The Politics of Gun Control

By Roberst J. Spitzer | Go to book overview

Guns don't kill people--people do.

--NRA Slogan

Guns don't die--people do.

-- Pete Shields


3. The Criminological Consequences
of Guns

Case 1: ON 14 October 1989 three teenage boys were examining a .38-caliber automatic pistol that belonged to the father of one of the boys. Thinking that the gun was unloaded because the ammunition magazine had been removed, one of the boys pulled the trigger, accidentally shooting and killing fourteen-year-old Michael J. Steber, of Clay, New York. The boys had not realized that a round was still in the gun's chamber. Two years later, the parents of the dead boy filed a civil suit against the gun's owner (and father of the shooter), Gordon Lane, a former Syracuse police officer and head of the state's chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, and against the gun manufacturer for failing to include a 75-cent safety feature that would have prevented the gun from firing without the ammunition clip. Lane had several guns in the home and had guided his son's use of them. The father of the dead boy questioned the justification for keeping such weapons in the home. "I'm a Vietnam veteran too," said Mr. Steber, "and I don't have a gun around the house. I don't need it." 1

Case 2: One evening, Marion Hammer was on her way to her car, located in a parking garage in Tallahassee, Florida, when she noticed a car carrying six drunken men following her. Less than five feet tall and weighing 111 pounds, she feared trouble when some of the men made comments that amounted to a threat of rape. Reaching into her purse, Ms. Hammer produced a Colt .38 Detective's Special. When the car's driver spied the gun, he stopped the car, turned around, and peeled out of the garage. "Had I not had my gun," said the fifty-one-year-old woman, "I might not have lived to talk about it."2

Case 3: The schoolday began like any other at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California. But shortly before noontime, on 17 January 1989, a twenty-four-year-old drifter named Patrick Edward

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