Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Why Do Americans Need Guns, Anyway?

The following article was written in about the year 2000 to address this issue. It is as appropriate today as it was then. With the average police response time nationally at 11 minutes as of this writing in 2014, think about what you will do in those agonizing 11 minutes when someone is breaking into your house. (If you live in Detroit, it may be as long as 58 minutes you will wait for a police response.)

Common Sense Gun Control
By: Roger Fulton, Ph.D., Criminal Justice Management, Captain, NY State Police, (Ret.)
That’s a good question. And it is one that deserves a simple answer.
To protect themselves and their loved ones.
"But we have the police to protect us," you may counter. And you are right. Usually.
When a crime has happened, is about to happen, or even if we are afraid, most people in the United States simply dial 911 for help. That’s nice, and a great system. But what do you do while it takes police officers 3, 5, 7 or in some cases, as much as 45 minutes - or more - to respond to your request for help?
If you cannot successfully protect yourself and your family during that delay, you may be a dead victim when the police finally do arrive. You and yours may still be alive; but maybe not.

Need more info on this whole personal protection topic? Let’s take a look at a couple of serious problems which have occurred in this country in recent years. Could you successfully defend yourself and your loved ones, without a gun, in the following reality-check situations?

Hurricane Andrew devastated southern Florida and particularly hit the area of Homestead, Florida with winds of up to 160 miles per hour. Homes were blown away. There was no power, no telephone and no food or fresh water. Disaster relief could not even get into the area due to debris and the wholesale destruction caused by the hurricane.
Within hours, those who had food and water, were being accosted by those without, who wanted food and water. Those life sustaining supplies were then looted from the survivors who had them, by those who wanted them. In some cases the looters threatened honest citizens with a variety of weapons, from sticks to guns, to obtain food and water.
As time went on, the desire for food and water got stronger, as did the tactics and amount of force used to steal them. After the third day, disaster preparedness officials went on national TV begging for help before anarchy completely ruled the disaster area. Disaster relief ultimately arrived, but not before many honest and unprepared citizens had been robbed by desperate and armed thugs.

Where would you, as an honest citizen, have been in the food chain during this actual disaster? Could you have protected your family’s food and water from armed predators willing to steal everything you had? Without a gun, you would have been defenseless.
After the infamous Rodney King trial, the South Central area of Los Angeles erupted in a riot of proportions seldom seen in the United States. Arson, snipers, rioting and looting were the rule in some areas. The police were overwhelmed. In most cases the best they could do was to protect city buildings, and cover fire crews who were often being fired upon by snipers. The carnage lasted for days, with more than 60 deaths.

With the police overwhelmed, and rioters and looters in the streets, where would an unarmed citizen find themselves on the food chain of the riot? Armed citizens were able to protect their families and property from looters and arsonists. Unarmed citizens fell victim to marauding gangs of looters. In some cases those unarmed citizens lost their most valued possessions.
As much as we like to think of our America as a civilized and progressive society, we must recognize that the division between a civilized society, and anarchy, is a delicate one. When the police are overwhelmed, it is up to us to protect our families and possessions. That has always been the American tradition.

We hope it never happens to you, but when anarchy rules the streets, where will you be? Will you be an honest, armed citizen, capable of deterring the most violent of predators, or will you be a willing victim due to your lack of resolve and preparation?
We hope you will never have to answer that question. However, natural and man-made disasters will always be an unpredictable factor in our lives. The question remains, "Are you prepared to defend yourself and those you love?"
It may be a looter who wants your life-sustaining water, or a sexual predator after your children. The question you need to ask yourself is, "What will I do when the phone lines are dead?"
It’s your decision.

Bio: Roger Fulton retired from the New York State Police as a Captain. He completed his graduate work on the Issues of Gun Control and Its Effectiveness. He is now trying to interject common sense and facts into the emotional debate over gun control in the United States in 2014.

Monday, October 27, 2014

"Crime Control;" not "Gun Control" - A Common Sense Approach

With crime rates of of control in New York's major cities during the early part of that 25 year period from 1987 to 2012, police departments and politicians sought solutions. Common Sense actually prevailed as law and order politicians targeted the offending populations. New York City found that the same guy who was jumping the turnstile in the subway, once apprehended for that minor violation was actually in possession of an illegal handgun used in a homicide earlier that week. So they started targeting career criminals at all levels. Gang units were created to specifically go after the increasing gang activity that was controlling certain neighborhoods where crime rates were highest. Rules were set to keep known criminals from residing in public housing projects. New York State built more and more prisons to house career criminals.  AND, homicide and other crime rates started dropping!
These actions were consistent with the recommendations of the 1987 commission and were effective.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Next 25 years - 1987 to 2012

Regarding Gun Control legislation not much changed in this 25 year period. There were a few minor amendments to the gun control laws of New York State. But overall it was quiet. Law abiding citizens, about 550,00 of them, had legal pistol permits in New York State. Gun crimes continued in New York State, but not by legal pistol permit holders. Millions of New Yorkers continued to own shotguns, rifles and even the legally defined "assault rifles". No permit needed unless it was fully automatic. That meant one pull of the trigger would trigger a continuous hail of bullets. Those had been banned since the organized crime era of the 1930's by the Federal Government, as well as the State of New York. New Yorkers continued to have the right to protect themselves and their families with firearms of their choice with limited restrictions. Life was generally good and safe in the rural and small town areas of New York. The major cities however, continued to have crime problems from drug dealers and gangs, including "drive by" shootings over turf wars using illegally obtained and unregistered weapons.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Legal success in the future - Some conclusions from 1987

1. Future legislation should be based on adequate research.
2. Future legislation should target the offending population without adding unreasonable burdens to the law-abiding population.
3. Any new legislation should include sufficient resources to properly train law enforcement personnel, prosecutors and judges in the new law, its purposes and goals.
4. Existing loopholes should be evaluated  [and closed] with a view toward strengthening  the law as it applies to the offending population.
5. A penalty for violating the law must be swift and sure if it is to be a deterrent to criminal conduct.

Currently, the criminal justice system in New York State is not meeting this challenge. Whether it is the fault of the law, law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, or a combination of the various segments, steps should be taken to ensure that the system meets the challenge before it.

Source: An Overview of the Handgun Control System in New York State by Roger V. Fulton, Spring, 1987

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Legislative Focus - Not solving the problem

In 1987, after extensive research into the crime problems of New York and the legislative history of more than 75 years of increasingly punitive gun control laws, Roger Fulton wrote:
"Few criminals apply for permits for their guns and few permit holders become criminals. The simple logic of this situation indicates that more general legislation will not solve the problem. For over 75 years, the legislators have tried to impose legal standards on an element of society which ignores the law and also has few ethical standards."
"The burden of  these laws has fallen , not on the law violator, but on the law-abiding citizen. There is little equity in a system that threatens a law-abiding permit holder with up to six months in jail  for failure to change his address, when a majority of persons arrested for illegal handguns spend no time in jail."
"The Police Foundation study has identified the offending population as being urban and young with previous arrest records. Yet most permits in New York State are held by persons in rural or suburban areas with no arrest records. Legislators should target the offending population, not the law-abiding population, if they expect their efforts to be effective."
Source: An Overview of the Handgun Control System in New York State by Roger V. Fulton, Spring, 1987

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Who was doing the gun crimes?

The Police Foundation's 1987 study undertook evaluation of who the gun offenders were. No other study had clearly identified who was guilty of possessing and unlawfully using handguns in New York State. Their findings were enlightening and could be critical to understanding the total problem.
"Most gun offenders were between 18 and 25. One half were black. One half had not completed high school. Although 2/3 had prior misdemeanor and felony arrests, few had been convicted of these crimes."
"Perhaps the entire Police Foundation study of the handgun control law [of 1980] can best be summed up by the tile of Chapter Six of that report:  CONCLUSION: OVERSOLD BUT NOT NECESSARILY USELESS."
 Sources: Police Foundation, The 1980 New York Gun Law; An Evaluation of its Implementation and Impact," Final Report to the National Institute of Justice, January 9. 1987 and
An Overview of the Handgun Control System in New York State by Roger V. Fulton, Spring 1987.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Prosecutors and Judges and Firearms Laws

In 1980 mandatory sentencing laws were passed by the New York State Legislature. The message they tried to send was "Get caught with a loaded gun and you'll do at least a year in jail." It certainly looked good on paper. In 1981 the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services undertook a study to see how effective this new "mandatory sentencing" law had been in New York City. But they only studied "Loaded Gun Arraignments" that made it through the initial prosecutor discretionary phase as to whether or not to proceed to the arraignment stage. To make this long and technical study short, more than 60% of  persons convicted of these "Loaded Gun" charges  did not serve the mandatory one year sentence as laid out by the legislature. The report cited below stated, " is still obvious that the intent of the law was not being complied with by prosecutors and judges to the fullest extent."
Sources: "Criminal Possession of a Loaded Firearm Outside the Home or Place od Business - The effect of the Gun Law in New York City," contained in Division of Criminal Justice Service Semi-Annual Report on Violent Felony and Juvenile Offenses in New York State. February 2, 1982
And, An Overview of the Handgun Control System in New York State by Roger V. Fulton, Spring, 1987 , Page 39

Monday, June 23, 2014

Law abiding citizens and Gun Control Laws

In contrast to the last entry that 'Criminals Don't Obey Laws", back in 1987 we personally interviewed the man in charge of the New York State Pistol Permit Section for the previous 14 years. Here is the summary as excerpted from that interview. As you read this, keep in ind that New York's crime rates, including homicides were rising to record levels during this time period.
"It should be noted that Lieutenant Lee O. Thomas, Officer in charge of the State Police Pistol  Permit Section for the past 14 years, stated that there have been so few of these cases where licensees were arrested for any crime that he doesn't even keep records of them after the case is handled. This despite the fact that there are over 500,000 licenses outstanding in the state."
Source: Personal interview with Lieutenant Lee O. Thomas, Officer in Charge of the Pistol Permit Section of the New York state Police, Albany, NY. January 19, 1987
It seems that "Law Abiding Citizens DO Obey the Law!"

Monday, June 9, 2014

Why gun control laws don't work

Despite all of my criminal justice related degrees, the extensive research I have done over the years on this subject and the thousands of pages of studies I have reviewed, I'm not sure I can make my findings complicated. In fact, any reasonable person with some basic common sense could come to the same conclusion that I have for why the New York and other national, state and local gun laws have not worked.
Criminals, by definition, don't obey laws!!!!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Fast forward 50 years

50 years after that New York Times editorial was published, in 1963 there were about 400 murders in New York City alone. That in spite of the fact that the Sullivan Laws and other gun laws in New York had been rewritten, amended, publicized and enforced. Yet the problem of criminals with guns had not gone away. In 1963 the city started keeping track of the number of homicides in the city.
Again from the New York Times, "That was 1963.The body count that year reflected the beginnings of what was to be an alarming rise in the city’s murder rate through 1990. In that year [1990], the city’s worst, there were 2,245 homicides and New York City was known as the murder capital of the nation." NY Times, December 31, 2007.
So why were the gun laws of New York, some of the most strict gun laws in the country, ineffective in controlling the violent crime problems of New York?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

New York Times Editorial on Gun Control

From the New York Times; an editorial on the gun control laws:
 "The concealed weapon law has not worked as well as was expected by those of us who commended it. This is a fact too obvious for denial. Criminals are as well armed as ever, in spite of the sterness with which the law has been applied to a few of them. There is the impression among honest men, mistaken but none the less real, that they were wrongly deprived of the means of defending themselves and their property."
That editorial appeared in the New York Times on May 24, 1913, two years after the Sullivan Laws had been passed.
But it could have been written yesterday, more than 100 years later!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

More Gun Control Laws - 20 years later - The Sullivan Lawst

Twenty years after the 1881 handgun law was passed, crime was still rampant in New York City. So the legislature passed a series of additional gun control laws, collectively known as The Sullivan Laws, named for their sponsor Timothy D. Sullivan of New York City.
These laws raised the unlawful carrying of an unlicensed concealed weapon to a felony, as well as requiring a police license to purchase a firearm. This new law was highly touted as the cure for the high crime rates and would get criminals off the streets of the cities of New York.
(Excerpted from An Overview of the Handgun Control System in New York State by Roger V. Fulton, Spring 1987).

Sunday, May 4, 2014

In the beginning - 1881

In 1881 the New York State Legislature, concerned about the rising violent crime rates involving the use of handguns, passed the following law: 412. A person who carries a concealed weapon about his person, any kind of fire-arms, being loaded or partly loaded, ... is guilty of a misdemeanor.  (New York Penal Code L. 1221 CH 676. Effective May 11, 1882).
Although this law and others like it were enacted by the Legislature, the crime problems continued in New York State. (An Overview of the Handgun Control System in New York State, by Roger V. Fulton, Spring, 1987).

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gun Control in America - Facts; not Emotions

The debate about the 2nd Amendment and gun control in America has been raging recently as strong as ever. That's generally a healthy thing in our democracy. But the misinformation, the groundswell of emotional rhetoric and the political posturing on both sides has driven me to re-enter the fray. 
I got my graduate degree from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, a part of the New York State University System. While there I did a great deal of my research on, Guns and Gun Control, especially in New York State. I studied the history, the issues and the controversies. I studied under Professor Alan Lizotte, Ph.D., a recognized expert in the field of gun control issues and an outstanding researcher. He was on the committee that studied my final research and approved it, as did two other esteemed professors.
I went on to complete a career with the New York State Police, retiring as a Captain. So over my career I learned a little bit about crime and criminals - and their guns. So I have been exposed to and learned both the academic and the practitioner sides of the gun control issues and debates.
As I write this Blog I shall try to interject some actual facts and common sense into the entire gun control debate across local, state, national and international boundaries. 
Will I succeed in that goal?
We'll see.
Roger Fulton