The Saturday Night Special: An Assessment of Alternative Definitions from a Policy Perspective

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The Saturday Night Special: An Assessment of Alternative Definitions from a Policy Perspective

Category: Firearm Availability|Journal: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (full text)|Author: P Cook|Year: 1981

A major issue in the gun control policy debate concerns the feasibility of reducing the harmful consequences of gun availability without serious infringement on legitimate uses. For example, most states have adopted much more stringent regulation for concealed weapons than for possession under other circumstances, because of legislators’ belief that carrying concealed weapons contributes a great deal to the violent crime problem but very little to the average gun owners’ utility. A second example of the balance between utility and harm are federal and state laws that prohibit young people and those with felony records from owning guns. These laws spring from the belief that such people constitute only a small fraction of the population but commit a disproportionately large fraction of the violent crimes.’ Similarly, the campaign to ban the “Saturday Night Special” is based upon the belief 2 that the small, cheap handguns which are frequently used in crime are of little value to noncriminals. Therefore, proponents contend, a ban on such guns would have considerable benefit with little cost. This article summarizes the policy debate regarding Saturday Night Specials, and evaluates the evidence concerning the potential crime reduction effects of a ban on domestic sales of such guns.

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