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June 12, 1996

Franklin E. Zimring on Law and Firearms

JAMA. 1996;275(22):1709. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530460013004

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"ACADEMIC LAW has just discovered guns," says Franklin E. Zimring, who is William F. Simon Professor of Law and director of the Earl Warren Legal Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. He compares legal scholars to the proverbial young couple who has just discovered sex. "People have been doing it for a long time, but not in a law school," he says.

Zimring says the field of criminal law ignored the role of firearms in violence until recently because of the law's emphasis on mental states associated with criminal actions and on individual criminal acts. Once physicians and epidemiologists recognized that violence was a public health problem and began to describe its statistical patterns, criminal law professors began to take notice.

Within the field of criminal law, researchers began to use the methods of social science and policy analysis, which consider aggregate impacts of criminal behavior as well as