Prevention: Crime's Cure

Article excerpt

FLANKED by law enforcement officers and repeating the 30-year-old ritual of his predecessors, President Clinton has launched yet another "get tough on crime" war against the wrong enemy, on the wrong battlefield, with the wrong weapons. Missing is any new vision of how to reduce and prevent violence, substance abuse, and crime.

Putting 50,000 or even 100,000 more police officers on the street will enlarge law enforcement agencies but not protect the communities where crime and the fear of crime are rampant.

It is yet uncertain if community policing will help; the last three decades have demonstrated that the primary prevention agents are not the police but parents, educators, and health officials.

The Brady handgun bill and the ban on importing assault weapons will have no important impact on reducing and preventing gun-related violence. A five-day handgun waiting period is far less effective than the instantaneous check system now implemented in Illinois.

Today there are 200 million to 400 million privately owned firearms in the United States, yet the US is the only industrial nation with no effective handgun regulation.

This country requires a comprehensive strategy, including a ban on the importation of all firearms, as well as prohibition of, or taxation on, the manufacture and sale of specific weapons.

A strict weapons licensing system and consumer safety regulations against unlocked and loaded weapons must be implemented, along with a parental responsibility law for the use of weapons by minors. Hospitals need a national firearm fatality reporting system. Also needed are a massive weapons buy-back and recycling plan; universal counseling for the perpetrators, victims, and witnesses of life-threatening violence; and compensation for gun-violence victims.

Finally, we must have a major initiative that redefines attitudes toward guns in film and television; a consumer safety warning against "war toys" and toy guns; a violence-prevention curriculum in every school; and an appraisal of how US militarism contributes to domestic attitudes toward guns, conflict, and aggression.

Contrary to trends in every other industrial country, the US is expanding capital punishment through unfunded federal mandates to the states, even though the death penalty has no deterrent effect and is three times more costly than life imprisonment without parole. …