Over the last few months, a vigorous debate about guns and crime has been taking place. Do guns cause crime or do guns prevent crime? Frankly, I donít think the answer is either/or. They do both, depending on who is holding the gun.
Guns prevent crime. Reportedly 500,000 Americans use a firearm to defend themselves from acts of violence every year. But no one knows how often guns are used to thwart crime because those acts are not reported. Dr. John Lott in his book More Guns, Less Crime does document the thesis of the book title with statistical analysis.
Guns also are used to commit crimes when in the hands of criminals. So how do you reduce the crime rate? A look at Richmond, Virginia provides an answer. In a recent Time magazine article, Elaine Shannon points out that a few years back, Richmond had the second highest homicide rate in the country. Then U.S. Attorney Helen Fahey teamed up with Richmondís Police Chief Jerry Oliver. They did something so simple and so effective that other cities should follow suit: they enforced the existing laws. Operation Exile significantly reduced armed crime by targeting the criminals, not the guns.
Murders dropped from 140 in 1997 to 94 in 1998 and 32 for the first six months of 1999. Armed robberies shows a similar decline. And Operation Exile has won long prison sentences for 279 gun-carrying criminals.
When Richmond cops find a gun on a drug dealer, convicted felon or suspect in a violent crime, they get a mandatory sentence of at least five years without parole. The sentence is even longer for repeated or aggravated offenses. And guess what? The criminals get the message and crime is down in Richmond, Virginia. Seems to me thatís how to fight crime.
Iím Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and thatís my opinion.
© 1999 Probe Ministries International