Gun Violence and Government Action

Crime and violence have always been issues in contemporary American politics. Though recently there has been an increase in media attention to and legislative action to prevent mass shootings. Because of this, gun control policies have become a nationalized issue. According to the Pew Research Center, 50% of Americans say that gun violence is “a very big problem” for the United States. Only 2% of Americans claimed that gun violence was “not a problem at all”. There are political organizations which claim that legislation restricting access to firearms would decrease the frequency of mass shootings while also decreasing the frequency of other kinds of gun violence. On the other hand, many are opposed to the idea of these restrictions from both an ideological basis, but also a practical one. They believe that gun control policies either do not work or they increase danger for law abiding citizens. In Texas, the state legislature has primarily enacted laws which increase access to and legal possession of firearms.

In Texas, between the years 2010 and 2016 there was a net increase in the amount of murders from 1,248 to 1,473. Especially notable is the increase in the amount of murders committed with a firearm increasing from 67% to 74.2%. In some of these years the amount of murders dropped,

however there was still an increase in the amount of murders with firearms. In the same time frame aggravated assaults also had a net increase from 71,561 to 72,609. Even though during most of that time frame there was a yearly decrease in the amount of aggravated assaults, there was a yearly increase in the percentage of those assaults with a firearm present: 22% to 29.8%. This may be the result of legislation that allows firearm possession in many public areas, the ability to own restricted firearms (as defined in the National Firearms Act), and preventing municipalities or other local bodies from implementing gun control policies.

Governor Rick Perry signed legislation which expanded gun access during his tenure

In between 2005 and 2009, the Texas legislature with Governor Rick Perry expanded the situations where it was legal to possess a firearm as well as amending Texas’ “Castle Doctrine” and “Stand Your Ground” laws. This may be why there is a discrepancy in recorded homicides and murders between the CDC and the Texas DPS. The greatest spike in murders and aggravated assaults committed with a firearm was from 2014–2016. Murders and murders with a firearm present rose 22.8% and 10.9% percent respectively and aggravated assaults and those assaults with a firearm present rose 7.7% and 5.6%. This was the same time frame where the Texas legislature made it financially easier to receive a license to carry (LTC), made it easier to keep an LTC after mishandling a weapon by changing Penal Code Section 46.02, and allowed open carry in all locations where concealed carry was allowed.[i]

There has been an almost constant increase in the occurrence of violent crimes with firearms present since 2010.

Over the past 10 years, there has been a distinct increase in murders and aggravated assaults with a firearm present. During that same period, Texas has consistently expanded access and legal use of firearms. Although it is possible that the increase in violent crimes with firearms present is due to other causes — it does correspond with legislative actions which increase ownership and possession of firearms.

This graph is the list of prohibited possessors in the United States and the reasons why they are prohibited from owning or handling weapons. (2017 FBI NICS Operations Report)

Although Texas has expanded legal access to firearms, there are still restrictions in place to prevent known violent offenders from owning weapons. Many conservatives claim that these regulations and restrictions on who can own weapons in the country are enough. It is true that there are classes of prohibited possessors in Texas and in federal statutes; drug users, domestic offenders, felons, and the mentally ill. Governments, federal and state, have been involved in the regulation of the sale, transfer, and possession of firearms since the 1930’s. Though it is true that there are regulations and restrictions on who can own weapons — it is uncertain how effective they currently are in preventing violence. There is a lack of data on how effective these federal regulations have been — which is why there has been a national push for increasing regulations around the nation. Some states that have implemented further regulations have seen success in reducing their rates of murder and aggravated assaults.

Governor Cuomo made gun control legislation a priority of his administration in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.

New York is a prime example of a state which has made it a priority to reduce gun violence. Over the past 10 years, the state has enacted thorough gun control legislation — especially in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. In 2013, New York implemented the SAFE act which included an assault weapons ban, increased penalties for “straw purchases”, created a universal background check system, and restricted the size of magazines to six rounds.[ii]

Since 2013, New York has been able to decrease the amount of murders and aggravated assaults by -15.2% and by -5.2% respectively. Though they do not specify what percentage of those crimes had firearms present — their implementation of strict regulation and registration of weapons parallels a steady change in violent crime of -8.9%. Though the data provided from New York DCJS does not specify which of these crimes feature firearms, the decrease in violent crime may be attributed to government action in the state.

There is a correlation between passing legislation to restrict access to firearms and lower rates of violent crime — and vice versa. The Texas legislature has done their best to restrict weapons to law abiding citizens — however, their expansion of situations where guns are accessible follows with an increase in murders, aggravated assaults, and both with a firearm present. It appears that a solution to the recent increases in violent crime may be to reverse some of these laws, as there has been a distinct increase in violent crimes with a firearm. Surely there will still be a significant amount of violent crime with firearms present — however, this number would likely decrease if it was more difficult to have and carry a firearm.

Endnotes:

[i] There was a change in the classification of some unlawful carry of a weapon charges from a class A or B misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor. This is significant because if convicted of a class A or B misdemeanor a LTC is automatically revoked, but not the case with a class C misdemeanor. Thus, more people who were charged with these crimes were able to keep their LTC.

[ii] There are a lot of regulations in the SAFE act — it is one of the defining legislative achievements in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. These are just some of the highlights of the act. It is also important to note that there are grandfathering clauses on the assault weapons ban and magazine restrictions — however, those have their own restrictions.

Citations:

[1] Mitchell, Travis. “Views of Guns and Gun Violence in the U.S.” Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. June 22, 2017. Accessed November 08, 2018. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2017/06/22/views-of-guns-and-gun-violence/.

[2] Team, DPS Web. “Crime in Texas Reports.” TxDPS — Crime in Texas Reports. October 30, 2011. Accessed November 08, 2018. http://www.dps.texas.gov/crimereports/10/citCh3.pdf Pages 2–5

[3] Team, DPS Web. “Crime in Texas Reports.” TxDPS — Crime in Texas Reports. October 30, 2017. Accessed November 08, 2018. http://www.dps.texas.gov/crimereports/16/citCh3.pdf Pages 1–3

[4] Team, DPS Web. “Crime in Texas Reports.” TxDPS — Crime in Texas Reports. October 30, 2011. Accessed November 08, 2018. http://www.dps.texas.gov/crimereports/10/citCh3.pdf Pages 10–11

[5] Team, DPS Web. “Crime in Texas Reports.” TxDPS — Crime in Texas Reports. October 30, 2011. Accessed November 08, 2018. http://www.dps.texas.gov/crimereports/16/citCh3.pdf Pages 9–10

[6] “ “

[7] https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/LG/htm/LG.229.htm Subchapter A

[8] https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.9.htm#C Subchapter C and Subchapter D

[9] National Center for Health Statistics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. January 10, 2018. Accessed November 08, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/firearm_mortality/firearm.htm.

[10] Campbell, Sean, Daniel Nass, and Mai Nguyen. “The CDC Is Publishing Unreliable Data On Gun Injuries. People Are Using It Anyway.” FiveThirtyEight. October 04, 2018. Accessed November 08, 2018. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-cdc-is-publishing-unreliable-data-on-gun-injuries-people-are-using-it-anyway/.

[11] Team, DPS Web. “Crime in Texas Reports.” TxDPS — Crime in Texas Reports. October 30, 2017. Accessed November 08, 2018. http://www.dps.texas.gov/crimereports/14/citCh3.pdf

[12] Team, DPS Web. “Crime in Texas Reports.” TxDPS — Crime in Texas Reports. October 30, 2017. Accessed November 08, 2018. http://www.dps.texas.gov/crimereports/16/citCh3.pdf

[13] Team, DPS Web. TxDPS — License to Carry (LTC) FAQs. Accessed November 08, 2018. https://www.dps.texas.gov/RSD/LTC/faqs/index.htm. Section 6, “How much does it cost to obtain or renew a License to Carry a Handgun (LTC)?”

[14] Samuels, Alex. “New Texas Law Lowers Fees for Handgun Licenses.” The Texas Tribune. September 27, 2017. Accessed November 08, 2018. https://www.texastribune.org/2017/09/27/new-law-lower-first-time-fees-texans-wanting-buy-handgun-license/.

[15]https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.46.htm Section 46.02

[16] https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.46.htm Section 46.04

[17] https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.22.htm Section 22.01

[18] https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/922 Section 922(g) (3)

[19] https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/archive/assets/documents/safeactfaq.pdf Page 2–4 6–7

[20] http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/indexcrimes/Regions.pdf

[21] http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/indexcrimes/Regions.pdf

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