Jasper Smith

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Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

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

Britain’s murder spike

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Iain Dale discusses Britain’s recent increase in gang-related, US-style gun homicide:

All the evidence points to the lack of a male role model being a key part in a child’s descent into dark places. That’s not criticising single mothers, it is just a statement of fact. Chances are that a child with two parents will emerge into adulthood as a more rounded individual that if it doesn’t have two parents. This is especially true in inner city areas. This cannot be turned around within a few years, but if we do not do something in our education system to explain the benefits of duo-parenthood then if the current trend continues I fear not only for the future of our inner cities but wider areas too. As someone who in the past has aspired to hold political office, I don’t mind admitting that issues like this leave me reeling. I admire those who are thinking about the answers because I suspect very few of us can point to individual measures which we could take immediately to make a difference. Should we be adopting zero tolerance policies in inner cities, or would that push the crimes out into the suburbs? Should we seek to understand less and punish more, or would that entrench criminality for life? Whatever we do, we must learn from other countries. It’s clear that parts of our major cities are experiencing the kind of violent crime which used to afflict many major US cities. We need to learn from from them how they have tackled it and reduced it. New York is not the only example to look at. But we need to do it quickly.

It seems to me the sociological “causes of crime” approach is overly ambitious. Provide people with a good economy and solid education system by all means, but there’s not a whole lot that government can do besides that. All this talk of lack of role models and the bad influence of gangsta culture leaves me underwhelmed. While no doubt these things do add to an atmosphere that encourages violent crime, what exactly can government do about them?

Last time I looked Britain’s murder rate was still only 1/8th or so of America’s, so the British must be doing something right. As a Yank, I’d frankly be tickled pink if the USA had to deal with Britain’s (much smaller) violence “problem.” I mean no disrespect to the victims or families impacted by the recent violence, of course. But by world standards the United Kingdom is still a remarkably peaceful place.

What government can do, of course, is provide swift, efficient justice and effective policing targeting those who commit violent crimes, and those who would seek to profit from violent crime through the black market sale of firearms.

A big part of “effective and swift justice” means putting violent offenders in prison, where they no longer represent a threat to the general public. Imprisoning large numbers of people should make everyone a bit squeamish. And America’s record in this respect is frankly a national scandal (America imprisons a shockingly high percentage of its population). What I don’t think is right is to put huge numbers of non-violent offenders in jail. But I don’t see an alternative to putting away the violent ones. And without a doubt, such a strategy has played an important role in helping the US reduce the incidence of violent crime. It’s not pretty. And it sure isn’t cheap. But building prisons and confining violent criminals inside them has to play a role in any civilization’s quest to protect itself from its most violent elements.

Finally, though there’s not much that can be done about knives (we all have to cut our meat and vegetables, after all), I suspect Britain could redouble its efforts to remain a relatively firearms-free country. Again, this isn’t cheap, and will mean hiring more police specifically charged with the task of going after the illegal guns trade. But making it once again difficult to obtain an illegal gun in Britain will surely go a long way toward reducing the level of murder and mayhem on British streets. As I have argued on numerous occasions (and regrettably to little effect) to pro-gun Americans, being forced to rely on knives and fists turns many a would-be murder into a survivable assault.

UPDATE: I don’t know where I picked up that “Britain’s murder rate is 1/8th of America’s” stat. Well, actually I do, but the blog in questions shall remain nameless. Anyway, I don’t have a link at the moment, but I think recent statistics show America’s murder rate is “merely” triple that of the United Kingdom, not eight times.

Written by Jasper

August 26, 2007 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Crime, Culture, Policy