restraining orders could take the weapons out of the hands of suicidal people, which would be ideal. The law could possibly reduce the number of firearm rented suicide even more.
In conclusion, I strongly believe that police in Massachusetts should fully support and follow California in making the Gun Violence Restraining Orders a law. With the number of gun related violence being at an all time high in the United States, we are in desperate need of changes and laws to bring down the amount of gun related violence. This law shows promising evidence in making a difference. By issuing a GVRO, we could possibly prevent certain crimes and gun related deaths from occurring, in hopes of bringing down the number of gun related violence in the United States.
1,2 Pollack, H. (2016, winter). What we can do about gun violence. The American Prospect 27: 104. http://prospect.org/article/what-we-can-do-about-gun-violence
3,4 Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy (2013). Guns, Public Health and Mental Illness: An Evidence-Based Approach for State Policy. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health: 52 pp. Available at http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/publications/GPHMI-State.pdf
5 Farago, Robert (2014, Oct. 27). California law is ripe for abuse. USA Today. Available at https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/10/26/gun-violence-restraining-order-editorials-debates/17979597/
6 Quealy, K. and M. Sanger-Katz (2016, June 13). Compare These Gun Death Rates: The U.S. Is in a Different World. New York Times. Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/14/upshot/compare-these-gun-death-rates-the-us-is-in-a-different-world.html?_r=0