User:AaronSw/Gun Control, Ashcroft Style

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REVIEW & OUTLOOK (Editorial)

Gun Control, Ashcroft Style

328 words
3 February 2003
The Wall Street Journal
A16
English
(Copyright (c) 2003, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)

Attorney General John Ashcroft just gave his first significant update on Project Safe Neighborhoods, a flagship program launched in the first months of the Bush Administration. Gun criminals, and the gun-control lobby, might take notice.

Under Safe Neighborhoods, the Administration pledged $550 million, 113 new U.S. "gun prosecutors," and more cooperation with state and local officials to put criminals who violate existing gun laws in jail. "It will send an unmistakable message," said President Bush at the launch. "If you use a gun illegally, you will do hard time."

The point here is that "hard time" resonates with the criminal class far more than "five-day waiting periods." Since the start of Safe Neighborhoods, federal gun crime prosecutions have increased by 32% -- which doesn't include the greater state and local prosecutions that have also resulted from the program. In 2002, more than 10,600 defendants were charged for violating federal firearm statutes, and 93% received prison sentences. Seventy-one percent of those will spend three or more years in jail.

This is important, because two-thirds of all firearms crimes are committed by repeat offenders. These are the people who will get their hands on illegal weapons no matter how many thousands of gun laws are on the books. The Clinton Administration never grasped this point and spent its time devising new ways to keep average citizens from getting guns, while leaving bad guys on the street.

The results are a vindication for Mr. Ashcroft, who has been vilified for being soft on gun violence because he continues to defend the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners. In reality, gun violence has declined from 12% of violent crime in 1993 to 9% in the most recent Justice statistics. Any gun control advocates out there care to apologize?

(See related letter: "Letters to the Editor: The Feds Aren't Needed To Prosecute Gunslingers" -- WSJ Feb. 11, 2003)

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