Straight shooting for better gun laws
By James Alan Fox
Monday,  August 14, 2006

Whenever I breathe even a word about guns in this space or other media outlets, I can expect a rapid-fire barrage of irate e-mails from gun advocates. I'm surprised they can afford so much free time away from keeping their firearms collections well polished.

These attacks presume much about my position on gun control, typically making reference to my "ilk." Well, I've decided to mark my one-year anniversary writing for the Herald by clearing the air of lingering gun smoke. A few bullet points may actually surprise those of my counter-ilk:

As I have noted before, the National Rifle Association has recently grown more powerful in manipulating congressional action. My complaint is not so much with the NRA (which is entitled to its position), but with members of Congress who capitulate to its pressure. Our lawmakers should adopt gun policy based on sound evidence, not based on fear that a potent lobby will hold a gun to their political heads.

The goal is not to deprive law-abiding Americans of the ability to own firearms, but to disrupt the flow of guns to impulsive, impatient and imprudent trigger-happy gang-bangers who have helped send the rate of gun violence through the roof. Some reasonable approaches include: establishing a database of ballistic fingerprints - the unique striation marks produced by gun barrel - for all new firearms; full Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms tracing of serial numbers on all guns recovered from criminal activity; and even gun registration.

It may be naive to believe there is room for compromise in the heated gun control debate. Perhaps I should just make some room in my in-box to accommodate another onslaught of angry e-mails.

James Alan Fox is the Lipman Family Professor of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University. Talk back at