Nothing does more to tear our families apart than violent crime, guns, gangs, drugs, and the fear that walks alongside those terrors. Violent crime and victim rights have become a major concern for most citizens in the United States of America. Statistics indicate a decline in violent crimes in our country and an increase in our national prison population. Released prisoners commit most violent crimes. Gun control legislation, reform programs, victim rights awareness, and other programs are abundant in our country, but do little to alleviate violent crime. In this paper I will try to present the liberal and conservative views on this issue as well as my own views.
Violent crime is a complex problem and can only be responded to in complex ways. “Quick fix” solutions to the problem are likely to be misguided.
There was a decline in crime during the 1990s. Our country enjoyed seven years of declining crime for the period 1991-98, the most recent data available. During this period crime declined by 22% and violent crime by 25%. These are welcome developments, particularly following the surge of crime and violence of the late 1980s. This decline occurred during a time when the national prison population has increased substantially, rising from 789,60 in 1991 to 1,252,830, a 59% rise in just seven years and a 47% increase in the rate of incarceration, taking into account changes in the national population.
Many observers have drawn a simple correlation between these two trends. Putting more offenders in prison caused the reduction in crime. The Sentencing project has just completed a study that examines this issue in great detail and concludes that any such correlation is ambiguous at best. In examining the relationship between incarceration and crime in the 1990s the picture is complicated by the seven year period just prior to this, 1984-91. In this period, incarceration also rose substantially, at a rate of 65%. Yet crime rates increased during this time as well, by 17% nationally. Thus we see a continuous rise in incarceration for fourteen years, during which crime rose for seven years, then declined for seven years. This does not suggest that incarceration had no impact on crime, but any such connection is clearly influenced by other factors. A comparison with other nations is instructive in this regard. The United States incarcerates its citizens at a greater rate than any other nation and at a rate 5-8 times that of most other industrialized nations. This differential is in part due to a higher rate of violent crime in the U.S. and in part to more severe criminal justice policies. The reasons why other industrialized nations have less violent crime than in the U.S. is clearly not because they lock up more offenders and thereby reduce crime. We could debate the various factors that contribute to our high level of violence but a failure to incarcerate is clearly not one of them.
In order to analyze the decline in crime in the 1990s in greater detail the project team examined the relationship between imprisonment and crime at the state level from 1991 to 1998. The reason for doing so is that national trends often obscure substantial variations among the states in the degree to which imprisonment is utilized as a response to crime. During the seven year period, for example, Texas led the nation with a 144% rise in its rate of incarceration. Maine increased its prison population by just 2%. The national average increase in the rate of incarceration was 47%. The statistics are significant and they are gratifying. Violent crimes may be at their lowest levels in a generation, but even a single crime is one too many.
Even if statistics indicate a decline in violent crime, citizens are still concerned about becoming a victim of a crime. Our children cannot reach for their dreams if they are ducking for cover. We cannot restore a sense of community and decency if people are afraid to walk in any neighborhood, if they feel they have lost the public spaces that are rightfully theirs. A parent struggles to pass on the right values in a culture that practically screams out that chaos and cruelty are cool. A good parent is undermined in trying to teach the great, simple lessons of right and wrong, of the rule of law and responsibility, when a burdened justice system lets criminals off too easy. The liberals have fought for ages to instill a sense of security and safety to our nation. They are in favor of enforcing tougher penalties against drug and sex offenders. Liberals are pushing hard to create more gun laws that are written for families, not for gun lobbyists and their apologists. They are working on raising the age for handgun possession from 18 to 21 and to pass strict background checks for those who buy guns at gun shows. Liberals are in favor of enacting stiff, new penalties for adults who sell guns to minors and to require child-safety locks on guns. Liberals believe we need tougher penalties for gun trafficking and all crimes committed with guns. The Brady Law is one of many laws that the democrats have passed. Since the Brady waiting period law was passed, gun crimes have dropped by 38 percent. The liberals feel that the Brady Law has stopped nearly a quarter of a million felons and fugitives from buying guns and saved countless lives.
The liberals have endorsed a constitutional amendment to expand the rights of crime victims. The amendment would grant victims & their families the right to reasonable notice of court proceedings involving their cases, the right to have a voice in those proceedings, and the right to notice of an offenders release from prison. Conservatives assert that those rights can be ensured without an amendment, and that the measure would violate the civil rights of the accused.
The Liberals and Conservatives have many different views regarding guns. However, both parties do agree on some gun issues. They are both in favor of supporting the current ban on assault weapons, prohibiting juveniles from possessing assault weapons and banning imports of high capacity ammunition clips. Both parties are also in favor of raising the minimum age for possessing a handgun from age eighteen to twenty one.
The Conservatives are strongly opposed to government-mandated registration of guns owned by people who do not break the laws. Conservatives feel their safety and power to protect their families are in jeopardy if the government enforces gun prohibition. They strongly support the Second Amendment, the right of “the people” to keep and bare arms. They feel that the Liberals and their federal agencies have declared a civil war on law abiding firearm owners. They declare that what the Democrats label as the Gun Culture only targets peaceable gun owners. It is a naked attempt to strip the next generation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. To conservatives Gun Culture means our history, our heritage, our future and our freedom. Marion Hammer, 1998 President of the NRA made the following statement about the Liberals definition of gun culture. It is just another contrived, divisive, polarizing term. It is an attempt to cast law abiding gun owners in a negative light. They want to portray guns and gun ownership as sinister and evil.
The conservatives defend their gun rights and often argue that gun prohibition will not eliminate violent crime. The war against guns was sparked by the terrible murders of school children in Jonesboro, Arkansas and the Columbine High School Shooting. Conservatives conclude that nothing the government could ever propose would have prevented these twisted youths from obtaining the firearms, stealing a vehicle, stealing ammunition and stealing the lives and futures from their classmates and families. Every action they took violated an existing law. No man made law could have prevented this awful violent crime.
Conservatives do support many laws that can decrease violent crimes. They have voted for increased penalties for repeat domestic violence offenders and those who violate protective orders. The support victim rights by requiring law enforcement officials to notify victims of violence upon the offenders release from custody. The want more police officer protection. They support legislation in making it a felony to assault police officers and other public servants. They voted for the two strikes and youre out law for sex offenders. The law removes the “two priors” provision and requires automatic life upon a second sex-related offense. They support the abolishment of mandatory release of inmates and increased parolee supervision.
Conservatives feel state and local authorities are largely responsible for combating violent crime. They believe the federal governments role in criminal justice is primarily international and multi-jurisdictional including tough policies against organized crime, drug cartels, and international terrorism. In addition to this, they believe the Federal government can do more to improve our criminal justice system. Conservatives are advocates for providing comprehensive juvenile justice reform, tougher sex offender laws, longer sentences for violent repeat offenders, and zero tolerance for drunk driving.
I believe that the best way to protect the innocent is to fully enforce the law and to ensure swift and sure punishment for criminals. Government’s most basic duty is to ensure law and order and keep citizens safe from crime. I strongly support the second amendment. I think it should be every citizens right to own a gun for hunting or protection provided that they have a license and are educated about gun safety. I am in favor of laws that keep guns out of the hands of criminals and away from children. I support increasing the number of community police on our streets, and give them the high-tech tools and the training they need to keep crime down. I am for strengthening the laws against serious criminals. I am strongly for victim rights. I support the Megans Law requiring that people should be told if a sex offender lives in their area.
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