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Handgun study draws fire.

Pro-gun leaders and a noted university criminologist took immediate aim at a Justice Department study released in May claiming handgun crime had soared dramatically in 1992.

The study alleged that new records were set both in the number of violent crimes committed by individuals with handguns and the number of non-fatal crimes.

The Justice Department report claimed individuals armed with handguns committed a record 930,700 violent crimes in 1992 and also set a record of 917,500 for the use of handguns in non-fatal crimes, almost 50 percent higher than the average for the previous five years.

Anti-gunners were, of course, delighted to again take center stage. Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the leader of the anti-gun movement in the House, said the survey "gives the lie to the NRA's arguments."

"I think it shows that the problem with handguns is escalating.... You know that more has to be done to get them off the street," Schumer said.

But Tanya Metaksa, executive director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), told The Washington Post that the survey was "somewhat flawed."

She accused the Justice Department of inflating the gun statistics by lumping together crimes in which a handgun may have been involved -- for example, used in a pistol-whipping, but not discharged -- with those instances "in which a gun was used as a firearm."

"Just look at the city of Washington, D.C., as a microcosm," she said, citing the city's 400 murders last year. "It isn't the guns (causing the crimes). It is the recidivist criminals not being taken care of by our criminal justice system."

Gary Kleck, a Florida State University criminologist whose book Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America is the most comprehensive study on the relationship between guns and violence, was even more critical of the Justice Department study.

"There are several things wrong with the way the data are reported," Kleck told Gun Week.

"The number of times people use firearms for self protection is vastly understated. The survey's report that only 62,200 victims of violent crime used firearms to defend themselves is less than nine other qualified studies, the least of which places that figure at about 700,000 and the most, our anonymous telephone survey, at about 2.5 million defenses a year," he said.

Dr. Kleck also challenged the claim of the Justice Department report that 930,700 violent crimes were committed with handguns in 1992. He said the phrasing of the report suggests that the victims could not be sure that all criminals were armed, only that they thought they were armed.

Those criminals who actually displayed the firearm would probably only be about 40 percent of the total, closer to 372,000 such crimes, Kleck said.

Among the findings ignored by the general media was the fact that criminals fired their guns in 17 percent of all non-fatal handgun crimes "or about two percent of all violent crimes."

Chinese Gun, Ammo Imports Banned

The firearms industry took another blow from the White House when President Clinton renewed China's most-favored-nation trading status in May. While exports from China are welcome, the President announced that firearms and ammunition from China would no longer be imported into the United States.

The value of those imports -- from China North Industries Corp. (Norinco) and Poly Group Corp. -- is estimated at between $100 and $200 million.

The Wall Street Journal reported that last year, U.S. importers brought in 955,756 Chinese rifles, mostly SKSs -- more rifles than made by all U.S. manufacturers.

Jack Killorin of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms labeled SKSs as "high-tech firearms at Saturday Night Special prices."

Ironically, sales of SKSs probably would have been boosted by final passage of the Crime Bill containing an assault weapons ban, because the gun would not have been covered by the ban.

The President's action no doubt was prompted in part by the urgings of anti-gunners around the nation.

"Even if SKSs fall outside the neat definition of an assault wea-pon, flooding the market with cheap imported rifles is not making this a safer country," argued Jeff Muchnick, legislative director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in Washington.
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Title Annotation:US Department of Justice report
Author:Schneider, Jim
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Aug 1, 1994
Previous Article:Manufacturers, distributors and retailers team up with co-op advertising.
Next Article:Mid-year firearms production.

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