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Gun control researcher discusses firearm policies

Gary Kleck, professor of criminology at Florida State University, discussed his research on gun control during his lecture titled “Firearms, Self Defense and the Public Interest” on Friday at the Pensacola Museum of Commerce.

Kleck emphasizing the lack of continued research, and  commented on current implications for public policy and the public’s reaction.

Cheryl Swanson, who leads the justice studies department at the University of West Florida, invited Kleck to make the presentation. Swanson said she wanted to do the event because of the December school shooting in Connecticut.

“We primarily wanted to do this because of the Sandy Hook shooting and the emotions surrounding it,” Swanson said.

In his national research, Kleck discovered a majority of gun use is defensive. He said many criminals usually don’t have intent to kill, and that guns are simply meant to be a prop in deterring the victim’s resistance.

“Apparently more victims use them than criminals,” Kleck said.

Kleck raised questions about whether fewer guns would actually be better.

“The issue and goal of a good gun control policy is keeping guns away from ‘bad guys,’ but without taking them away from the ‘good guys,’” Kleck said. “It’s that latter part that wasn’t really a big part of the debate when I started doing research.”

Kleck spoke about defensive gun use and explained how policies that ban guns completely may have a perverse effect that most people don’t anticipate.

“Gun control advocates think the fewer guns, the better,” Kleck said.

Kleck pointed out that criminals do gain control through gun use, but that victims do too.

“Defensive gun use isn’t just frequent—it’s effective,” Kleck said. “You’re better off defending yourself with a gun than without one. Even nonresistance isn’t a favorable defense.”

Kleck said requiring universal background checks could be a beneficial step to decreasing criminal gun use.

Kleck concluded by saying that if a criminal is going to commit a crime they will eventually do so, and banning guns isn’t going to stop them.

“A person who wants to kill is often highly motivated,” Kleck said. “They don’t care because most have already considered the consequences of getting killed or going to prison.”

Elizabeth Egstad & Matt Lamb
Staff Writers

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