Rational-choice gun use in armed robbery: The likely deterrent effect on gun use of mandatory additional imprisonment

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Rational-choice gun use in armed robbery: The likely deterrent effect on gun use of mandatory additional imprisonment

Category: Behavior, Crime, Firearm Policies|Journal: Criminal Law Forum|Author: R Harding|Year: 1990

The Western Australian findings suggest that a sentencing policy targeted specifically at the use of guns in committing robbery could be effective in discouraging the choice of this weapon. The proposed sentence is a mandatory minimum period of twelve months for the first offense. Sentencing for the principal, or focal, offense of robbery would be governed by existing law. A second, or even later, gun-using offense should carry a greater mandatory additional sentence. At the same time, given the social and experiential factors that have brought offenders to the point of choosing a weapon and a modus operandi, any such policy must be applied humanely. Rational-choice theory does not deny that there may be unequal opportunities to exercise choice; it does, however, assert that decision making can be influenced by an appropriate sentencing strategy.

The implementation of any such policy should be carefully evaluated both in aggregate studies, as has been done in Canada, and in individualized, rational-choice research. The evaluation should address not only the efficacy of the broad strategy but also the narrower question of whether the suggested mandatory sentences are optimal.

Although this article has offered theoretical and statistical support that the proposed sentencing strategy is likely to reduce the incidence of gun use in robbery, some offenders may be discouraged from committing further robberies altogether, inasmuch as victim management in certain kinds of robbery may be sensibly attempted only through the use of a gun. Deterred from using guns, some offenders may look for a different career altogether, whether criminal or not.

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