Category Archives: Criminal Justice

The Role of Federal Law Enforcement

The role of federal law enforcement has changed with the inception of the National Response Framework (NRF; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2008). In the past, according to the obsolete National Response Plan (NRP; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2004), the effort of the federal government was to support local efforts and only take charge if necessary or requested to do so by the responsible jurisdiction. The NRF furthers this goal. However, according to a recent U.S. Department of Justice (2010) report, federal law enforcement is ill-prepared to provide a robust and organized response to an act of terrorism on U.S. soil, save for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

For instance, assume that a small group of terrorists detonate a bomb, otherwise known as a ‘suitcase bomb’, designed to shower radiologic material over an area approximately 9 city blocks in downtown Los Angeles. What chain reaction, in regards to a law enforcement response, would this event trigger?

First, calls to 9-1-1 reporting a large explosion would trigger a local response by both the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, along with other emergency services. As local assets begin arriving, hopefully they determine the large and possibly catastrophic nature of the event and advise their communications center to make the appropriate notifications. These notifications would be contingent on the preplanned incident action plans of each agency, which would, hopefully, open emergency operations centers (EOCs) for the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, and the State of California. These EOCs would be responsible for making further notifications and coordinating the response with mutual aid agencies as well as state and federal assets. Common to most all preplans in the event of a suspected terrorist attack is the notification to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is responsible, according to the Department of Justice (2010) report and the NRF, for coordinating all law enforcement and investigative activities of federal agencies (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2008).

A suitcase bomb is significant as it involves the spread of radiological materials that are harmful to humans. According to the Department of Justice (2010) report, the only federal law enforcement agency prepared to deal with such an event is the FBI. Thus, the FBI would be expected to offer expertise and specialized teams to the Los Angeles Police Department in a cooperative effort to begin law enforcement and investigative procedures as soon as possible.


U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2004). National response plan. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2008). National response framework. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Justice. (2010, May). Review of the department’s preparation to respond to a WMD incident (OIG Report# I-2010-004). Retrieved from

The Need for Multi-Agency Coordination

Terrorists, whether foreign or domestic, typically choose targets that have value in societies or philosophies that they oppose (LaFree, Yang, & Crenshaw, 2009). For instance, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (n.d.), al Qaeda, under the leadership of Usama bin Laden, had their sights on the World Trade Center, a symbol of global capitalism, for many years. Another example, involving domestic terrorism, is the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and Michael Fortier. This target was chosen as a representation of the federal government, which McVeigh and Nichols despised, citing the incident involving federal agents in Waco, Texas, two years earlier.

Considering local community events that might be of significant interest to terrorists as potential targets, the Bristol Fourth of July Parade comes to mind. The parade is a major component of the oldest celebration of our nation’s independence and is attended by over 200,000 people each year (Fox Providence, 2011). The parade is symbolic and casualties could number in the thousands, depending on the tactics and strategies used.

There is limited egress from the Town of Bristol (see figure 1). Hope Street and Metacom Avenue are the only two roads that provide a route in and out of the town. Both lead to the Town of Warren to the north, and Hope Street converges with Metacom Avenue just before exiting the town by way of the two-lane Mount Hope Bridge to the south. Both roads are heavily trafficked during the parade inhibiting both evacuation and emergency response.

In the event that a significant terrorist act was to occur at this parade, the initial law enforcement response would be limited to those officers already on site. These officers, operating under the auspices of the Bristol Police Department would be primarily Bristol police officers with a small contingent of off-duty officers from neighboring jurisdictions. There is usually a small contingent of Rhode Island State Police troopers present. These officers would be on their own for a length of time, some of them probably affected by the attack.

Secondary responders would include both Rhode Island and Massachusetts State Police, along with mutual aid officers from approximately 10 to 15 neighboring communities; however, as people flee the initial attack, a secondary attack could create further confusion and increase the likelihood of severe traffic jams at all three evacuation points further inhibiting a timely response. Once the degree and scope of the incident is ascertained and the access difficulties are identified, it would make sense for a contingent of law enforcement to board helicopters and boats out of Providence and cross Narragansett Bay. Once on land, these officers (most likely consisting of U.S. Coast Guard, Providence Police, U.S. Border Patrol, and other federal law enforcement entities housed in Providence, RI) would rely on alternative means (walking, bicycles, ATVs, et al.) to reach the scene.

Colt State Park, to the southwest, would make a viable forward area command, allowing access for all types of vehicles, including single-engine fixed-wing aircraft. There is also an added benefit of a strong sea breeze to help direct any plume away from this forward area command post.

I have to consider that the law enforcement entities, along with the local emergency management authorities, have a working disaster plan in place for the Bristol Fourth of July parade; however, the plan must detail the fact that all resources would be overcome due to the scope and severity of such an incident; therefore, contingencies, such as stand-by assets, must be established and ready to respond by alternative means in the event that a catastrophic event were to occur, whether criminal or accidental in nature.


Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.). Famous cases & criminals. Retrieved from

Fox Providence. (2011, July 5). Inbox: Fourth of July festivities. Retrieved from

LaFree, G., Yang, S., & Crenshaw, M. (2009). Trajectories of terrorism: Attack patterns of foreign groups that have targeted the United States, 1970-2004. Criminology & Public Policy, 8(3), 445-473. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9133.2009.00570.x

Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency. (2008). State of Rhode Island hurricane evacuation routes: Town of Bristol [Map]. Retrieved from

Figure 1.

Bristol RI Evacuation Route
“State of Rhode Island hurricane evacuation routes: Town of Bristol” (Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, 2008).

Expansion of Law Enforcement Post-9/11

Prior to 1993, federal law enforcement agencies, specifically the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), felt more than adequate in investigating and preventing terrorism on U.S. soil (Smith & Hung, 2010). On September 11, 2001, as has been done on numerous emergent occassions, the U.S. government all but suspended Article III, Sec. 2 and Amendments II, IV, V, VI, IX, X, XIII, XIV of the U.S. Constitution in the name of protecting liberty; a premise I find sadly ironic.

According to an article by Abramson and Godoy (2006), the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act (2001) promotes intelligence sharing among the intelligence community, utilization of technological tools to combat tech-savvy terrorists, allows easier access to the business records of suspected terror supporters, allows search warrants to be affected without undermining other concomitant investigations, and allows wiretaps to be dynamic in order to follow the target suspect more easily. Detractors of the USA PATRIOT Act, however, argue that these measures undermine certain liberties that Americans are right to enjoy. These detractors warn of information cataloging that could lead to massive data stores of private information of regular citizens, unwarranted investigations, searches, and seizures of casual contacts of someone under investigation, and general use of “sneak and peek” warrants for the investigation of petty crimes.

One particular part of the USA PATRIOT Act, the usage of letters of national security that demand secrecy of government involvement from the recipient, was struck down by a federal judge based on Constitutional freedom of speech issues (Liptak, 2007). This is no surprise. Passing 357 to 66 in the House of Representatives and 98 to 1 in the Senate just six weeks after 9/11 and with little debate, this knee-jerk legislation was destined for failure, at least where public relations is concerned (Weigel, 2005).

The USA PATRIOT Act (2001) grants immeasurable power to law enforcement to investigate and prevent terrorism, this is a good thing; however, most of the provisions seem to fail whenever exercised against a U.S. citizen or lawful resident (Weigel, 2005). We need to rethink our approach to terrorism and ask the question of ourselves: is our safety worth every ounce of our liberty?


Abramson, L. & Godoy, M. (2006, February). The Patriot Act: Key controversies. Retrieved from

Liptak, A. (2007, September 7). Judge voids F.B.I. tool granted by Patriot Act. The New York Times, pp. A18. Retrieved from

Smith, C. S. & Hung, L. (2010). The Patriot Act: issues and controversies. Springfield, IL: Thomas Books.

USA PATRIOT Act. P. L. 107-56 Stat. 115 Stat. 272. (2001).

Weigel, D. (2005, November). When patriots dissent. Reason, 37(6). Retrieved from

Hacking Cyberterrorism

Although not particular to cyberterrorism, for this discussion I have chosen hacking as a type, or means, of cyberterrorism. Hacking covers virus loading and denial of service attacks, also. In order to carry out a cyberterrorism attack, it must be based on some sort of hacking. First, however, we must agree on the definitions of hacking and cyberterrorism. US Legal, a website dedicated to providing legal reference, broadly defines hacking as “intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access” (Computer hacking law & legal definition, n.d., para 1). Cyberterrorism is, according to Denning (2006):

…[H]ighly damaging computer-based attacks or threats of attack by non-state actors against information systems when conducted to intimidate or coerce governments or societies in pursuit of goals that are political or social. It is the convergence of terrorism with cyberspace, where cyberspace becomes the means of conducting the terrorist act. Rather than committing acts of violence against persons or physical property, the cyberterrorist commits acts of destruction or disruption against digital property. (p. 124)

Arguably, in order to use a computer system to do any of the above, it involves hacking, but without hacking, there can be no cyber- component to cyberterrorism, which leaves mere terrorism. Fortunately, using these definitions, there has never been a cyberterrorism attack ever in history (Brunst, 2008; Conway, 2011). Brunst (2008) goes further using the term terrorism to include the planning (and, even pre-planning) phases of an event. I disagree with this tact in scholarship. Brunst fails to provide the distinction between cybercrime and cyberterrorism. Thinking simply, having a Facebook account in order for ease of communication does not amount to meeting for coffee. Messaging a friend on Facebook and organizing a meeting does not constitute meeting for coffee. The act of two or more persons meeting for coffee is a conventional one, however it was planned. This is the same with terrorism. I argue that, although much planning and radicalization can occur using computer networking (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, general information websites, et al.), any terroristic act that stems from such organization would still be considered conventional terrorism unless the act, itself, is described as being technological in nature (Conway, 2011).

There is potential for a cyber-attack to generate fear, economic impact, and the loss of life. This is why we concentrate on security measures to ensure difficulty in accessing systems without proper credentialing, rapid identification and response to active intrusions and threats, and recovery techniques to identify and repair data, networks, and nodes that were involved. For this reason, networks are designed with human redundancy. Human redundancy, as Clarke (2005) explains, integrates human decision points within a technological operational structure in order to detect, indicate, explain, and correct an error. Additionally, infrastructure, a commonly regarded target by the experts, tends to be resilient by its own nature making cyber-attacks inefficient and ineffectual (Conway, 2011; Lewis, 2002; Wilson, 2005)


Brunst, P. W. (2008). Use of the internet by terrorists: A threat analysis. Responses to Cyber Terrorism, 34(1), 34–60.

Clarke, D. M. (2005). Human redundancy in complex, hazardous systems: A theoretical framework. Safety Science, 43(9), 655-677. doi:10.1016/j.ssci.2005.05.003

Computer hacking law & legal definition. (n.d.). US Legal. Retrieved from

Conway, M. (2011). Against cyberterrorism: Why cyber-based terrorist attacks are unlikely to occur. Communications of the ACM, 54(2), 26-28. doi:10.1145/1897816.1897829

Denning, D. (2006). A view of cyberterrorism five years later. In K. E. Himma (Ed.), Internet security: hacking, counterhacking, and society (pp. 123-139). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Lewis, J. A. (2002, December). Assessing the risks of cyber terrorism, cyber war and other cyber threats. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved from

Wilson, C. (2005, April 1). Computer attack and cyberterrorism: Vulnerabilities and policy issues for Congress (CRS Congressional report No. RL32114). Retrieved from

Cyberterrorism vs. WMD

Perhaps in an Orwellian society where computers are independant and there is very little human-to-computer interaction could a cyberterrorist cause such an impact as to be equal with a weapon of mass destruction. This is not true, however, regarding the technology of today. According to James Lewis (2002) from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “cyber attacks are less effective and less disruptive than physical attacks. Their only advantage is that they are cheaper and easier to carry out than a physical attack” (p. 2). Studies of the implementation of efforts to reduce the effectiveness of infrastructure during war show a resiliency that is poorly respected. Redundant systems in conjunction with a focused human response provides mitigation to reduce the impact of disruptive efforts on infrastructure (Wilson, 2005). It seems the more important the system, the larger and focalized the response.

The northeast blackout of 2003 provides a decent case study, although the cause was a systems failure and not related to terrorism. According to the article by Minkle (2008), within an hour and a half, 50-million subscribers lost power in eight states and parts of Canada for a few days, yet it only contributed to about 11 deaths within the affected area. While the impact was significant, geographically, it was more or less a nuisance for most people.


Lewis, J. A. (2002, December). Assessing the risks of cyber terrorism, cyber war and other cyber threats. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved from

Minkle, J. R. (2008, August 13). The 2003 northeast blackout — five years later. Scientific American. Retrieved from

Wilson, C. (2005, April 1). Computer attack and cyberterrorism: Vulnerabilities and policy issues for Congress (CRS Congressional report No. RL32114). Retrieved from

Bioweapons of Mass Destruction: Actual Use or Hoax

Weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) provide an alternative impact when compared to conventional weapons (e.g. artillery, firearms, blades and knives, batons, et al.). WMDs can be chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive (CBRNE) in nature attacking the human body in manners not typical of conventional weapons (Cameron, Pate, McCauley, & DeFazio, 2000). WMDs can, therefore, have devastating effects on the preparedness of the health care system (Macintyre et al., 2000; Subbarao, Bond, Johnson, Hsu, & Wasser, 2006).

Considering an attack such as a mass contamination of the money supply, there are two possibilities: actual contamination and hoax contamination. In actual contamination, the epidemiology of illness will correspond with the travel of contaminated bills, reaching long distances in short periods of time (as evidenced by the website As the contaminated money travels from one consumer to the next (possibly also infecting adjacent bills, wallets, counter-tops, and register drawers), it will do so undetected until the incubation period lapses and the first wave of infected people begin presenting to health care facilities for treatment (presumably, with a difficult diagnosis – an uncommon pathogen). These people should be geographically dispersed so that identification of the terrorist act is yet to be made. Not until epidemiologists track the vector to the money supply will the threat be discovered. Once this occurs, the populace will be suspicious of money, causing an entirely different catastrophe, but the fear will be real.

On the other hand, if the attack is a hoax, there will be no incubation period or actual illness, yet psychogenic effects will be almost immediate, causing many people to seek medical care at once overburdening the health care system (MacIntyre et al., 2000). Arguably, this type of attack will be short-lived; however, the effects can be disastrous.

Regardless of the type of attack, whether actual or hoax, there will be a large, resource-intensive response from national, state, and local levels of government and the private sector (Walsh et al., 2012). This would place a strain on response resources and other infrastructure, such as health care as previously mentioned. In both instances, though, lives could be lost, also. With the real attack, many people could die from the disease, but if resources are taken away from other sick patients, they are at risk of dying also. This holds true for hoax attacks. As many healthy people flood emergency rooms with mysteriously fleeting symptoms, truly sick patients are not being managed efficiently and are put at serious risk.

Though the example attack might not be feasible for one reason or another, it is interesting to think of the many ways in which we as a nation are vulnerable. This leads to the question of how much we value our freedom vs. how many freedoms are we willing to give up in order to feel safe. I have decided that I value my freedom, the freedom that most foreign terrorists despise, so much that I am not willing to part with it to any extent. So long as we live free and without fear, the terrorists cannot win.


Cameron, G., Pate, J., McCauley, D., & DeFazio, L. (2000). 1999 WMD terrorism chronology: Incidents involving sub-national actors and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials. The Nonproliferation Review, 157-174. Retrieved from

MacIntyre, A. G., Christopher, G. W., Eitzen, E., Gum, R., Weir, S., DeAtley, C., … Barbera, J. A. (2000). Weapons of mass destruction events with contaminated casualties: Effective planning for health care facilities. Journal of the American Medical Association, 283(2), 242-249. doi:10.1001/jama.283.2.242

Subbarao, I., Bond, W. F., Johnson, C., Hsu, E. B., & Wasser, T. E. (2006). Using innovative simulation modalities for civilian-based, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive training in the acute management of terrorist victims: a pilot study. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, 21(4), 272-275. Retrieved from

Walsh, D. W., Christen, H. T., Callsen, C. E., Miller, G. T., Maniscalco, P. M., Lord, G. C., & Dolan, N. J. (2012). National Incident Management System: principles and practice (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Planning a Terrorist Attack

Planning a clandestine attack using a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is not simple. First, in order to promote an attack, the target needs to be viewed to have violated some ideology, policy, or other deeply held belief (“Terrorism, definition and history of,” 2002). Usually, a symbol of the offense will be chosen as either a specific target, such as the case of the World Trade Center, or as a vehicle or vector for the attack, as in the case of the U.S. Postal Service anthrax attacks (“Biological terrorism,” 2002; Marshall, 2002; “Weapons of mass destruction,” 2002). The dollar is an international symbol of capitalism and the might of the United States. In the current climate, especially with the declining U.S. economy, I would expect the money supply, itself, to be a viable vector for disseminating some sort of substance capable of causing terror. A dollar bill has a circulating life of 42 months and changes hands, on average, twice a day, and by impregnating paper money with a chosen substance, a single dollar bill could potentially harm more than 2,500 people during its circulation (U.S. Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Engraving, n.d.).

Almost as important as the vehicle is the impregnating substance. Chemical and radiological substances would be too easy to eventually detect, and the amount dispersed on each dollar bill might not be enough to cause harm. A live biological agent suspended in an aqueous nutrient solution could easily coat a dollar bill without detection and easily transfer to hands, surfaces, and other bills. According to Winfield and Groisman (2003), Salmonella enterica might prove to be a hardy pathogen capable of existing in such a solution for months. S. enterica is responsible for typhoid fever in humans. Escherichia coli, though a highly pathenogenic mycobacterium, does not have the same persistance outside of a living host. Both S. enterica and E. coli have detrimental health effects, especially for those with deficient immune systems.

Delivery and dispersion of the weapon would be the next consideration. This would have to be accomplished using a number of distribution points, geographically distant, that transfer small denomination bills easily both in and out, such as gasoline stations, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, and liquor stores. Using a website designed to track dollar bills (, a single bill has been tracked in about two and a half years, as follows: Florida, Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Arizona, Oregon, New York, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Another has been documented as travelling from Ohio to Michigan via Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Texas, and Utah in a mere 212 days. This is evidence that general dispersion techniques will work well if initially geographically distributed.

Additionally, as the Salmonella bills are being dispersed, I would encourage a technological attack on various credit card networks. If the hacking results in increased network downtime, the American citizenry would be encouraged to use paper money more often, potentiating the transfer of the Salmonella bills. As a final coup de grace, when the American populace finally begin to realize that the money supply, itself, is tainted, I would encourage conventional attacks on banking institutions to include random bombings, shootings, and threats of the same. This would further drive the message against the U.S. money supply and could crash the economy.

This plan was developed in about twenty minutes. The terrorists of the day have had decades to consider such plans, and I for one am glad that they tend to be grandiose. When the terrorists realize the simplicity required of causing terror in the U.S., we need to be very wary.


Biological terrorism. (2002). Encyclopedia of terrorism. Retrieved from

Marshall, P. (2002, February 22). Policing the borders. CQ Researcher, 12, 145-168. Retrieved from

Terrorism, definition and history of. (2002). Encyclopedia of terrorism. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Engraving. (n.d.). FAQ library. Retrieved from

Weapons of mass destruction. (2002). Encyclopedia of terrorism. Retrieved from

Winfield, M. D. & Groisman, E. A. (2003). Role of Nonhost Environments in the Lifestyles of Salmonella and Escherichia coli. Applied Environmental Microbiology, 69(7), 3687-3694. doi:10.1128/AEM.69.7.3687-3694.2003

Critical Incident Leadership

The skills needed to lead and manage an incident within the command structure of an incident management team are broad and far-reaching. Though individual skills, traits, or attributes are not particular enough to manifest leadership (Zaccaro, Kemp, & Bader, 2004), two important skills that I have identified from my experience and from the text of Walsh et al. (2012), one of which I possess and the other could be enhanced or improved, are a wide breadth of acquired knowledge of the particular spheres of public safety, including operations of emergency and normalcy, and a particular political will that endeavors to ensure favor from most subordinates while carrying out the capacity of management (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2008).

Of the latter, I could certainly appreciate a need to remain favored and liked throughout the management of an emergent incident; however, the respect that is earned by the end of any successfully managed crisis is worth more to me than blind politicking, and I have no use for elected office unless that office has a use for me. I do understand how, if I managed to cultivate my political will, it might be easier to find resources and more willing accomplices to alleviate the tasks at hand, though I still wrestle with the notion of neighbors owing neighbors in times of emergent crisis.

To speak of the former is to identify acquired skill and knowledge that I can portray in solid foundation. Having been trained by some of the leaders in the field of disaster management as a member of their team, in both leadership and subordinate roles, I have the confidence to direct subordinates to the task at hand safely and efficiently while being directed or counseled (however my office might fall within a command structure). More important than being knowledgeable, though, is knowing when you require more knowledge. I am never afraid or apprehensive of my limitations, and I will always ask for assistance when needed.

It is interesting to discuss the traits and abilities needed by leaders in order to lead (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2008; Walsh et al., 2012); however, none of the literature can substantiate that any one particular trait or skill is particular to or required by a leader, or that it is found lacking in a follower (Zaccaro, Kemp, & Bader, 2004). So long as I am willing to take charge when needed and have the necessary knowledge to direct appropriate actions, I feel that I will continue to perform well in command positions, that is, until someone more adept avails themselves to the task.


U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2008, January). National response framework. Retrieved from

Walsh, D. W., Christen, H. T., Callsen, C. E., Miller, G. T., Maniscalco, P. M., Lord, G. C., & Dolan, N. J. (2012). National Incident Management System: principles and practice (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Zaccaro, S. J., Kemp, C., & Bader, P. (2004). Leader traits and attributes. In J. Antonakis, A. T. Cianciolo, & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), The nature of leadership (pp. 101-124). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Disregarding the Second Amendment

The Socio-political Consequences and a Libertarian Solution

Americans, as citizens of the republic, have rights that transcend any government. These rights ensure the continuing operation and stability of the republic. Our founding fathers outlined these rights conspicuously after thoughtfully debating the specific wording that should be used. Though times change, these freedoms should not. Most Americans accept that with these freedoms come social responsibility, and I will delineate how this relationship can be maintained without the use of specific anti-gun legislation. The current opinions surrounding gun control range from desires to ban all privately owned firearms to disallowing any government (Federal, State, County, or municipal) from placing any controls on the citizens’ ability to own, possess, carry, control, and use firearms. On the other hand, some people are willing to accept a compromise of terms. There are socio-political consequences for each of the various levels of proposed gun control in the United States, including impacts on the U.S. Constitution and the Constitutions of the fifty States.

The anti-gun coalitions dispute the claims that crime rates soar when gun bans are put in effect, and admittedly, the correlation does nothing to prove causation, yet, a sober analysis of the matter reveals confirmation that the claim is, in fact, valid. Following the 1997 gun ban (Firearms Act, 1997), Great Britain suffered the highest crime rates in Europe, specifically domestic burglary, the forceful entering of residential premises. A Home Office report shows that violent crimes increased steadily by 26% over the next 5 years (2004). Johnston reports, “Britain has one of the worst crime rates in Europe…. It is the most burgled country in Europe, has the highest level of assaults and above average rates of car theft, robbery and pickpocketing” (2007, para. 1). In fact, the violent crime rate continues to grow 77% through 2006. Japanese crime rates increase dramatically 128% during the years 1997 to 2001, after adopting similar firearms legislation. The same phenomena was seen in Australia with robberies increasing 44% after a similar gun ban. Interestingly, the authorities in New Zealand found it difficult and cumbersome to enforce the Australian ban and they abandoned the effort. The crime rates in New Zealand decreased dramatically (robbery: 18% decrease, domestic burglary: 27% decrease). Unfortunately, after a rejuvenation of the gun ban in 2000, the report reflects an 8% overall increase in violent crimes (Home Office, 2004). Unfortunately, the research is still lacking.

Another component of the gun control debate in the United States is the consideration that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution refers not to individuals, but to State and Federal sponsored militias. Though the U.S. Supreme Court (District of Columbia v. Heller, 2007) has recently ruled that the Amendment proscribes an individual right, this is not a new opinion. A search through documentation of the Constitutional Conventions (Elliot, 1836; Ford, 1888) and previous Supreme Court decisions (United States v. Cruikshank, 1876; United States v. Miller, 1939) shows a consistent viewpoint, the Second Amendment refers to an individual right to bear arms. There certainly has been some confusion regarding the interpretation of this Amendment (Miller v. Texas, 1894; United States v. Cruikshank, 1876), but most of the experts now concede the individual rights interpretation.

Proponents of gun control have also sought to ban weapons described as assault weapons. The position of The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence ( on assault weapons:

The Brady Campaign supports banning military-style semi-automatic assault weapons along with high-capacity ammunition magazines. These dangerous weapons have no sporting or civilian use. Their combat features are appropriate to military, not civilian, contexts. (n.d., Position section)

Here many gun control advocates erroneously cite United States v. Miller (1939) as limiting the civilian ownership of military-style weapons. Justice McReynolds, in his opinion, states, “Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment, or that its use could contribute to the common defense” (p. 6). This ruling is problematic. Miller and his co-defendant were not represented by counsel, and before the proceedings took place, Miller was murdered (Aultice, 1990). With these issues in mind, the opinion was based on a lack of evidence that a sawed-off shotgun could be used as ordinary military equipment. An argument could have been made that might have impacted Justice McReynolds’ opinion. During the Civil War, Confederate cavalrymen regularly employed the sawed-off shotgun against the Union cavalry, and during World War I, American soldiers in Europe used short-barreled shotguns regularly to clear trenches (, n.d.). Had this argument been offered, perhaps the opinion would have been different. As Aultice (1990) writes, “by default it is acceptable to own weapons with a ‘reasonable relationship’ to the preservation of the militia, and nothing so fits the description as those creatures of their own distorted imagination, the so-called ‘assault weapons’!” (Viewpoint section, para. 1). During debates, the proponents of gun control find themselves requiring a different argument in the face of this.

Gun control advocates ask a fairly simple, though outlandish, question: Where does it end? The gun control advocates are simply asking if there is a boundary to the militaristic weaponry that a civilian should be able to possess. I have to agree that this is an excellent question to ask. When exercising our rights, it is important to understand the social responsibility that must be exercised. I, and most firearms enthusiasts, concede that it would be troublesome for the citizenry to possess weapons of mass destruction. Where is the line? Libertarian principles dictate that no law should preempt freedom so long as the exercise of that freedom does not interfere with the rights of a third-party. Block and Block (2000) developed a theory based on geography and spatial relationships. They describe a constant where, as long as the weapon can be used defensively and the effect of the weapon can be isolated to the user and the target, the spatial relationship must fall between two extremes: (a) proportionally using the entire universe and (b) proportionally in a crowded phone booth. These are obviously not realistic situations, but the theory must transcend the boundaries of reality in order to prove all-encompassing. In the case that a population is spread over the entire universe, it would be acceptable for each person to have nuclear weapons for defensive use. On the other hand, in the latter scenario, perhaps only a small knife would be acceptable. To draw this theory back into the realm of reality, consider the spatial population differences between a highly populated city where a handgun would be acceptable, but a high-powered rifle may not be safe. Also, consider the population density of the many rural areas in the United States. In these areas, it might be plausible to own and use a tank, bazooka, and machine gun without fear of infringing on the rights of some third-party. This theory creates a direct relationship with the destructive power of the weapon and the likelihood of impacting an innocent person. Perhaps, this is the commonsense gun control that the gun control advocates are searching for. It appears that gun control advocates would like to remove the rights of the people instead of holding the individual responsible for committing crimes. As I believe, the right is certainly an individual right, and the responsibilities are also individual responsibilities. Using this theory as the predominant philosophy of responsible gun ownership would limit the need of any further legislation, as we already have laws enacted which seek to protect the public from endangerment; punishing the criminal, not the victim.

Is this theory realistic? What are the chances of its actually being considered? Ultimately, what is at stake here is the continuation of our government as we know it. Our founding fathers developed the U.S. Constitution in such a specific way as to protect ourselves from ourselves. Politicians with Socialistic views, though motivated with good intentions, could certainly lay a legislative foundation enabling future politicians to create a totalitarian regime, controlling the populace in the future with no fear of a reprisal by an armed citizenry (Savelsberg, 2002). We must keep this possibility in the front of our minds as we discuss and debate the focus and depth of the Second Amendment. Admittedly, there is a public safety component to the debate (Winkler, 2007, p. 727). On the one hand, it appears that large urban areas are fraught with gun violence. On the other hand, as Rand’s (1994) report shows, handguns are used in 17% of violent crimes in the U.S., and defending one’s self with a firearm reduces the likelihood of victim injury by more than 40%. Rand continues to show that guns are used in defense against violent crimes over 60,000 times annually. Firearm ownership is an absolute fiber in the fabric of American society, for the defense of self, State, and Country. We should approach this topic with care and knowledge. Although firearm issues may seem of concern to only a small group of Americans, it should, in fact, concern anyone who cares about the Constitution of the United States and the American way of life.


Aultice, P. L. (1990). United States vs Miller Court Opinion and Documents. Retrieved from

Block, W. & Block, M. (2000, October). Toward a universal libertarian theory of gun (weapon) control: a spatial and geographical analysis. Ethics, Place & Environment, 3(3), 289-298.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. (n.d.). Military-style assault weapons. Retrieved from

District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 290 (2007).

Elliott, J. (1836). The debates in the several State Conventions on the adoption of the Federal Constitution: June 14, 1788. Elliot’s Debates, 3, 365-410. Retrieved from

Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, c. 5 et seq. (1997).

Ford, P. L. (1888). An examination into the leading principles of the Federal Constitution proposed by the late Convention held at Philadelphia. With answers to the principal objections that have been raised against the system. By a citizen of America. Pamphlets on the Constitution of the United States, published during its discussion by the people, 1787-1788, 25-65. Brooklyn, NY. Retrieved from (n.d.). Shotguns. Retrieved from /systems/ground/shotgun.htm

Johnston, P. (2007, February 6). Britain tops European crime league. The Telegraph. Retrieved from

Home Office, Research, Development, and Statistics Directorate. (2004, October 24). International comparisons of criminal justice statistics 2001. Retrieved from

Miller v. Texas, 153 U.S. 535 (1894).

Rand, M. R. (1994, April). Bureau of Justice Statistics crime data brief: Guns and crime: Handgun victimization, firearm self-defense, and firearm theft (NCJ-147003 Rev. 2002, September 24). U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from

Savelsberg, J. J. (2002). Socialist Legal Traditions. Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment. Retrieved from

United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1876).

United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939).

Winkler, A. (2007, February). Scrutinizing the Second Amendment. Michigan Law Review, 105(4), 683-733. Retrieved from

An Essay on the Value of Television on Society

Television plays a critical role in providing information to its viewers in a timely manner, though this responsibility could be detrimental if the format of delivery is not in line with the needs of the viewers. There are many questions and theories regarding the usefulness or appropriateness of television in American society today. A research review (Huston, et al., 1992) of television watching habits in regards to violence, sexuality and health shows that television program choices are as formative for adults as they are adolescents, though younger children may be spared from this effect due to their “insufficient emotional and cognitive capacities to comprehend the message.” With this in mind, some people feel that television broadcasts should be well-regulated and censored to a level that society finds appropriate (Hoffner, et al., 1999), and though much of television is, in fact, regulated to some degree, Anderson (1997) found that commercials which air during family-centered broadcasting contained violence which may not be suitable for all ages. In addition to violence, many programs aired today contain sociopolitical biases that threaten the very message meant to be conveyed. In addition to content, expertise is called into question as local and national news outlets are viewed with a sense of authority, when in fact they may not be. A recent survey (Wilson, 2008) of weathercasters showed that in 2002 only 8% of stations employed a science or environment reporter. Many weathercasters do not have the scientific background in order to accurately forecast severe weather, yet they serve as the authoritative source for this information. These are not symptoms common only to network television broadcasting but are prominent in all media, including print and radio.

In order for the media to maintain its credibility, it must take the responsibility of broadcasting seriously. Television broadcasters must maintain an air of unbiased, expert reporting interested in delivering fact and opposing viewpoints if necessary. Broadcast outlets must also take on the responsibility of the content of each program keeping in mind the intended audience. There is a social contract between viewers and broadcasters, and though I am not one to suggest government censorship, responsible self-censorship by each media outlet may be ethical and appropriate to promote good habits and healthy lifestyles.

With society’s reliance on television to provide entertainment and information, the programs and information offered can certainly alter society’s perceptions of acceptability and necessity within our culture. With rights comes responsibility. We enjoy a certain freedom of our press, but when that freedom is without responsibility, misinformation is promulgated to the masses having dire consequences on society. As an example, the media’s reliance on violence for profits has greatly diminished our society’s abhorrence of such. This coupled with poor and inaccurate reporting on gun violence has led to an unhealthy promotion of guns to solve the most minuscule of problems (Omaar, 2007). Essentially, the media created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Looking at society today, this has effectively removed guns from the hands of lawful citizens and placed them with criminals. Many politicians are to blame for their ignorance on this matter, but television is to blame for providing these politicians the education of ignorance. Television can shape society. What shape do we want to be in?


Anderson, C. (1997). Violence in Television Commercials During Nonviolent Programming: The 1996 Major League Baseball Playoffs. JAMA, 278(13), 1045-1046.

Hoffner, C., Buchanan, M., Anderson, J. D., Hubbs, L. A., Kamigaki, S. K., Kowalczyk, L., et al. (1999). Support for censorship of television violence: The role of the third-person effect and news exposure. Communication Research, 26(6), 726-742. DOI: 10.1177/009365099026006004

Huston, A. C., Donnerstein, E., Fairchild, H., Feshbach, N. D., Katz, P.A., Murray, J. P., et al. (1992). The role of television in American society. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Omaar, R. (3 September 2007). Why our children carry guns. New Statesman, 137(4860), 20. AN: 26417804

Wilson, K. (2008). Television weathercasters as station scientists. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 89(12), 1926-1927