Book goes inside the minds of gun criminals

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  • TxSgt1911

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    Sep 25, 2008
    Book goes inside the minds of gun criminals

    A book surveying 73 convicts sheds light on their motives and whether they feel affected by firearm laws.
    By Monte Whaley
    The Denver Post

    Posted: 06/26/2009 01:00:00 AM MDT

    Guns offer protection, redress grievances, give power and status and are a ticket to a culture where violence is an acceptable fact of life. So say 67 men and six women who were in Colorado prisons in 2003 and 2004 serving time for gun crimes. They were interviewed by three Colorado professors who tell the inmates' stories in a book arriving in July called "Guns, Violence, and Criminal Behavior: The Offender's Perspective."
    The book — underwritten by the U.S. Justice Department's Project Safe Neighborhoods program — offers an often-overlooked perspective on the motivations behind gun crime, said Mark Pogrebin, professor of criminal justice at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver.
    "It's an explanation really of what happened before, during and after the crime has been committed," Pogrebin said. Pogrebin's team included Paul Stretesky, also at the School of Public Affairs at UC Denver, and Prabha Unnithan, professor of sociology at Colorado State University.

    No other alternatives

    Most of the inmates were more than willing to tell their stories, Pogrebin said. They considered themselves average, ordinary people who reacted to circumstances beyond their control, he said. "Many inmates claimed that they believe that (they) had no other choice in the situation but to use their gun to harm, murder or intimidate another person," said the authors. "To them, it was the only possible choice they could have made at the moment."
    While some were steeped in gang or criminal culture, others who used their guns to kill were not, Pogrebin said.
    The inmates included a 19-year-old woman who shot and killed her boyfriend before shooting herself because, she claimed, he withdrew his affection for her and she could not live without him. Another was a longtime offender who shot and killed an elderly man while trying to get him to open his safe.
    Still another inmate shot and killed his stepfather after what he described as years of abuse.
    "Some of the participants told us about carrying guns in social situations — after work, at a party and so on — but a common thread that was repeated was the notion of a street code in which many of the felons believed that carrying guns was necessary for going out," Pogrebin said.
    He said a third of the interviewees had been members of street gangs at some point in their lives.
    The interviews indicated that gun-control laws would have had little effect on the study subjects' criminal behavior. Most got their guns through a variety of ways, including borrowing, stealing and taking them by force, the professor said.
    A shoot-first mentality
    Other issues and themes stood out in the interviews, including whether allowing individuals to carry concealed weapons deters crime or encourages it, according to the book.
    "It could have a good impact as far as people acting in society, 'cause you never know who is going to be packing and who is not," said one inmate, identified as Patrick. "So if you can't see a gun, you know, you're going to stay on your p's and q's, you know."
    But most inmates said that concealed weapons — or the perception that someone had a concealed weapon — would only escalate the violence.
    "If I'm on the streets and I know people are carrying concealed weapons, I'll just walk up right to you and shoot you in the head and then take what you have," said one. "That way, you don't have a chance to take out your concealed weapon and shoot me."
    Methamphetamine abuse is another factor in gun violence, said the authors. While inmates admitted to drinking and using other drugs, meth abuse increased up their paranoia and tendency for violence, the book said.
    Some will say the inmates embellished their stories for the benefit of the authors, Pogrebin said. But during the interviews, the authors had access to the inmates' criminal histories to make sure their stories matched reality. "Most were facing 20 to 30 years in prison, even longer, so what would they gain by lying to us?" Pogrebin said.


    M. Sage

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    Jan 21, 2009
    San Antonio
    "If I'm on the streets and I know people are carrying concealed weapons, I'll just walk up right to you and shoot you in the head and then take what you have," said one. "That way, you don't have a chance to take out your concealed weapon and shoot me."

    Someone doesn't understand what the word "concealed" means.
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