A MINORITY VIEW
BY WALTER E. WILLIAMS
RELEASE: WEDNESDAY, MAY 21, 2008, AND THEREAFTER
Control Criminals Not Guns
Every time there's a highly publicized shooting, out go the cries for stricter gun control laws, and it was no different with the recent murder of Philadelphia Police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, in a letter to the state congressional delegation demanding reenactment of the federal assault weapon ban, said, "Passing this legislation will go a long way to protecting those who put their lives on the line every day for us. É There is no excuse to do otherwise."
Gun control laws will not protect us from murderers. We need protection from the criminal justice system politicians have created. Let's look at it.
According to former Philly cop Michael P. Tremoglie's article "Who freed the cop-killers?" for the Philadelphia Daily News (5/8/08), all three murder suspects had extensive criminal records. Levon Warner was sentenced in 1997 to seven and a half to 15 years for robbery, one to five years for possessing an instrument of crime and five to 10 for criminal conspiracy. Howard Cain was convicted in 1996 on four counts of robbery and sentenced to five to 10 years on each count. Eric Floyd was sentenced to five to 10 years in 1995 for robbery, rearrested in 1999 for parole violation and later convicted in 2001 for two robberies. If these criminals had not been released from prison, long before they served out their sentences, officer Liczbinski would be alive today. So what's responsible for his death: guns or a prison and parole system that released these three criminals? Tremoglie cites other examples of criminals, with convictions for violent crimes ranging from robbery and assault to murder, who were paroled and later murdered police officers.
A New York Times study (4/28/06) of the city's 1,662 murders in 2003-2005 found that 90 percent of the murderers had criminal records. A Massachusetts study reported that on average, homicide offenders had been arraigned for nine prior offenses. John Lott's book, "More Guns, Less Crime," reports that in 1988 in the 75 largest counties in the U.S., over 89 percent of adult murderers had a criminal record as an adult.
A few days after the murder of Liczbinski, Governor Rendell told a news conference, attended by state elected officials and top law enforcement officials, "The time has come for politicians to decide. You have to decide whether you're on their side -- the men and women who wear blue -- or whether you're on the side of the gun lobby." Instead of saying "whether you're on the side of the gun lobby," Rendell should have said "whether you're on the side of the criminal and the courts, prosecutors, prisons and parole boards that cut soft deals with criminals and release them to prey upon police officers and law-abiding citizens."
If there is one clear basic function of government, it's to protect citizens from criminals. When government failure becomes so apparent, as it is in the murder of a police officer, officials seek scapegoats and very often it's the National Rifle Association and others who seek to protect our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. We hear calls for stricter gun control laws when what is really needed is more control over criminals.
There are many third-party liability laws. I think they ought to be applied to members of parole boards who release criminals who turn around and commit violent crimes. As it stands now, people on parole boards who release criminals bear no cost of their decisions. I bet that if members of parole boards were held liable or forced to serve the balance of the sentence of a parolee who goes out and commits more crime, they would pay more attention to the welfare of the community rather than the welfare of a criminal. You say, "Williams, under those conditions, who'd serve on a parole board?" There's something to be said about that.
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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