James Jacobs: A Pessimist for Gun Crime Reduction

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James Jacobs

In an intimate interview on Time, James Jacobs, director of Center for Research in Crime and Justice at New York University School of Law, a professor of constitutional law, and the author of Can Gun Control Work?, explains some of his deep sentiments regarding gun control. He claims that “things are really better than they’ve been for decades” in our society in terms of gun crime. He proceeds to discuss the decrease in violent crime and gun crime the United States has witnessed since the early 1990’s despite the increasing number of firearms. At first glance his facts seem valid and difficult to argue but when you take a further glance into the facts he has presented, there are some serious holes in his argument. It is important to address gun violence for the United States as a whole, however, each state facilitates varying gun laws and policies so this feat is impossible when talking statistics. Jacobs’ claim that things are better than they’ve ever been is a skewed perception of reality when examining gun crime. The reason his statistics relating to the decrease in violent crime and gun crime since the 90’s are invalid is because the policies have also tightened up. Gun laws are nowhere near where they were in the 90’s so making such a comparison is practically useless. A more effective and efficient approach to evaluating gun policies is to examine state specific gun laws and compare data from before and after policies changes; similar to the statistics examined in the New York Time’s article on Missouri gun policy.

Jacobs furthers his argument by insisting that our constitution, a document that is over 200 years old, limits our capability of changing gun policies. Such limitations seem idiotic in light of the consequences gun crime and violence hold. Should we all turn a blind eye to hundreds and thousands of deaths from guns because of this outdated constitutional right?

Jacobs truly outdoes himself in another topic regarding mental illness and gun policies. In general, politicians on both side of the gun debate have agreed that more should be done to keep guns away from the mentally ill. Jacobs attempts to seem politically correct in saying that it is extremely difficult to label who is mentally ill and what constitutes mental illness and proceeds to say that creating such a label will hinder anyone with such illness in their decision to seek help. Jacobs is attempting to appeal to the audience’s pathos and he does make a valid point that it is difficult to define what constitutes mental illness, however, the topic of mental illness should not be taken lightly especially in the light of gun crime and violence. Jacobs dances around the topic and sticks to his sentiments that gun policies should not be increased even in an attempt to forbid the mentally ill from obtaining them. As I had mentioned, it is generally agreed upon that state policies should prevent the mentally ill from acquiring firearms but Jacobs reasoning against it is essentially that it would be too much work to accomplish this. Does this constitute not doing anything?

Not only do Jacobs claims lack validity, he seems to purposely tip toe around the questions that he does not have a strong answer to. All in all his arguments against increased gun policies are extremely weak and express a lazy attitude towards possible constructive change.

“Fewer Gun Restrictions and More Gun Killings”: An Affirmative View

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According to a recent New York Times article, Missouri’s loosened gun laws have proven to have an adverse affect on gun killings and gun crimes as they continue to increase. Sabrina Tavernise paints a startling depiction of the realities that have crept into society within the south midwestern state following changes in gun policy that took place in 2007. For over a decade prior to the changes, Missourians were subject to an extensive, in-person background check within a state’s sheriff office in order to acquire a gun permit. But in 2007 the legislature repealed this process and made several other radical changes to gun policies. In addition, Missouri also lowered the legal age to carry a concealed gun to 19. Tavernise goes on to explore how Missouri’s loosened gun laws have proven to be a natural example for all other states regarding gun policy.

With data collected by Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, Tavernise points out some disturbing statistics. First, despite an 11% decrease in the national gun homicide rates in the six years following Missouri’s changes, the state’s rates adversely increased by 16%. In addition, between 1999-2006 Missouri’s gun homicide rate was 13.8% above the national rate and between 2008-2014 Missouri’s gun homicide rate was a shocking 47% above the national rate. These statistics give only a peek into the negative effects the loosened gun laws have had on the state and the safety of its’ population. While there are a few researchers who find the data slightly dramatic, the general consensus among scholars is that the increased rates are due to the loosed gun policies.

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Sly James Jr. discussing homicide spike alongside county prosecutor Jean Peters Baker

Sly James Jr., the mayor of Kansas City, has been a huge advocate for abolishing the changes and reestablishing many of the gun policies that were eliminated in 2007. He labeled the increasing fun homicide rates in the city as “slow-motion mass murder.” Despite his best efforts, not many other politicians within the state agree with his desire to tighten the laws.

Tavernise implies the disturbing realities we can take away from Missouri’s changes in gun policy. I believe that while not all data can be definitely conclusive and point solely to gun policies for increased homicide rates and violence, we cannot ignore the obvious effects it has had on the state. We as a country cannot turn a blind eye to the example Missouri has proven to be over the past few years.