The Construction of a Crime Initiative: An Analysis of Project Safe Neighborhoods

Amanda Thornton, Indiana University - Bloomington

Project Safe Neighborhoods is a major federal program that was established with practically no debate or opposition and in a Republican political climate, where gun control has been a critically deliberated issue. Considering this, how then was the construction and passage of the PSN initiative such an effortless task? Why were Republican politicians, who are generally considered to be against gun control, so supportive of this initiative? The National Rifle Association has even been a strong supporter of the initiative, out of concern that existing federal gun crime laws were not being enforced by the Clinton administration Justice Department, and thereby placing restrictions to law abiding citizens.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is concern that escalating federal presence in criminal law will produce a host of unwanted consequences. Prosecutorial mischief affecting the racial composition of juries and creating single-issue prosecutors can lead to a mindless zero-tolerance policy for technical infractions of gun laws. Many questions have arisen regarding the constitutionality of the federal government having unrestricted authority to interfere in intrastate criminal matters.

The PSN initiative is paramount because it appears to be driven by societal pressure to decrease gun violence and not by political agenda. However, it may be disguised as a gun control policy, when in actuality was originated by the NRA and Bush Administration to forestall further anti-gun legislation by emphasizing tougher enforcement of existing gun laws. This analysis will examine the underlying reasons for the construction of the PSN initiative, how and by whom its development has been influenced, who benefits from the protection of the initiative, the constitutionality of PSN, and the outcomes/consequences of its development.

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Updated 05/20/2006