Gun Control: Debate Begins Again

Like Siriani, Perkins blames the judicial system. "All the legislation in the world will be of no avail unless it's enforced, and the enforcement is extremely poor," he says. "I don't blame the officer on the street for that either." Massachusetts judges too often fail to impose sentences on criminals who have been caught carrying unlicensed handguns, Perkins says.

Robert S. Kukla, a midwestern director of the NRA who flew into Boston for last year's hearinns on gun control, said in his testimony that "gun control constitutes a monumental hoax upon the American public. It is merely a diversion from concentration on the laws, regulations and procedures by which criminals should be incarcerated."

"Incarceration" is a favorite word among gun lovers, particularly those with impatience for "soft" modern penal reform and a fondness for mandatory sentencing of criminals who break current gun laws.

"While I have all the sympathy in the world for Jan Wohlberg, I don't believe her husband's death had anything to do with a handgun," Cassidy says. "It was really a failure of medical science because the man who did it shouldn't have been put under psychiatric care in the first place. Obviously psychiatry didn't work. Handcuffs might have worked."

"The prime problem is that the issue deludes people," Cassidy continues. "You find that the same people who advocate gun control are calling for almost unlimited parole and probation. They just don't realize that it's not the gun but the person behind it who is responsible."


Meanwhile, gun control advocates like Buckley are working for an increased emphasis on furloughs and rehabilitiation outside prison walls in further penal and judicial reforms, which they say will help remedy the social and economic problems behind the man "responsible" for misusing the gun.

Buckley holds out the hope that social changes can reduce both the use of handguns and the need for them. Many gun owners, on the other hand, say that since crime is inevitable, the only way to make society safe is to lock the criminals away and, of course, to tote a handgun--the great "equalizer"--for self-defense.

And as the debate goes on, other gun control advocates like Wohlberg and Litsas continue working to get rid of what they say is the most immediate cause of the problem--the handgun that is so readily available and easy to use, but which so often inflicts terrible and irreversible damage.

Gun control advocates are reacting against values that have a lot to do with the lingering myth of the "frontier spirit" but little to do with modern urban society. "Our country has changed since the days of the wild, wild west when a man wore a six-gun strapped to his hip for protection," one advocate said.

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