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There are over 200 million firearms in private hands in the United States, more than a third of which are handguns. In 1993 alone, it is estimated that 1.3 million victims of serious violent crime faced an offender with a gun. In 1999, there were approximately 563,000 such victims. Estimates of defensive uses of firearms – situations where individuals used a gun to protect themselves, someone else, or their property – range from 65,000 to 2.5 million per year. Punishments for crimes committed with a firearm are severe: under the federal firearms enhancement statute, the mandatory minimum sentence for use of a firearm in a predicate crime ranges from five years to life imprisonment. In state courts in the mid-1990s, the average maximum length of prison sentences for weapons offenses was almost four years.


Constitutional Law | Criminal Law | Law | Law Enforcement and Corrections


Copyright 2001 by Arizona Board of Regents and Bernard E. Harcourt. Reprinted with permission of the author and publisher. This article originally appeared in Arizona Law Review, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 261-276.