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A plan

Dear Editor:

The report was delivered, Executive Orders signed, and it’s clear this administration is not really interested in reducing gun violence or in protecting schools and school age children.  The focus is still on gun control — let’s pass another Assault Weapons Ban (like the last one that did nothing) and continue our assault on the Constitutional Rights of law abiding citizens.  Why try to do anything that might really reduce violent crime when we can demonize these “phony” assault rifles that look so dangerous.

Liberals keep saying, “We just want to have some reasonable, common sense, gun laws.”  Well, let’s look at a “common sense” gun law that I could get behind if it was introduced in the Colorado Legislature for statewide implementation.

During the 1990s, the Richmond, Va., homicide rate — driven primarily by gun violence — was among the highest in the nation for cities with populations exceeding 100,000.  Approximately 85 percent of Richmond’s homicides in 1997 were committed with guns, more than 40 percent were drug-related, and more than 60 percent involved offenders with prior criminal records (sounds like Chicago last year).  The Richmond U.S. Attorney’s Office, in coordination with the Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney, and other state and federal agencies, started a program called “Project Exile” in 1997 that was designed to address the gang violence which had plagued Richmond. At the time of its inception, the level of murders and shootings had regularly increased each year, with Richmond’s murder rates being one of the highest five for the country.

Project Exile was a coordinated approach to gun violence that specifically targeted previously convicted felons carrying guns and armed persons involved in drug or violent crimes.  It shifted the prosecution of illegal technical gun possession offenses to federal court, where they carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison under the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, rather than in state court.  What a concept — “Use a gun to commit a crime and go to jail.”

During the first 10 months of 1998, compared to 1997, the total number of homicides committed in Richmond was down 36 percent and the number of firearm homicides was down 41 percent.   There were 372 persons indicted for federal gun violations, 440 guns seized, 300 persons arrested or held in state custody, 247 convictions, and 196 sentenced to an average of 55 months of imprisonment.

According to the 2011 FBI crime statistics, there were an estimated 14,612 murders in the U.S.  This was a 0.7 percent decrease from 2010 and a 14.7 percent decline from 2007.  There were 4.7 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, a 1.5 percent decrease from the 2010 rate.  However, the rate for cities of 250,000 and over was 10.1 while the rate for non-metropolitan counties of 10-25,000 was 2.9.  12,664 murders were committed with weapons, 8,583 of those were with firearms.  Of those, 1694 were with knives, 728 with personal weapons (fists, etc.), 496 with clubs/blunt instruments, and 323 with rifles — of which the “cosmetically” defined “assault” rifle is a small sub-set — just 3.8 percent of homicides committed with weapons.  But hey, what the heck, let’s not worry about facts or inconveniencing criminals — those nasty looking “assault” rifles must be the problem so let’s ban them — at least from law-abiding citizens.

Jim Huffman

This story was posted on January 24, 2013.