More gun control, less crime

Glenn Reynolds links to a news story about crime rates in England and declares “More gun control, more crime”. However, the story actually states that there was less overall crime. The story also states that gun crime has increased to 0.15 gun homicides in England and Wales per 100,000 population in the previous year, compared with 3.6 per 100,000 in the US. Reynolds take: gun control is “Not a smashing success, so far”. Gun control may not be responsible for the difference, but it seems a bit much for pro-gunners to point to a gun homicide rate one twenty-fourth of that of the United States as evidence for a failure of gun control.

Comments

  1. #1 Kevin Baker
    October 20, 2003

    “Gun control” is supposed to control GUN violence. By extension, I suppose, all violence, but gun violence for certain. The mantra chanted at the (somewhat less than) Million Moms March was “England can do it, Australia can do it, we can too!” Well, England has systematically (through the death-by-a-thousand-cuts method) ensured that the law-abiding population is, for all intents and purposes disarmed. There are a few who still have rifles and shotguns (that they may not have for defensive purposes, must keep locked up separate from the also locked ammunition, etc., etc.) and it hasn’t made them SAFER from gun crime. What so many gun control advocates so adroitly ignore is that England’s firearm homicide rate has always been 1/20th of ours – REGARDLESS of the firearms laws in either country at the time. It was true in 1919 and it’s still true today. You point to England’s rate as if gun control were somehow responsible for it, and it’s not. Correlation does not equal causation, but the facts remain that America has passed no significantly restrictive gun control laws and our homicide rates (historically very high) have dropped to the levels they were last in the 60′s. England has passed ever-stricter gun control laws up to and including a ban on handguns (with all legally owned and registered ones handed in) and their gun crime is continually increasing.
    So the typical reaction is: “It would have been worse if we hadn’t passed these crucial laws!”
    Horseshit.

  2. #2 Tim Lambert
    October 20, 2003

    Kevin, I didn’t say that English gun control was definitely responsible for keeping their gun crime rate far lower than the US one. It’s possible that it would have stayed low anyway. But I don’t see how you can rule out the possibility that the laws might have helped keep the rate low.

    A few years ago, the gun crime rate in England was decreasing. Do you think that any of the pro-gunners reported that?

  3. #3 dsquared
    October 20, 2003

    Note that the “gun crime” here is not in general (and with a few tragic exceptions like those poor girls in Birmingham) a phenomenon of the “law-abiding population”. It’s a result of low-key drug wars in South London, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool (basically, a power vacuum after a few law enforcement victories over a couple of big gangs), plus some serious discontent between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities in North London.

  4. #4 dsquared
    October 20, 2003

    Liverpool shouldn’t be on that list; since the collapse of the Curtis Warren/John Ungi organisations a couple of years ago, they’ve got their smack from Manchester, with a consequent displacement of gun crime down the East Lancs Road.

  5. #5 Kevin Baker
    October 20, 2003

    Tim, “A few years ago, the gun crime rate in England was decreasing”? How many years ago, and how much? It’s never been high – never – but that hasn’t stopped ever more draconian “gun control” legislation from passing there. Now the law:

    A) Bans all fully-automatic weapons

    B) Bans all semi-auto and pump-action rifles

    C) Severely restricts semi-auto and pump-action shotguns

    D) Bans all modern handguns

    E) Requires “safe storage” of the few weapons still legal

    F) Prohibits carrying a firearm (or any other weapon) for self-defense

    F) Requires all legally owned weapons to be registered and all legal owners to be licensed

    G) Severely restricts (legal) firearms distribution

    and so on and so forth.

    All these things (we are told) will make us safer. Here’s what we know:

    1) The number of legal owners is at an all-time low.

    2) England has never had a high homicide rate, but that rate is increasing, and the percentage committed with firerams (handguns in particular) has gone up since the ban.

    3) Crime committed with handguns has significantly increased there.

    4) Incidents of crime committed with fully automatic weapons are increasing there.

    5) Incidents of crime involving hand grenades (easily smuggled along with firearms) have occurred.

    And remember – England is an ISLAND. A fact hasn’t affected “gun availability” to the criminally inclined.

    AT BEST the gun control laws in England have affected “spree shootings” by licensed gun owners. (Hey, if it saves just one life!) But those incidents are extremely rare, and the net number of homicides doesn’t seem to have been affected for the better.

    “I don’t see how you can rule out the possibility that the laws might have helped keep the rate low.” I’m NOT ruling it out – I’m asking you to prove it. According to the recent CDC report, all the gun control laws passed here have proven inconclusive in their effectiveness. I’d say the same can be said of England’s.

    I believe there is an individual right of law-abiding citizens to possess weapons for defense of themselves and the state. I believe the Second Amendment of the Constitution guarantees us that right will not be infringed by the government. I believe that the laws of England are offensive to that right, but it’s their country. I believe that gun control activists here want to pass laws identical to those England. I believe that’s unconstitutional, and if allowed will do irrepairable damage to our individual rights. I also believe that, once the law-abiding are disarmed, our criminal class (which has never been shy about shooting people) will have a free playing field and our rates of firearm-involved crime will skyrocket.

    I could go on, but this is your comment section (and your bandwidth), not my blog. Thanks for your attention.

  6. #6 Tim Lambert
    October 20, 2003

    Kevin, the burden of proof for a claim lies on the person making the claim. Reynolds claimed that gun control in England had failed. He has the burden of proof. I’m sceptical about your claim that gun control in the US would cause firearms crime to skyrocket. It doesn’t seem to have done this in England. Perhaps you can provide some evidence to support your claim?

    I have some graphs of English crime rates here.

  7. #7 Kevin Baker
    October 20, 2003

    “Kevin, the burden of proof for a claim lies on the person making the claim.”

    And the claims being made are that “Gun control laws make us safer,” and not one person making those claim has provided proof. Have they? But that hasn’t stopped any laws from being passed, further restricting a Constitutionally guaranteed individual right.

    And Tim? Check the statistics on crimes committed with guns.

    I stated “I believe” our rates will skyrocket. That’s called a “statement of faith.” My evidence is Washington D.C. and Chicago IL, where the law-abiding are disarmed. What’s yours?

  8. #8 Tim Lambert
    October 20, 2003

    Kevin, I’ve already looked at what happened in Washington DC.
    See here.
    If you believe that crime rates skyrocketed, then perhaps somebody lied to you.

  9. #9 Kevin Baker
    October 20, 2003

    Why do Chicago and DC keep trading off positions as “murder capital of the U.S”? According to this, national homicide rates have trended down since 1991, and this has affected large cities as well. But that doesn’t explain why Chicago and D.C. (cities with laws prohibiting people from having firearms) remain the highest in homicide. And D.C. has a population of only 600,000 or so, not the “excess of 1,000,000″ that usually corresponds with high homicide rates.

    Heard the term “relative” before? England’s gun crime rates are tiny, relative to ours. But they’re much higher relative to what they were five years ago. Double, as I understand it.

    Now, do you want to address the “burden of proof” question, or dodge it some more? If it’s the gun-control forces making the claim that “gun control will make us safer” then where’s their proof?

  10. #10 Tim Lambert
    October 20, 2003

    I believe that the “murder capital of the U.S” is New Orleans, not Chicago or DC. As I showed earlier, while DC crime rates were high after their gun ban, they were even higher before. Your claim that crime rates would “skyrocket” after gun control is not supported by the data.

    The “burden of proof” belongs to those who make a claim. You have not provided any proof for your claim about crime rates skyrocketing.

  11. #11 Tim Lambert
    October 20, 2003

    I believe that the “murder capital of the U.S” is New Orleans, not Chicago or DC. As I showed earlier, while DC crime rates were high after their gun ban, they were even higher before. Your claim that crime rates would “skyrocket” after gun control is not supported by the data.

    The “burden of proof” belongs to those who make a claim. You have not provided any proof for your claim about crime rates skyrocketing.

  12. #12 Tim Lambert
    October 20, 2003

    I believe that the “murder capital of the U.S” is New Orleans, not Chicago or DC. As I showed earlier, while DC crime rates were high after their gun ban, they were even higher before. Your claim that crime rates would “skyrocket” after gun control is not supported by the data.

    The “burden of proof” belongs to those who make a claim. You have not provided any proof for your claim about crime rates skyrocketing.

  13. #13 Tim Lambert
    October 20, 2003

    I believe that the “murder capital of the U.S” is New Orleans, not Chicago or DC. As I showed earlier, while DC crime rates were high after their gun ban, they were even higher before. Your claim that crime rates would “skyrocket” after gun control is not supported by the data.

    The “burden of proof” belongs to those who make a claim. You have not provided any proof for your claim about crime rates skyrocketing.

  14. #14 Kevin Baker
    October 20, 2003

    that gun control – up to and including outright bans makes a society safer.

    The difference, Tim, is that I’m predicting future results of possible legislation. Your side is unable to prove beneficial results of legislation already passed. I have examples to point to to bolster my prediction. You have examples to point to that don’t prove yours.

    According to the Washington Times, as of June 16: “The city (D.C.) had 262 killings last year, a rate of 45.82 per 100,000 residents. Detroit came in second, with 402 killings, or 42.04 per capita.”

    Chief Ramsey pointed out that New Orleans had 258 homicides and a per-capita rate of 53.3 per 100,000. But New Orleans has 484,289 residents, so it is listed in a different class of cities from the District.”

    Based on the FBI statistics, the District was dubbed the murder capital of the country for several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1991, when the number of homicides in the District peaked at 482, the rate was 79.42 killings per 100,000 residents.”

    The chart you provided ends at 1986, with a homicide rate (climbing) of a little over 30, and a historical high in 1974 of about 38/100,000. You don’t consider a rate of 79.2/100,000 skyrocketing?

    The D.C. gun ban was passed in 1976. No new handguns could be registered in D.C. and all long guns had to be kept disassembled. And people like Carolyn Warren, Joan Taliaferro, and Miriam Douglas were stripped of the choice of keeping a firearm (legally) for self-defense. You’d have thought that after that experience, D.C. residents would have recognized the danger, but apparently not.

  15. #15 Tim Lambert
    October 20, 2003

    Your own quote shows that New Orleans is the “murder capital”. What are the gun laws like there?

    Are you seriously claiming that the DC law in 1976 caused a crime increase that started ten years later? If so, why aren’t you crediting it with the subsequent decline?

  16. #16 Tim Lambert
    October 20, 2003

    Your own quote shows that New Orleans is the “murder capital”. What are the gun laws like there?

    Are you seriously claiming that the DC law in 1976 caused a crime increase that started ten years later? If so, why aren’t you crediting it with the subsequent decline?

  17. #17 Tim Lambert
    October 20, 2003

    Your own quote shows that New Orleans is the “murder capital”. What are the gun laws like there?

    Are you seriously claiming that the DC law in 1976 caused a crime increase that started ten years later? If so, why aren’t you crediting it with the subsequent decline?

  18. #18 Tim Lambert
    October 20, 2003

    Your own quote shows that New Orleans is the “murder capital”. What are the gun laws like there?

    Are you seriously claiming that the DC law in 1976 caused a crime increase that started ten years later? If so, why aren’t you crediting it with the subsequent decline?

  19. #19 Kevin Baker
    October 20, 2003

    One more time, for the record (I’d type slowly if I thought it would help): GUN CONTROL DOES NOT REDUCE VIOLENT CRIME. IT ONLY DISARMS THE POTENTIAL VICTIMS, WITHOUT AFFECTING “GUN AVAILABILITY” TO THE CRIMINALLY INCLINED. (See: England)

    Given that unassailable fact, it means that any other influence that could increase crime may result in a higher level of violent crime than might otherwise occur. Because criminals, while usually not too bright, understand that they have very little to fear from an unarmed populace.

    There are too many other factors involved to allow anybody to predict what the level of violent crime might be: the economy, changes in the drug market (another exercise in protecting people from themselves that has disasterous unintended consequences), relative effectiveness of the police and/or courts, etc., etc. But what doesn’t DECREASE violent crime is disarmament of the general population in a misguided effort to “reduce gun availability.” It doesn’t work in any nominally free society.

    D.C.’s meteoric increase in homicides wasn’t just gang members killing each other, it was average citizens dying too. In droves. Largely by firearm. Criminals with guns had nothing to fear from the average citizen.

    The gun control crowd, without exception predicts blood in the streets and general mayhem when law-abiding citizens are allowed to exercise the right to defend themselves and carry concealed weapons for self defense. This prediction never comes true. But they also always predict that, whatever the gun-control law du jour is, it will save lives – and there’s no evidence that it ever does.

    So: My prediction is that, should America be disarmed as England has allowed itself to be, our level of violent crime will skyrocket. I can’t give you a time frame, but it took England only five years for their gun crime rates to double. (I fully expect it to drop at some point in the future, but it won’t be because of any new gun control law.) Our economy recently crashed. This would usually correspond to a significant increase in violent crime, yet the FBI reports that violent crime (reversing the trend of the last ten years) went UP – but only a little. Had the U.S. been disarmed, I believe it would have gone up significantly more.

    Can I prove that? No. I’m not a statistician, and I doubt that there is data that you could use to prove or disprove it anyway, but I know that guns in the hands of good people are not to be feared. And I know that “gun control” only affects those guns.

  20. #20 Tim Lambert
    October 20, 2003

    I’m sorry, but putting your assertions in capital letters and calling them “unassailable facts” does not make them true. Your position seems to be that if crime increases following gun control laws, the laws are to blame, but if it decreases, other factors are responsible.

    I have already given you the link that shows that violent crime rate in England has dropped significantly since their gun ban. Are you going to say that the gun ban caused the decrease?

  21. #21 Tim Lambert
    October 20, 2003

    I’m sorry, but putting your assertions in capital letters and calling them “unassailable facts” does not make them true. Your position seems to be that if crime increases following gun control laws, the laws are to blame, but if it decreases, other factors are responsible.

    I have already given you the link that shows that violent crime rate in England has dropped significantly since their gun ban. Are you going to say that the gun ban caused the decrease?

  22. #22 Tim Lambert
    October 20, 2003

    I’m sorry, but putting your assertions in capital letters and calling them “unassailable facts” does not make them true. Your position seems to be that if crime increases following gun control laws, the laws are to blame, but if it decreases, other factors are responsible.

    I have already given you the link that shows that violent crime rate in England has dropped significantly since their gun ban. Are you going to say that the gun ban caused the decrease?

  23. #23 Tim Lambert
    October 20, 2003

    I’m sorry, but putting your assertions in capital letters and calling them “unassailable facts” does not make them true. Your position seems to be that if crime increases following gun control laws, the laws are to blame, but if it decreases, other factors are responsible.

    I have already given you the link that shows that violent crime rate in England has dropped significantly since their gun ban. Are you going to say that the gun ban caused the decrease?

  24. #24 Kevin Baker
    October 20, 2003

    But when the CDC admits that there is no conclusive evidence that any gun control law has reduced violent crime, I take it as unassailable that gun control doesn’t. If it did there’d be data. When England bans handguns and handgun-involved crime goes up I take that as unassailable proof that gun control does not reduce violent crime.

    I suppose you believe that the War on (some) Drugs works, too?

  25. #25 ThinkTank
    October 20, 2003

    If not that small of a change is well within the regular up and down that ALL crime rates see. Gun ownership rates seem to have more of influence on gun crime than gun control. Though most gun control is aimed at either preventing gun crime, or helping police capture criminals after they have committed a crime. I’m thinking here of the Brady Law, which I’ve heard, and i believe http://www.handguncontrol.org has the info, has denied some 700k+ prohibited people from getting guns at a POS. Also ballistics imaging, and licensing and registration. Which would be boons to law enforcement in tracking down criminals. Potentially stopping them sooner so that many additional crimes could be prevented.

  26. #26 Kevin Baker
    October 20, 2003

    So…banning all fully automatic weapons in the 30′s wasn’t a “real change”? Banning all semi-auto and pump-action rifles in the 80′s wasn’t a “real change”? Banning all handguns in the 90′s wasn’t a “real change”?

    It would be nice to know what you think a “real change” is.

    The Brady Law may have prevented some 700k+ people from getting guns from licensed dealers, but these people were breaking the law in the attempt. Almost none of them have been charged with breaking that law. Therefore that law has not prevented them from getting a firearm through other sources, has it? Nor has it put them away where they ought to be.

    As for “ballistic imaging” – I assume you mean “ballistic fingerprinting” – I recommend you read (in its entirety – including appendices) this report from the California Department of Justice concerning the efficacy of a ballistic fingerprint database for merely all new firearms sold in that state alone. I also recommend that you read this news story from the Baltimore Sun about the State Police recommending that Maryland’s current ballistic fingerprinting system not being expanded because it’s “not reliable.”

    And to date, no one has been able to explain to me how licensing and registration would be a “boon to law enforcement in tracking down criminals,” but I’ve seen plenty of evidence of how it is a boon when the government passes a law banning the licensed and registered weapons. Perhaps you should tell Canada what a swell idea licensing and registration is. So far they’ve wasted about $1 billion trying it.

  27. #27 Mother Bear
    October 20, 2003

    I did not read all comments on British crime + American crime + gun control, but I could tell from the discourse that several mistakes were consistently surfacing with all parties concerned:

    1) Not all murders/violent gun crimes are the same, and it’s wrong to treat all violent offenders as a homogenous group, which is what all participants in this discussion seem to be doing.

    Surprisingly, gang- and crime-related murders/woundings are only a small slice of the total gun violence pie, at least in America. (Check FBI Uniform Crime Reports.) In reality, MOST gunshot murders in the U.S. are committed by people who likely have no criminal background to speak of! For example, in 1999 a Utah newspaper investigated the backgrounds of all Utah prison inmates convicted of murder. Of the 111 prisoners, 83 had no criminal record whatsoever before they committed their murder. Another 11 had criminal records prior to murdering someone, but their infractions were not bad enough to prevent them from buying a gun under the Brady Law. (The Daily Herald, 8/23/99, “Most killers would have passed muster for gun.”)

    Just think of all the types of motives people have for murder: jilted lovers who kill their beloved, stalkers, mentally ill people who’ve never been committed to an institution so are free to buy a gun and have serious delusions, people on the verge of a divorce who kill to avoid alimony payments, domestic abusers whose victims never reported prior abuse before being shot, depressed people who kill all their family members before shooting themselves, etc., etc. NONE OF THESE KINDS OF KILLERS ARE CAREER CRIMINALS, AND AT LEAST BEFORE THEY CHOSE TO SHOOT SOMEBODY, THEY HAD COMPLETELY UNFETTERED ACCESS TO A GUN IN THE U.S. UNDER CURRENT LAW.)

    If you want to scientifically examine the relationship between gun control and gun violence, you need to stratify the types of violent offenders out into their respective categories and THEN look at whether law(s) have any impact on each category! And by the way, I have yet to see a single American study that truly does this. (If any of you have seen such a study, please let me know–.)

    I understand the English ban on handguns was in response to the mass murder in a Dunblane, Scotland elementary school. The murderer owned his gun legally and apparently was sane, but emotionally distressed at the time of the murder. I suspect the British were trying to prevent this TYPE of murder situation from surfacing again when they banned handguns, and they were not banning handguns to stop drug-related crime or robberies. Therefore, if you are going to look at whether the British handgun ban “worked,” you need to look at the incidence of emotionally-motivated mass killings before and after the ban, and not any other type of crime. (Obviously, there is no way this murderer could have killed as many people as fast if he only had a club or a knife or some other makeshift weapon to work with. If I remember right, he killed about 16 people in roughly 3 minutes before shooting himself.)

    2) Some unfounded assumptions are being made about the source of crime guns in England. It seems from what I have read of recent British reports that many of the guns used in killings/woundings were air guns converted to “real guns.” Ostensibly these were bought legally and then jimmy-rigged to be lethal. I understand some hand-made stun guns are making their way onto British streets too, so it’s probably wrong to assume that the criminal element in Britain is smuggling all their guns in from the mainland, stealing them, or buying them on the black market.

    3) There are other issues with the validity of British gun crime data. I understand that the British do not have the same gun tracing capacity that America has with its BATF; they have no counterpart agency like ours to speak of. They do not have uniform recording techniques for gun crime like we have, nor are physicians required by law to report gun-related injuries/deaths they deal with to the police, and there has been reticence on the part of the docs to report things. In view of all these facts, the validity of British stats on their own gun violence is questionable.

    4) The last thing I would point out is this simple truth, said well by a famous writer: “A little boy went out into the world one day, and what he saw, he became.” We know from research that most crime-related gun violence is centered in a few large cities in the U.S., and in fact, concentrated in certain neighborhoods even within those cities. We all know that kids learn from example. What would the world be like if no kid was ever threatened with a gun as a child? What if no child ever found a gun in someone’s drawer or saw a gun in an adult’s hand ever in their whole life? What if none of our kids ever knew someone who owned a gun? What if they had no idea where to get one, and didn’t know anyone who knew where to get one? Do you think we’d have as much gun crime? Just a thought . . .

  28. #28 Ben Triplett
    October 20, 2003

    So, the jilted lover wouldn’t have killed if they didn’t have a gun? etc etc? The mass killing in Dunblane wouldn’t have been done with a bomb or an automobile. I bet anyone with a car could kill 5 – 10 children or more, very quickly if they had a mind to do it.

    Yes, it is true that most of the gun violence in the US is concentrated in certain neighborhoods in a few large cities. So I’m to assume from your post that the gun violence there caused the gun violence there? Interesting logic… I suppose it has nothing to do with liberal welfare policies leading to generations of trapped fatherless youth who have no guidance and nothing to live for but whatever gang they fall into first? I thought you just said most of the people in jail for gun crime were jilted lovers without criminal record?

    I used to live in Canada, and I am well aware of the joke that the gun registration program is there. Everyone there knows it. Even city police departments, as policy, refuse to enforce it, give me a break!

    And then, the last straw, really… Lambert comparing gun crime in the US with an “Urban Area” in Canada with a straight face? The “Urban Area” in question is Edmonton Alberta. How can this be construed as a fair comparison? How about I compare Boise Idaho with all of the UK and call it fair, after all, Boise is an “Urban Area”.

    That’ll do for now.

  29. #29 Tim Lambert
    October 20, 2003

    Ben, I did not compare gun crime in the US with an “urban area” in Canada. Could you explain what on earth gave that impression?

  30. #30 Ben Triplett
    October 20, 2003

    http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/guns/archive/burglary/msg00001.html

    unless that’s a bogus post or something. Anyway, please explain if there’s a problem with that. It was from 1992, maybe not relevant to your line of argument anymore (I didn’t notice the date the first time I saw it, so maybe it’s slipped your mind since then).

  31. #31 Ben Triplett
    October 20, 2003

    I suppose you yourself didn’t compare the two, but the study you seem to be citing does.

    and I just learned the new paragraph thing, I’m so happy. The flow of my first post up there was totally ruined by bad paragraphing (I figured if I saw a line break while typing that I’d get a new paragraph on the post, oops).

    forgive my lack of experience with the whole blog world

  32. #32 Maelstrom
    May 27, 2004

    A year later…violent crime in the UK is still on the rise. The murder rate is no longer 1/20th that of the US, it’s 1/8th and the US rate has continued to drop…a trend of 2 decades…as the UK rate continues to rise…a trend of a decade. The UK violent crime rates other than murder now exceed those of the US. Worse, it seems the UK does not record murders the way the US records homicides giving the US false positive numbers and the UK an artificially lower number for homicides and murders.

    Once again…a tradition for almost 20 years…Tim Lambert is wrong.

  33. #33 Tim Lambert
    May 27, 2004

    Actually, the violent crime rate in the UK has continued to fall, but thanks for playing.

  34. #34 Courtnee S
    October 5, 2005

    I am doing a project on gun control and the debates that you all are having seem to be the debates that are all over the U.S. and is becoming a larger debate over more important things. Personally I feel or see no need for weapons in a home. Although it is different for each person to have their own reasons for weapons. I have always been in a well kept and safe invironment as a military child. I really dont know much about the civilian life and maybe my looks on gun control might be different. Anyways your debate has helped me tremendously and I cant wait til the next time you all write another comment!

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