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Gun control laws concern campus

By Lauren Coppola
On April 17, 2013


As part of Year of the City's Emerging Scholars Lecture series, associate professor
of criminal justice at Buffalo State James Sobol gave a presentation on gun violence
The presentation was titled "Reducing Gun Violence: The Rhetoric and Reality of a
Gun Buyback Program," and touched on topics such as researched data regarding
gun crimes, firearm violence prevention programs and police efforts.
"Sensible gun policies have to respond to the type of crime that occurs frequently,"
Sobol said. "Narrow policies that respond to atypical crimes may not be the panacea
we are looking for when it comes to reducing gun violence in this country."
Policies mentioned during the lecture included the National Firearms Act of 1934,
the Gun Control Act of 1968, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993
and the recent NY SAFE Act of 2013. These policies were mentioned along with gun
violence reduction programs, including the gun buyback programs.
"Evidence both nationally and locally here in Buffalo tell us that the gun buyback
program does not work," Sobol said. "Guns are brought back from anyone,
regardless of where they live or whether the gun was readily accessible to persons
at high risk for crime."
Tragedies such as the shootings at Columbine in 1999, Virginia Tech in 2007, and
Sandy Hook this past year have become responsible in helping to push forward with
gun legislation.
"The way many states are going about gun control due to the massacre at Sandy
Hook isn't the way they should," said Terrell Lawrence, a junior criminal justice
major from Carmel, N.Y. "People want to ban assault rifles and high caliber guns,
but banning them will only take them away from law abiding citizens, not criminals.
We need to make it harder for people to obtain guns and educate them more with
proper training."
Sobol said that police should focus their attention and resources on other strategies
that help reduce gun crime.
According to a fact sheet created and researched by The Brady Campaign, on
average, 282 people in America are shot per day in murders, assaults, suicides and
suicide attempts, accidents and police intervention. On average daily, about 50
children and teens are victims to gun violence as well.
Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia
proposed a bill that is currently up for debate at the Senate. The bill looks to expand
background checks on any sales made at gun shows or online. Private sales made
between one person and another, however, would be exempt.
"The proposed legislation is an improvement and based on some limited evidence,
should prevent guns from getting into the hands of high-risk people," Sobol said.
"Background checks are promising because a high fraction of future killers already
have a criminal record. However, there is a catch here; while businesses that deal
in guns are required to keep records and run background checks, guns can be
transferred between private citizens without any record at the present time."
Sobol said that even though these laws may make guns harder to obtain, those who
really want them could still get them through private sales.
"I believe every American has the right to own a gun if they want to," said Shaquille
Dunbar, a junior psychology major from Bronx, N.Y. "America needs to make
it harder for local citizens to get to have a gun. Each gun owner should have a
clean record and become educated on how to properly use the weapon before it's
While the bills regarding gun legislation are being debated and put up for vote, the
police is attempting to help control gun violence as well. Buffalo's Operation Strike
Force is targeted towards identifying and eliminating high crime areas and gang
members throughout the city. Part of their mission is to remove any illegal guns and
drugs that are found from the streets.
In a YNN article, Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said "We're seeing our
numbers drop daily since the strike force in the areas. We're looking at the effect
of the strike force and they're having an impact right now. They'll be out here for a
while and then after September we'll re-evaluate and they may be back again."
During his lecture, Sobol said that crime is a very emotional issue.
"I think it's safe to say that the laws being proposed may placate the fears of some,"
Sobel said. "It's important to note that the legislation focuses on a very narrow type
of crime that occurs infrequently."
The gun control bill to expand background checks is still too close to determine
whether it'll be passed or not.
An article by CBS News quotes Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, saying that none of the
bill's provisions "would have done anything to prevent the horrible tragedy of Sandy
However, President Barack Obama told ABC News, "We don't have to agree on
everything to know that we've got to do something to stem the tide of gun violence."
Lauren Coppola can be reached by email at

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