Friday, August 22, 2014


What Toronto Can Learn From The Police Shooting Of Michael Brown
"It might be comforting to think that the tragic shooting of Michael Brown—an 18-year-old unarmed black man—by a white police officer on August 9 and the resulting chaos in Ferguson, Missouri, are distinctly American phenomena. The history of racial tensions, the heavy-handed policing tactics, the disproportionate criminalization of young black men—these are issues that have long plagued the United States, a country so obsessed with law and order that it has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

But look a little closer, and the lines between Ferguson and Toronto begin to blur...."

Staffing Cuts Strain Justice Department
"The Conservative government has been sharply reducing the expertise on hand in the Justice Department, even as its tough-on-crime agenda continues to be a major priority, with dozens of laws being debated and changed at the same time."


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Ferguson gets Free Military Gear from the Pentagon - Like so Many Police forces 
"The images coming out of Ferguson, Mo., in the last few days have been harrowing, and one element in particular has shocked those watching the events unfold. American law enforcement decked out in military fatigues, patrolling the streets in armored vehicles that look like they were plucked out of Afghanistan or Iraq."
Related Articles: 
Exactly How Often Do Police Shoot Unarmed Black Men?
"The killing of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri, was no anomaly: As we reported yesterday, Brown is one of at least four unarmed black men who died at the hands of police in the last month alone. There are many more cases from years past. As Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Missouri chapter put it in a statement of condolence to Brown's family, 'Unarmed African-American men are shot and killed by police at an alarming rate. This pattern must stop.'

But quantifying that pattern is difficult. Federal databases that track police use of force or arrest-related deaths paint only a partial picture. Police department data is scattered and fragmented. No agency appears to track the number of police shootings or killings of unarmed victims in a systematic, comprehensive way."

Why Body Cameras Alone Won't Solve Our Police Abuse Problem
"Tensions between protesters and police escalated since 18 year-old Michael Brown was gunned down by police in Ferguson, Missouri over a week ago. Police use of military-like force against peaceful protesters and journalists, coupled with a reluctance to release the name of the shooting officer or details of events that led to the shooting, have protesters and activists demanding for extensive changes to police protocol. Chief among those changes are mandating all police officers wear body cameras so there’s clear, objective footage of every police encounter with civilians."

5 Scathing Border Patrol Revelations From An Ousted Agency Chief
"In an unauthorized interview, former CBP internal affairs chief James F. Tomsheck gave what could be the most scathing public criticism of the nation’s largest law enforcement agency by a high-ranking official."

Considering a Theoretical Framework for Ethical Interaction in Public-Private Policing  
"This paper considers a theoretical framework to benchmark the interaction of the two sectors in formal and informal public-private partnerships in policing.  As social pressures increase on government to deliver more security to the community in the face of financial and resource constraints, the closer cooperation, collaboration, and possible integration of the public and private sectors in policing is increasing in level and scope...."

How Facebook and Twitter Control What You See About Ferguson
"Social media is controlled by algorithms – a mathematical formula that dictates what you see and when. In the past week, people have noticed something curious about the way these algorithms have filtered news about protests in Ferguson, Mo., over the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown."

After Police Killings, Georgia Teens Create Cop Accountability App
"Three teenagers from Decatur, Georgia have created an app designed to foster a culture of accountability and accessibility for citizens dealing with local law enforcement and to reduce instances of police brutality."

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Prisons & Corrections

Life In - And After - Prison
"More than 2.3 million people in the United States are in prison or jail. Here, talks that speak to the experience of life behind bars—and different perspectives on what can make it a rehabilitating experience."  TED Talks - 8 brief videos

It's Time to Pay Prisoners the Minimum Wage
"Prison labor has long existed in a 'legal black hole, as David Fathi of the ACLU puts it.... '[Prison labor] seems more common than it did ten or twenty years ago. And a real concern is that employers, whether they’re public or private, are naturally going to be attracted by a uniquely docile and powerless, and literally captive labor force.'"

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Poverty, Homelessness & the Criminal Justice System

In the Public Eye: Addressing the Negative Impact of Laws Regulating Public Space on People Experiencing Homelessness
"In a new report, In the Public Eye, author Lucy Adams of Australia’s Justice Connect...elevates the conversation and challenges readers to understand and respond to the issue of criminalization using tools and solutions-based approaches." (Amy L. Sawyer, USICH Regional Coordinator)

The Hidden Ways Urban Design Segregates the Poor
"There's a name for uncomfortable benches, hard-to-reach parks, and ubiquitous surveillance: Disciplinary Architecture.

A few weeks ago, news emerged that a New York building was planning a separate entrance for residents of its low-income units--"poor doors." Outrage ensued, but the truth is, urban design that tries to segregate well-off from welfare is nothing new. Before poor doors there were anti-homeless spikes, pay-per-minute benches, public spaces secluded behind private infrastructure, and more."

The Economics of Police Militarism
"...On Thursday, Jelani Cobb filed a powerful account from the sidewalks and homes of Ferguson. Cobb asks about 'the intertwined economic and law-enforcement issues underlying the protests,” including, for instance, the court fees that many people in Ferguson face, which often begin with minor infractions and eventually become “their own, escalating, violations.' 'We have people who have warrants because of traffic tickets and are effectively imprisoned in their homes,” Malik Ahmed, the C.E.O. of an organization called Better Family Life, told Cobb. “They can’t go outside because they’ll be arrested. In some cases, people actually have jobs but decide that the threat of arrest makes it not worth trying to commute outside their neighborhood.'"

Get Out Of Jail, Inc.
"On a cold November afternoon, Harriet Cleveland, a forty-nine-year-old mother of three, waved me over from the steps of her pink cottage in Montgomery, Alabama. She was off to her part-time job as a custodian at a local day-care center.... We’d need to start walking soon, she explained. The job, which paid seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour, was the only one she’d been able to find for some time, and was four and a half miles away. As we set off..., she recounted the events that had led me to her doorstep: her arrest and jailing for a string of traffic tickets that she was unable to pay. It was, in part, a story of poverty and constraint, but it was also a story of the lucrative and fast-growing 'alternatives to incarceration' industry."

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Privacy & Surveillance

How the U.S. and its Spy Allies Scan the World for Hackable Servers
"The spy agencies behind the Five Eyes snooping alliance are actively scanning networks across the connected world for vulnerabilities. Their tool is called Hacienda and its task is to find any unprotected "holes" left in server firewalls, such that spies can penetrate those servers and, potentially, take control. This was revealed in a paper published yesterday in Heise Online by researchers and journalists based in Germany."

Beantown's Big Brother: How Boston Police Used Facial Recognition Technology to Spy on Thousands of Music Festival Attendees
"...One of the reasons for a less physically imposing police presence may have been that the city was in the process of testing a pilot program for a massive facial recognition surveillance system on everyone at the concerts in both May and September. Using software provided by IBM that utilized existing security cameras throughout the area, the city tracked the thousands of attendees at the concert and in the vicinity, and filtered their appearance into data points which could then be cross-checked against certain identifying characteristics. And then... Well, what happens next is what makes this sort of thing so potentially troubling."

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Friday, August 15, 2014


Discourses Of Difference - Constituting The "Ethnic" Offender
Sarah Turnbull, Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies Alumna  presents at 41st Annual Conference of the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control

Gag Order To Be Imposed On New RCMP Transparency Office
The federal government is developing a commission to help restore public confidence in the RCMP – but it will be shrouded in secrecy.

Planning documents for Public Safety indicate anyone working for the RCMP’s new Civilian Review and Complaints Commission will be required to take an “oath of secrecy.”

“This oath ensures that these persons pledge not to disclose any information that they come across in the course of their duties to anyone not legally entitled to that information,” the document reads.

Federal correctional authorities are getting in the way of an investigation into drug-prescribing practices for inmates by withholding relevant information, Canada's prisons ombudsman says.

It's Time To Talk About MDMA
"This isn't another health-class lecture, but a grown up discussion of what's really in those pressed pills and how to make it safer."

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Prison and Corrections

When Wilderness Boot Camps Take Tough Love Too Far
Troubled teens are occasionally sent to corrective outdoor programs, where they hike for days or perform manual labor. But some parents are saying the physical exertion verges on abuse.

Grayling's Privatisation System Comes Apart At The Seams
One day, two more failures of privatisation in the prison system. Yesterday, the prison inspector's report on Doncaster prison, which is run by Serco under a 'payment by results' system, found levels of violence were four times above the norm. Then A4e announced it was scrapping its contract to provide education in London prisons. Both provide telling examples of how the profit motive fails to provide effective services in criminal justice.

A Presumption Against Imprisonment: Social Order And Social Values
This report looks at the issues of crime and punishment, and why we seem unable to reduce our reliance on imprisonment. The study explores the reasons behind the high prison population in the UK, as well as offering contributions to the ongoing debate about why and how we should try to reduce both the number of people we imprison, and the length of time for which many are imprisoned.

Out Of Prison, But No Place To Go
Many of the roughly 10,000 inmates who exit U.S. prisons each week face an immediate critical question: Where will I live?

While precise numbers are hard to come by, research suggests that, on average, about 10 percent of parolees are homeless immediately following their release. In large urban areas, and among those addicted to drugs, the number is even higher — exceeding 30 percent.

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Race and Gender Issues

Gentrification And The Persistence Of Poor Minority Neighborhoods
"There is no more highly contentious issue among those of us who spend their time thinking about the future of cities than gentrification.

Its progress has been massively uneven, as change has tended to concentrate in large, knowledge-based cities like New York, L.A., Chicago, D.C., Boston, and San Francisco—with much less movement in older Rustbelt or sprawling Sunbelt cities, according to a Cleveland Fed study I wrote about last fall. Another recent study found that, for every single neighborhood that's gentrified since 1970, 10 have remained poor and another 12 have slipped into poverty.

When we talk about why some places gentrify and others don't, there's often a pressing, underlying question at stake: To what degree is gentrification bound up with and shaped by race?"

See recent study:  Divergent Pathways of Gentrification: Racial Inequality and the Social Order of Renewal in Chicago Neighborhoods

Vast Majority Of Blacks View The Criminal Justice System As Unfair
Blacks are much more likely than whites to say that blacks faced unfair treatment in dealing with police or in the courts, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey. And blacks perceived racial biases to be greater in the criminal justice system than in other institutions.

"Gender Inequality Affects All Women"
DMSS have released a report which analyses the risk factors associated with negative outcomes across the life course for women and girls. These poor outcomes include: involvement in the criminal justice system; homelessness; sexual exploitation; mental health problems; and, substance misuse.

Privacy and Criminal Justice

 Police Want Right To See Medical Records Without Consent
Police want new and expanded rights to access medical records and other confidential data without an individual's consent, a senior police chief has told the Guardian.

Sir Peter Fahy, the Greater Manchester chief constable, said the extra access to sensitive data was needed to help police cope with growing numbers of vulnerable people.

Judge Orders Rape Accuser To Turn Over Facebook Account
A New Jersey judge has ordered a teen who accused a man of rape to turn over access to her Facebook account, providing another example of social media's growing use in courtrooms and the resulting privacy concerns.

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier this week agreed to a request from David Stevens-Parker's defense attorney, and the judge said he will privately review two weeks of Facebook postings for any comments related to the alleged rape before deciding whether any can be used in court.

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Report: States With Stand Your Ground Laws Have More Homicides
If you’re interested in reducing violent crime, homicides, or racial bias, you should repeal Stand Your Ground laws, according to new recommendations from an American Bar Association Task Force. In a diplomatic fashion, the 62-page preliminary report hedges from calling for the outright repeal of the controversial “shoot first” provisions, but instead suggests that the laws are a “solution searching for a problem,” that they are associated with increased homicide rates and reinforce racial bias, and that any state concerned with these problems should probably do something about it.

Disaster Sociologists Study How Hurricane Sandy Changed Life In New York
Hurricane Sandy has ushered in big changes all over the New York metropolitan region, from seawalls to city ordinances. It may have also changed things in the Ivory Tower.

Supported by New York University and its Institute for Public Knowledge, a young cadre of social scientists calling themselves the Superstorm Research Lab is quietly rethinking business as usual in academia. Though their work fits squarely in the established field of disaster sociology, the Research Lab is deeply invested in pushing the boundaries between scholarly research and efforts to make real change.

Read the white paper:  A Tale of Two Sandys

Sex Offender Laws Have Gone Too Far
"Our draconian policies about sex offenses reflect our ignorance of them."

"Is the American approach to sex registration working? Who goes on the registries, for how long, and for what kinds of crimes? Do the answers suggest that they are helping to keep kids safe—or sweeping in too many people and stoking irrational fears?"

Author of "Broken Windows" Policing Defends His Theory
In 1982, after another year of record lawlessness in New York City, two college professors advanced — or, more accurately, rekindled — a plausibly uncomplicated theory that would revolutionize law enforcement in the city: Maintaining public order also helps prevent crime.

European Court Finds CIA Interrogation Techniques "Amounted To Torture"
The European Court of Human Rights concludes that so-called enhanced interrogation techniques - specifically approved by John Yoo and Jay Bybee for use by the CIA on Abu Zubaydah at a Polish black site - amounted to torture.

The Draw Of the Undertow:  Extremity, Otherness And Emergent Harm In Gaming And Pornography

"My own interest in the cultural and social impact of video games probably began with morally conflicted feelings while playing Grand Theft Auto III for the first time. I remember experiencing a real sense of surprise at the possibility of running over pedestrians and perhaps more so, a sense of worry at what other, younger, players might take from the game. The game felt like an incredibly violent space, a bleak vision of a city without moral codes or goodness, a space most of all where we were being goaded to bring out our more callous side, running over the homeless in tunnels, sniping at the unsuspecting or beating and stabbing to advance, or just for the sheer hell of it."


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Friday, August 8, 2014

Inaugural Volume of The University Of Toronto Undergraduate Criminology Review

Table of Contents
  •   A Traditional Legal Examination of the Intoxication Defence, by Daiana Kostova
  • The Complexity of Child Sexual Offending: Rehabilitation and Pedophilia, by Alexander Evangelista
  • Dispelling Stereotypes About Undocumented Mexican Immigrants: How Irregular Migration and Criminalization is Perpetuated Due to American Economic and Political Policies, by Alexis Drueger
  • Evolutionary Origins of Neutralization Techniques, by Piotr Patrzyk
  • Making the Strange Familiar and the Familiar Strange: The Media's Exploitation of Fairy Narratives to "Understand" and "Extend the Understanding of" Female Psychopaths, by Grace Tran
  • Canadian Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Relations: Genocidal Intent, by Wanda Hounslow
  • Analyzing the Morals Pertaining to the Legal Consideration of the Sexual Assault of a Sex Worker as Theft, by Bryan Ekeh


Women Inmates On The Rise
The number of women in federal prisons could go up with the abolition of early parole provisions by the federal government, according to a University of Toronto criminology professor.

The number and proportion of female inmates had been increasing in both provincial and federal prisons even before the parole changes.....

And with the end of the federal accelerated parole system, the numbers could go even higher, says Kelly Hannah-Moffat, a professor and director of the Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies at U of T.

Beyond Youth Custody.  Resettlement Of Girls And Young Women: Research Report
This report addresses a worrying gap in the knowledge about the effective resettlement of girls and young women. Reviewing research literature in a number of relevant areas, it cross-references evidence of what works in the resettlement of young people with what we know about the wider need of girls and young women. This iterative synthesis approach thus provides a gender-sensitive approach to inform policy and practice development in resettlement for this specific group.

In New York's Largest Jail, Teens Face "Brute Force" And Intimidation That Horrifies Even Prosecutors
In the second-largest jail in the nation, teens are beaten more frequently than not. They are placed in solitary confinement for disciplinary infractions that would be considered typical adolescent behavior outside of jail. And inmates, medical staff, and even teachers, are intimidated out of reporting violence by corrections officers, according to a scathing new Department of Justice report.

Read the Dept. of Justice Report

This New Jersey Reform Stops Judges From Jailing Some Defendants Just Because They Are Poor
In New Jersey, inmates spend an average of ten months behind bars just waiting to go to trial. Many have the option to post bail. But a study last year found that some 40 percent of those in pretrial detention would have been released had they been able to afford bail.

On Monday, the New Jersey legislature passed a package of bills to remove financial need from bail determinations, with the strong support of Gov. Chris Christie (R).

Holder: Data-Driven Prison Sentencing "Unfair" To Minorities
Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday expressed concern about the fairness of judges who rely on big data to sentence criminal defendants, saying the use of such “risk assessments” in several states could exacerbate racial disparities among the prison population.

Holder, who made the comments during a Philadelphia speech to criminal defense lawyers, said the use of such data results in unfair treatment of minorities.

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Stand Down
All too often, the victims of police shootings are people with mental illness. One American city has found a solution.

Broken Windows Policing Kills People
Senseless deaths are a predictable result of cracking down on minor offenses.

See also:  Daily News Analysis Finds Racial Disparities In Summons For Minor Violations In "Broken Windows" Policing

Sovereign Citizens seen As Top Terrorist Threat By US Law Enforcement 
The sovereign citizen movement is considered the top threat for domestic terrorism, according to a survey of state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.

Islamist extremists and militia/patriot groups round out the top three threats to communities in the United States considered most serious by 364 officers of 175 state, local, and tribal law enforcement entities, according to a survey conducted by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).

Link to Survey 

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Prominent Ottawa Judge Strikes Down Mandatory Victim Surcharge
In a carefully reasoned, 31-page decision released Thursday, Ontario Court Justice David Paciocco found that a reasonable person who was properly informed would find $900 in mandatory victim surcharges for addicted, impoverished and troubled Inuit offender Shaun Michael so grossly disproportionate that it would outrage the standards of decency.

"Mr. Big" Ruling A "Game Changer" For Those Convicted In Sting Operations
A Supreme Court of Canada ruling calling into question the reliability of confessions obtained during so-called Mr. Big sting operations could prompt the review of dozens of convictions, some legal experts say.

Read the Supreme Court Ruling

Big Political Money Now Floods Judges Races, Too
Spending on judicial races has been ticking up along with overall election spending for the past decade, but the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which lifted restrictions on political spending by groups unaffiliated with individual campaigns, has driven money into races once run on shoestring budgets.

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Palliative Care Program Helps Homeless In Their Final Days
Called PEACH -- for Palliative Education and Care for the Homeless -- the watchword of the mobile program is to give individuals the dignity of choosing where they receive medical and supportive care, and hopefully where they will able to die.

Former Police Chief: Anti-Homelessness Laws In U.S. Are "Close to Ethnic Cleansing"
Since 2009, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty has been analyzing anti-homelessness measures in 187 cities. The organization concluded in a recent study that such costly ordinances are on the rise and have not proven to work in reducing homelessness rates.

Read the NLCHP Report

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CSEC Won't Say How Long It Keeps Canadians' Private Data
Agency says there are 'firm' time limits on how long it can retain intercepted private communications, but will not disclose detail.

B.C. Government Raises Alarm By Going After Address Of Medicinal Marijuana Growers
Provincial law enforcement agencies appear to be pushing Health Canada to hand over the personal information of more than 16,500 British Columbians licensed to produce medicinal marijuana, a top pot advocate has warned.

The Fourth Branch: The Rise To Power Of The National Security State
...for the Fourth Branch, this remains the age of impunity. Hidden in a veil of secrecy, bolstered by secret law and secret courts, surrounded by its chosen corporations and politicians, its power to define policy and act as it sees fit in the name of American safety is visibly on the rise.

No Matter What They Tell Us, USA Freedom Act Does Not Rein In The Spies 
Some of its supporters are overselling this bill and with it, anyone’s ability to rein in the intelligence community....[T]his bill...tacitly endorses the notion that FBI can conduct warrantless searches on US person communications without even having real basis for an investigation.

See report:  With Liberty to Monitor All

Obama Officials, Senate Intelligence Panel Spar Over Deletions From Torture Report
The Obama administration and the Senate Intelligence Committee are sparring over the administration’s deletions of fake names from the public version of a long-awaited report on the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists, McClatchy has learned.

Visit The Wrong Website, And The FBI Could End Up In Your Computer
Security experts call it a “drive-by download”: a hacker infiltrates a high-traffic website and then subverts it to deliver malware to every single visitor....Now the technique is being adopted by a different kind of a hacker—the kind with a badge. For the last two years, the FBI has been quietly experimenting with drive-by hacks as a solution to one of law enforcement’s knottiest Internet problems: how to identify and prosecute users of criminal websites hiding behind the powerful Tor anonymity system.

Wikipedia Link To Be Hidden In Google Under "Right To Be Forgotten" Law
Google is set to restrict search terms to a link to a Wikipedia article, in the first request under Europe's controversial new "right to be forgotten" legislation to affect the 110m-page encyclopaedia.

Read more here:

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Friday, August 1, 2014

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The Scientific Case for Decriminalizing Sex Work

Arguments in favor of decriminalizing prostitution often rely on empathy for sex workers themselves: Journalist Melissa Gira Grant contends, for example, that criminalizing sex work implicitly condones violence against sex workers, who are often afraid to go to the police to report violence and are frequently ignored when they do. Current laws (sex work is illegal in 116 countries) require that sex workers render themselves largely voiceless and invisible—which makes their interests easy to ignore.

But new research suggests that existing legislation against sex work may also be harming society at large—and that decriminalizing sex work could help slow the spread of HIV.

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Campus Sexual Assault: What Are Colleges Doing Wrong?

During their time at college, the Department of Justice estimates one in five women will be sexually assaulted, and as many as 95 percent of the cases go unreported.

So how are colleges failing to protect students from sexual assault? We sorted through the reporting to highlight a few cases that show the system’s greatest shortcomings.

Another Perspective:


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Why are  Law Enforcement Officials Making More Marijuana Arrests Than Ever?

Law enforcement in many states are making a greater number of marijuana arrests than ever before despite  polling data showing that the majority of Americans believe that the adult use of the plant ought to be legal.

According to a just published report,  “Marijuana in the States 2012: Analysis and Detailed Data on Marijuana Use and Arrests,” which appears on the newly launched  website, police made an estimated  750,000 arrests for marijuana violations in 2012 – a 110 percent increase in annual arrests since 1991. Yet, despite this doubling in annual marijuana arrests over the past two decades, there has not been any significant reduction in marijuana consumption in the United States the report found.

Related Articles: 

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Do California's Gun Laws Prevent Gun Deaths?

Do gun-control laws prevent gun deaths?

Proving causality is tough, especially in the United States, which has long had an effective federal ban on gun research, engineered by the gun lobby and sustained by congressional majorities.

But available data shows a clear link between strong gun laws and less gun carnage, and that’s good enough for me.

In the latest gun-control ranking of the states by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, seven of the 10 states with the strongest gun laws in 2013 also had the lowest rate of gun deaths: Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and California. Conversely, many states with the weakest gun laws had the highest gun-death rates.

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