The Politics of Gun Control

By Roberst J. Spitzer | Go to book overview
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Chapter 1. Policy Definition and Gun Control
See "Gun Law Failures," NRA Institute for Legislative Action, 1982. The 20,000 figure is accepted by Richard Hofstadter, "America as a Gun Culture," American Heritage 21 ( October 1970): 85.
American history is of course pockmarked by civil strife, from the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 to the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King incident. Our greatest threat to public order, the Civil War, nearly destroyed the United States. Despite these and other instances, however, American society has been among the most ordered, despite its size, diversity, and democratic values.
The philosophical and practical problems of balancing order and freedom are nicely discussed in Theodore J. Lowi and Benjamin Ginsberg, American Government: Freedom and Power ( New York: Norton, 1994).
Samuel Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968), 7-8.
Thomas R. Dye, Understanding Public Policy (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1984), 2. Dye insightfully discusses the many efforts to define public policy properly (efforts he understandably labels "exasperating"). He concludes that the debate tends to divert attention away from the actual study of policy and that despite apparent differences, competing definitions tend ultimately to converge on a common understanding.
See Carl J. Friedrich, Constitutional Government and Democracy ( Boston: Little, Brown, 1941), 88-89. See also Theodore J. Lowi, The End of Liberalism ( New York: Norton, 1979), 273. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "policy" and "police" share the Latin root politia. Henry C. Black defined police power as securing "generally the comfort, safety, morals, health, and prosperity of its citizens by preserving the public order, preventing a conflict of rights in the common intercourse of the citizens, and insuring to each an uninterrupted enjoyment of all privileges conferred upon him or her by the general laws." Black's Law Dictionary ( St. Paul, Minn.: West, 1983), 603.
Lowi and Ginsberg, American Government, 76.
Larry N. Gerston, Cynthia Fraleigh, and Robert Schwab, The Deregulated Society (Pacific Grove, Calif.: Brooks/Cole, 1988), 66. See also Joyce M. Mitchell and William C. Mitchell, Political Analysis and Public Policy ( Chicago: Rand McNally, 1969), 207-9.
Lowi and Ginsberg, American Government, 640.


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