ited warning signs of depression, suicidal tendencies, or alienation, and they were often picked on by others. And, most pertinent to the subject of this book, they all had ready access to guns. It would be unrealistic to suggest that no harm would have been done had these boys not been able to arm themselves easily, but the degree of death and injury would undoubtedly have been reduced if they had had less firepower. Typical is the case of fifteen-year-old Kip Kinkel, who fired fifty-one shots in his school cafeteria in Springfield, Oregon--a state with higher gun ownership rates than the national average--with a .22-caliber Ruger semiautomatic rifle, killing two and injuring twenty-two others. Kinkel was subdued only when he stopped to reload. Kinkel's weapon increased the "lethality" of the attack when compared to, say, an attack with a knife, or even compared to guns that hold fewer rounds of ammunition or to single-loading, bolt-action models.
While adults commit similar crimes, such school incidents heighten public concern because they involve the young. Society controls or restricts children's access to many products, from alcohol to automobiles, precisely because of the inherent dangers attendant on their use and the resulting need for adult judgment. (Most of the child assailants, including Kinkel, were trained in the proper handling of firearms.) By their nature, children are more likely to respond on impulse and less likely to understand the consequences of their actions, facts of great importance in understanding the link between young people and suicide, as discussed earlier. As argued in this chapter, tighter control of guns would not eliminate violence, but it would render many criminal acts less lethal and also increase the degree of difficulty in committing crimes--observations borne out in the schoolyard attacks. 92
What does this survey of the criminological consequences of guns lead us to conclude about the regulation of guns in the United States? Without question, guns are inextricably linked to violence in America. The available evidence does not, however, answer the causal question of whether guns cause violence or whether the violence-prone simply turn to guns. The most likely answer to this riddle is probably a combination of both conclusions. If guns disappeared tomorrow, violence would surely continue. But it would probably be less devastating, especially for such at-risk groups as the young and African Americans.
Beyond this, we can reasonably come to the following conclusions: