Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Violent crime involving the use of firearms has risen dramatically during the past few decades. Recent congressional efforts to address this problem have focused almost exclusively on gun control as the appropriate solution, leading to the imposition of waiting periods for the purchase of firearms and complete bans on the production of certain assault weapons. Attempting to remove firearms from the hands of criminals, however, is not an exclusive remedy.

One of the natural companion measures to gun control is the imposition of severe sentences for the use of firearms during the commission of violent felonies. Congress adopted this approach with the enactment of 18 U.S.C. section 924(c)2 as part of the Gun Control Act of 1968. Section 924(c) could be an important weapon in the prosecutor's legal arsenal, but disagreement over key provisions of the statute has reduced its effectiveness. Congress has amended the statute six times, and disagreements over its interpretation have reached the Supreme Court on five occasions.