The University of Southern Mississippi
Article Two: A Critical Reflection
Exploring a different perspective on gun violence by adolescents, Richard E. Redding and Sarah M. Shalf explore the legal approaches for curbing student’s use of guns in their article The Legal Context of School Violence: The Effectiveness of Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement Efforts to Reduce Gun Violence in Schools. This article not only examines both federal and state laws, but also their enforcements, and related programs or alternatives from appropriate resources covering a wide variety of bases. The authors then analyze the data and offer their conclusion. Inner-City vs. Suburban Youth
In our previous Critical Reflection the authors identified key distinctions between incidences of Inner-City and Suburban gun violence. They also compared data sets and how the importance of these differences should be considered when selecting specific criteria within studies to avoid distortion of results. In instances where trends overlapped, or data could be shared those areas of similarity were highlighted. In this Critical Review the authors, Redding and Shalf, also cover differences and the few common characteristics between inner-city and suburban youth offenses involving firearms, which supports the findings of the previous article. However, the overall focus of the article is towards laws and programs in schools that target prevention of these kinds of incidents all together. As such, the authors only discuss these topics briefly. Differences
Initially, the authors point out that inner-city kids usually carry handguns. Redding and Shalf readily note that factors such as gangs and drugs influence youths to carry guns, and increase the likelihood that they may use them in disputes and to commit crimes. On the other hand rifles and shotguns are much more common in suburban youth shootings. These types of shootings are more directly influenced by individual factors such as bullying, mental disturbance or suicidal tendencies instead of environmental factors that usually drive inner-city adolescents to resort to gun violence. Similarities
There are a few important similarities between inner-city vs. suburban youth violence involving guns. Research has shown that the kids in both groups that carry guns do so primarily as a means of protection from peers or perceived bullies or enemies. Both groups also acquire weapons from within the home or from family members, usually without direct consent, but with overall ease. Laws Regarding Gun Control
Redding and Shalf start their research on laws by discussing gun control laws in general. They suggest that since schools are part of a community and not isolated, the violence occurring in the schools reflect the violence in the community as a whole. Therefore it is the author’s belief that solutions, including laws instituted to regulate these offenses, must extend to include the community the school is in. From their findings, they propose that legal restrictions by themselves are not enough and supporting programs are essential to be effective. Before exploring details about specific federal and state laws though, the authors explain there are multiple types of laws in place regarding gun control. Both federal and state laws are a means of controlling who, and for what purpose weapons can be possessed and approach this issue from many angles including but not limited to: permits to carry concealed weapons, restrictions on ammunition, people and places guns are prohibited from completely, as well as how weapons must be registered when bought and sold.
Federal Laws Pertaining to Adolescents
In the article the authors list a few federal laws pertaining to gun control among adolescents such prohibiting the sale of firearms and ammunition by licensed dealers to kids and the Gun-Free School Zones Act. They also mention a few examples of proposed legislations like Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act of 1999. They then analyze the argument that there is not enough federal enforcement. Effectiveness of Federal restrictions regarding Juveniles is limited because their offenses vary in severity, by location, and victims are individuals within their communities. The authors conclude by saying that there should not be a lack of federal involvement, but rather gun offenses should be handled locally, and the States are in a better position to do so. To better explain the author’s point, consider the Federal government will only prosecute juveniles if the state is unwilling or unable to since many federal gun control laws mirror state laws. Since a juvenile would be breaking state law and could be processed accordingly, there is no need for federal prosecution. State Laws
Federal laws lack in a couple of areas compared to state laws. Federal gun control laws are not superior to state laws when it pertains to gun possession by juveniles, even if the state laws are less restrictive. For example there is nothing in federal laws that relate to gun storage. However, the authors do agree that some of the less limiting state laws should be put into effect at the federal level. The article briefly lists how many states have gun control laws, what they are and a small description. The conclusion is that the Federal government should oversee the upper portions of the gun market pyramid, such as with distributors, while the State governments could manage the smaller local market more effectively. Civil Liability Laws
The article also explains a few types of civil liability laws, such as vicarious liability, common law negligence, dangerous instrumentality and statutory laws. The authors discuss the responsibility associated with civil liability, both of the school and the parents of youths involved in gun related offenses. They briefly identify a few court cases where the victims of shootings tried to sue the school or perpetrator’s parents, but were greeted with mixed results. The authors propose that unless there are reforms, these unpredictable outcomes make civil liability a poor method of gun control. They argue it is hard to enact and that there is no viable evidence that suggests civil liability laws cause parents to take any greater interest in their child’s behavior. Programs
Redding and Shalf discuss a variety of programs to help with the issue of gun violence in schools. They mention a couple of towns specifically targeting gun possession. St. Louis Police Department went door to door asking for parental consent to search for illegal firearms on the agreement that they would only seize guns, and would not arrest anyone. Boston targeted gangs in the city by informing the leaders that any gangs involved in violent behavior would be merciless hounded by law enforcement using tickets, outstanding warrants or anything at their disposal. Both programs demonstrated success. School security measures such as a police presence or improved physical lighting and appropriate supervision can relieve students of some fear regarding personal safety while at school. This may reduce or eliminate a young person’s perceived need to carry a weapon. Research has shown that school discipline that is specific, clear, consistently enforced with define consequences also greatly reduces violence in schools. While the authors believe that alternative schools are the preferred substitute to immediate expulsion, changes do need to be made to alternative schools for this to be successful. For example, they should not be considered dumping grounds for problem students. There needs to be commonly accepted standards regarding administration procedures transferring students into or out of alternative schools. The funding for these schools and how much they take away from the district’s budget must also be regularly evaluated to make sure their efficacy is maintained. Reflection
When I was a high school student, the senior and junior parking lot was an ocean of pick-up trucks. Since I lived in a very rural area, during the winter there was more than likely a rifle or a shot-gun in the back window gun rack of almost all of them. I do not recall any serious consequences to this, and the teachers’ parking lot you were just as likely to see the same. I tend to believe if there were rules in effect, administration looked the other way. However, my school never had a shooting. In fact, regardless of the population of hunting rifles in the parking lot, during my entire time as a student there was never a single gun related incident at school. That was just my experience, unfortunately many others are not as fortunate to be able to say that. Will my son have the same experience in school? Hopefully, but I am not ready to stake his life on it. I hate guns. I always have, and I was in the military. I am not a hunter, or recreational sport-shooter of any kind. While I teach my son to defend himself if he ever encounters a bully, I also have to teach him about gun safety because guns are in our society. He may find himself somewhere people have a firearm and he should know how to safely avoid their associated dangers. Unfortunately firearms are a necessary evil. I keep one handgun at our house as a just in case protection plan however I agree completely with the authors. Gun control starts within the home. Parents and family members need to be educated, and if necessary, held accountable for their kids acquiring and using their guns. It then starts with the community and the removal of guns being exchanged on the streets by way of more stringent gun laws at both the federal and state level. No one but a serious collector has any need for military grade assault rifle, and even then each person should be overly qualified to have it in their possession. Besides gun education for everyone, including people who do not own a firearm and austere gun laws I do feel the best way to curb gun violence is through specialized programs like the ones the authors mention in St. Louis and Boston. Their success show creativity like that is something violent offenders cannot compete with. Conclusion
Richard E. Redding and Sarah M. Shalf’s article, The Legal Context of School Violence: The Effectiveness of Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement Efforts to Reduce Gun Violence in Schools, contains a large amount of information on gun laws, enforcement, programs and alternatives. The authors give thorough examples and offers solutions based on their research. The article is categorized and sub-categorized extremely well with extensive note, reference and appendix sections.
Redding, R. E., & Shalf, M. S. (2001). The Legal Context of School Violence: The Effectiveness of Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement Efforts to Reduce Gun Violence in Schools. Law & Policy, 298-343.