Gun Courts Research Essay

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The idea of gun tribunals has its origins in Providence, Rhode Island, from 1994. Buddy Cianci, the mayor at the moment, issued an order requiring a single judge to preside over all cases involving crimes involving firearms. The difference between this system and the traditional court system was the shorter time between arrest and trial appearance—about three to four months as compared to the usual court system's one year. Since each state has a different structure, this technique has been replicated in New York, Birmingham, and Alabama. The following are studies done with critical evaluations of the effectiveness of this court and overall impact on gun crimes and violence.

Nobles, Mathew R. Evaluating Philadelphia’s Gun Court: Implications for Crime Reduction and Specialized Jurisprudence, August. 2008.

In this paper, the researcher offers an incisive analysis and experimental approach to the effectiveness of gun courts and its overall impact on the aggregate levels of gun violence and crime. The author gives a history of gun courts starting with the emergence of specialized courts which eventually leads to a discussion on gun courts. He explains the variance between gun courts in various states and how they are structured functionally. Furthermore, an analysis of these courts’ effectiveness in curbing gun violence and crime was evaluated through the use of statistical models. Finally, he gives an implication of his study theory in the real world and its potential efficacy.

According to the researcher, gun courts occupy a special sphere between it functioning as a specialized problem-solving court and an agency of measures meant to enhance gun control. He focuses on the gun court in Philadelphia which made its debut in 2005. Noting the mixed feelings the gun court program received during the day of introduction, he notes that the primary aim of the Philadelphia Gun Court program was to bring down the number of people holding illegal guns in the city. At the same time addressing the systemic problem of gun safety, education of the citizens and interventions meant to disrupt the demand for firearms. The program was intended to rehabilitate offenders and incapacitate them from future repeat offenses.

In operational ways, the gun court is different from Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas concerning the processing times between arrest and pre-trial. In the Gun Court, the type of trial and the disposition date are decided upon by the judge during the pre-trial session reducing the trial-cycle from 180 days to 120 days. The result is an indication of the rapidness in the due process through the fast-tracking of defendants. The Gun Court Program, based on the model of the rapid processing of offenders, has conditions imposed by the court that is more rigorous on offenders awaiting trial or are on parole is the overall premise underlying this court system.

The efficacy of this court program has its share of varied results on gun violence and crime. From the researcher’s analysis using bivariate, multivariate and time series plots, he notes that the impact of the gun control program on gun violence and crime are not significant in the two years after its introduction. The availability of guns in the streets of Philadelphia is a best indicator as to the ineffectiveness of this court program in reducing incidents of people carrying firearms illegally. However, Nobles notes that the gun court system is not overall ineffective since its impact is only visible on such a small scale such that the intended overall effect on gun-related crimes and violence are minimal in the area of Philadelphia. Moreover, the treatment dosage that the court metes out on offenders might not be sufficient enough to match the torrent of gun violence experienced in Philadelphia

Lastly, the debate of Gun Courts in the public policy space can be further enhanced only when directly observable effects of this system can be easily quantified. The effectiveness of gun courts as another form of anti-gun educative mechanism need to provide sufficient evidence on their influence on the police patrol, a proven effective anti-gun initiative. However, The Gun Court Program seems to be accepted by the citizens and policymakers alike.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Preventions. 2010, pp. 1-2.

The juvenile gun courts is a study done by Office of Juvenile and Delinquency Preventions. In make-up structure, they are similar to problem-solving courts whereby it caters for the youth who have committed offenses for the first time that are non-violent and resulted in nor severe physical injury to a person. The study aims at explaining the efficacy of the juvenile gun courts and their role in reducing recidivism amongst the youth.

The gun court was crafted and developed from the problem-solving court model that was already in place. This court model was dealing with issues such as substance abuse, domestic violence and mental health. Similarly, this problem-solving court model would go on to serve as the basis for structuring the juvenile gun court which was supposed to address the problem of gun violence and crime. However, it differed from these problem-solving courts in that it focuses on judicial authority to bring about a change in the behavior of the offenders.

As opposed to the adult court system that aims at punishing offenders and processing them through the system efficiently. Conversely, the juvenile courts have an objective of providing intervention measures for the youth while at the same time making sure they are held accountable for their offenses. The goal of this court is to create deterrence from gun use through education. The Jefferson County involves an intensive boot camp for 28 days, community service, substance abuse program and parent education program. Finally, its impact on reduced levels of recidivism is scanty as these courts are a few but an evaluation from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Center for Law found reduced recidivism levels amongst participants.

Matthew D. Makarios, Travis C. Pratt. The Effectiveness of Policies and Programs that Attempt to Reduce Firearm Violence: A Meta-Analysis. 2012, pp. 225-226.

In this study, the author cites the presence of gun courts as one of the law enforcement campaigns. He notes that there are programs that have been designed to speed up the process from arrest to disposition for offenders who have been involved in a crime involving a gun while some jurisdictions in other states have come up with specialized courts for gun offenders.

An example is Rhode Island which set up gun courts to speed up the processing of offenders so that they could face trial in shorter time periods reducing it by 50 percent. Detroit’s Handgun Invention Program requires offenders undergo a 4-hour counseling on negative costs of gun use before they are eligible for pretrial release. However, the impact on this program on offenders’ attitude had some significance but not a corresponding effect on their behavior. The efficacy of the gun court should have more peer-reviewed studies to come up with quantifiable influence on overall gun violence crime.

Works Cited

Makarios, Matthew D., and Travis C. Pratt. "The effectiveness of policies and programs that attempt to reduce firearm violence: A meta-analysis." Crime & Delinquency 58.2 (2012): 222-244.

Nobles, Matthew Robin. Evaluating Philadelphia's gun court: Implications for crime reduction and specialized jurisprudence. University of Florida, 2008.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Preventions. 2010

July 15, 2023


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