Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

Britain, guns, and the American model

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According to Briton Richard Munday,

America’s disenchantment with “gun control” is based on experience: whereas in the 1960s and 1970s armed crime rose in the face of more restrictive gun laws (in much of the US, it was illegal to possess a firearm away from the home or workplace), over the past 20 years all violent crime has dropped dramatically, in lockstep with the spread of laws allowing the carrying of concealed weapons by law-abiding citizens. Florida set this trend in 1987, and within five years the states that had followed its example showed an 8 per cent reduction in murders, 7 per cent reduction in aggravated assaults, and 5 per cent reduction in rapes. Today 40 states have such laws, and by 2004 the US Bureau of Justice reported that “firearms-related crime has plummeted” In Britain, however, the image of violent America remains unassailably entrenched. Never mind the findings of the International Crime Victims Survey (published by the Home Office in 2003), indicating that we now suffer three times the level of violent crime committed in the United States; never mind the doubling of handgun crime in Britain over the past decade, since we banned pistols outright and confiscated all the legal ones.

Anyone else agree with me that Mr Munday uses some mighty deceptive statistics?

“Violent crime” means different things in different places. The bar fight meriting a simple police caution in one country results in felony assault charges in another. By the “gold standard” in objective crime statistics — murder (you can’t fake a corpse, after all) — the United States reigns supreme among rich countries, with a rate three time that of the United Kingdom. Surely all of this disparity cannot be attributed to America’s lax gun controls. But surely some of it can.

It makes sense to allow law-abiding citizens to own firearms provided simple precautions are in place. But in America many of the fifty states eschew even the most basic, common sense controls, resulting in a surreal excess of guns that renders laws aimed at criminal gun use utterly meaningless and unenforceable.

It ought to be possible to allow law-abiding citizens to own guns while denying their use to criminals. Unfortunately, one cannot look to the United States to find out how this is done.


Written by Jasper

September 7, 2007 at 11:04 pm

Posted in Crime, Policy

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