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Public Policy and Administration


Clarence Williamson


The purpose of this qualitative ethnographic study was to explore citizen perceptions of the phenomenon of law enforcement shootings involving an imitation firearm. A secondary purpose was to document knowledge of current imitation firearm policies and thoughts on the effectiveness of said policies. Kingdon's multiple streams approach was used as the theoretical framework. This theory addressed the sources of power that influence policy decisions, the stakeholders involved in agenda setting, and factors that shape policy debates. Data were collected using a combination of secondary data analysis, field observations and semi structured, face-to-face interviews with 23 citizens. Sampling strategies included a combination of snowball, purposeful, and variation sampling to identify interviewees from four specific subject groups: law enforcement, parents of children aged 10-17-years-old, citizens with no law enforcement experience and no children aged 10-17-years-old, and leaders in the community. Results from domain and taxonomic coding revealed the themes of safety, responsibility, and accountability. Specifically, subjects wanted to ensure both law enforcement and citizens were safe in the community, they wanted to see parents take responsibility for their children, and they wanted to see legislation that held people accountable for their actions when using imitation firearms during the commission of a crime. Findings may be used for positive social change by enhancing imitation firearm policies, recognizing ways to improve data tracking, and identifying educational opportunities for both citizens and law enforcement. Enhanced firearm policies can also help mitigate unnecessary shootings and reduce community conflicts between citizens and police.

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