Friday, December 07, 2012

Handgun most common weapon used in civilian justifiable homicies.

No surprise here.  The handgun is the most frequently used weapon in civilian justifiable homicides.  Note, howerver, that the FBI's data grossly underreports the number of civilan (non-cop) justifiable homicides. 
The UCR measure of civilian jusifiable homicides (JH) is not reliable. First, and this is a problem with all UCR data, not all police agencies report, not all agencies use consistent criteria, and politics sometimes play a role in reporting and classifying. With regard to JH, remember that UCR data is reported by police. I would bet that except in the most obvious cases, police will report a possible justifiable homicide as a homicide as they have no way to know who to believe. The person claiming JH has a motive to lie and the police are not required to beieve the suspect. Further, police generally are cynical and don't want to appear to be gullible. Thus, reports by police in the UCR underestimate the real number of JH's. How do we know if something should arguably be counted as a JH? Later, the police may determine that a crime they reported as a criminal homicide (CH) was really a JH. This may come about because of ballistics tests, powder residue tests, or any number of causes. Do police go back and change their report to the UCR? Probaby not. They are busy collecting current data, and would have to admit that they were wrong. Police agencies have more pressing business than correcting reporting errors.Next, assume an alleged CH gets to the prosecutor's office. Further investigation may reveal that it was most likely a JH. The prosecutor drops the charges. Does the prosecutor report this to the UCR. No. The UCR is for police to report. Assume the prosecutor presents the case to the grand jury and they decide not to indict because they believe the CH was really a JH. This decison will never appear in UCR. Finally, assume the CH charge goes to trial and the jury finds that it was JH. This will never appear in the UCR. What the UCR actually represents is only the tip of the iceberg of JH's.  Later changes will never be reflected in the UCR. Research based on polls by Kleck, Gertz and other suggest that there are as many lawful defensive uses of firearms as there are unlawful use. These conclusions have been challenged, but this research has been replicated. Further, the crime-control/deterrent effect of citizen handgun ownership is not totally measure by the number dead criminals. Lawfully wounding or scaring off a violent criminal prevents a crime. If the criminal is deterred because he/she knows the person is armed, or has guns in the house, a crime is prevented. Unfortunately, there are no official statistics on this. See the link

for a reprint of an article by the nation's leading criminological expert on gun control and related topics, FSU Prof. Dr. Gary Kleck.

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