This was our lead story this morning - "A deadly night of violence in St. Louis." In a span of 7 hours, 5 lives were lost to senseless violence. As Journalists, it's our job to ask questions of police and politicians, and the obvious question in this case is "why?" The officers who are honest will tell you they can't stop someone intent on committing murder. You can't police "intent", and many times these same officers have complained to me that it's wrong to place that expectation on them. The answer in many cases, they'll tell you, is that the shooter involved should still be incarcerated for an earlier crime, but was given a short or suspended sentence in our overburdened court system. So police can't stop it from happening. The politicians, on the other hand, must find an answer, or look bad in the eyes of their constituents. In this case, they blame the weapons used in these crimes, not the people involved in committing them. The Mayor's Chief of Staff, Jeff Rainford, says more guns are on the street, and blames recent changes in gun laws that in remove the Sheriff from the process as I understand it. The change prevents duplication of background checks from the FBI. Listen here:

That's possible, but I doubt it's causing any of this. Criminals have always had access to guns, and they don't buy them legally. Anyone who has bought a gun from a licensed dealer knows you have to show a photo ID, and that each purchase includes an instant background check by the FBI, through the ATF. On the document you sign to receive said firearm, it spells out the penalty if you are buying the gun for someone else. It strikes me that it gets down to enforcement of existing laws. Since it's always important to look at both sides, consider these points from www.GunFacts.info:

1) 90% of all violent crimes in the U.S. do not involve firearms of any type. 255
2) Even in crimes where the offender possessed a gun during the commission of the crime, 83% did not use or threaten to use the gun. 256
3) Less than 1% of firearms will ever be used in the commission of a crime. 257
4) Two-thirds of the people who die each year from gunfire are criminals being shot by other criminals. 258

255 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 1998
256 National Crime Victimization Survey, 1994, Bureau of Justice Statistics
257 FBI Uniform Crime Statistics, 1994
258 Ibid

That doesn't make the violence any more palatable or acceptable. But socio-economic forces play a much bigger - if not politically expedient - role than anyone wants to admit.

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