Technological Shortcuts to Social Change

By Amitai Etzioni; Richard Remp | Go to book overview

4
A TECHNOLOGY WHOSE REMOVAL "WORKS": GUN CONTROL

GUN CONTROLS AND VIOLENCE: TWO VIEWS

The enactment of gun controls, or legal restrictions on the private possession of firearms, has frequently been presented as a means of reducing the rates of violent crime and accidental death and injury in the United States. Since guns are move widely owned and less strictly regulated in the United States than in most other industrial countries the question arises as to whether the sheer physical availability of guns contributes in a major fashion to the American rates of murder, suicide, and accidental death. Does the presence of approximately 90 million guns in the country, with one-half of the households possessing at least one firearm and usually more than one,2. add to the nation's crime and accident rates? Or, on the other hand, are fire-

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1
Gun control, in contrast to the other innovations discussed, is a "negative" alteration in the technology of a social problem: the restriction or removal of a preexisting technology. Such procedures might be useful when a developing technology (or the changing context of an existing technology) leads to a widely recognized social problem and when that technology is susceptible to control or elimination through legislation. For an extensive review of the lack of effective gun controls in the United States and the consequences of this situation, see Carl Bakal, The Right to Bear Arms ( New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1966). An examination of recent increases in firearms sales and ownership in the United States and the relationship between gun availability and violence is provided by George D. Newton and Franklin E. Zimring, Firearms and Violence in American Life: A Staff Report to the National Commission On the Causes and Prevention of Violence ( Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1970). For an account of the struggles in and around Congress over gun control legislation during the last decade, see Richard Harris, "Annals of Legislation: If You Love Your Guns," New Yorker ( April 20, 1968), pp. 56-155. A discussion of the National Riffle Association's opposition to gun controls is provided by Robert Sherrill, "A Lobby on Target," New York Times Magazine ( October 15, 19670, pp. 27-132.
2
Newton and Zimring, op. Cit., pp. xi, xii

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