Over the past few years crime rates in Australia, Canada and England have fallen dramatically.
For example, in NSW crime plunged to the
lowest level in 20 years, in Canada, the 2003 homicide rate was the lowest in 36 years, while in England the crime rate was the lowest since the BCS started in 1981. While crime has been plummeting, John Lott has been drafting a steady stream of op-eds blaming gun control for increasing crime in those places. His secret? Cherry-picking.
Lott’s latest column is a little unusual amongst his cherry picking efforts in that he provides links to his sources. He writes:
The trouble with this approach is that readers can click through and read the parts of the report that he chose not to mention. Here are the section headings, leaving nothing out.
Violent crime down but homicide rate up … Robberies with a firearm continue to decline … Property crime resumes downward trend … Drug incidents resume upward trend …Youth crime down
And look at how the increase in homicide was reported:
Canada’s homicide rate rose 12% in 2004 after hitting a 36-year low the year before.
Lott conveniently left out the second part of the sentence. He also says:
With Canada’s reported violent-crime rate of 963 per 100,000 in 2003, a rate about twice the U.S.’s (which is 475), Canada’s politicians are understandably nervous.
Lott does not tell his readers that the ‘violent crime rate’ in the Canadian statistics includes simple assaults but in the US statistics it only includes aggravated assaults. If you compare the same crime categories, violent crime rates are lower in Canada.
Lott also cherry picks some English crime statistics:
The 2000 International Crime Victimization Survey, the last survey completed, shows the violent-crime rate in England and Wales was twice the rate of that in the U.S. When the new survey for 2004 comes out later this year, that gap will undoubtedly have widened even further as crimes reported to British police have since soared by 35 percent, while those in the U.S. have declined 6 percent.
Lott does not mention that the crime victimization rate in England has decreased significantly—the increase in crimes reported has occurred because the police have improved their record keeping, not because there has been any increase in crime.
And he cherry picks Australian ones:
Australia has also seen its violent-crime rates soar immediately after its 1996 Port Arthur gun-control measures. Violent crime rates averaged 32-percent higher in the six years after the law was passed (from 1997 to 2002) than they did in 1995. The same comparisons for armed-robbery rates showed increases of 74 percent.
I’ve put the Australian statistics in a spreadsheet so you can see for yourself that he has selected the crime rate and the basis for comparison to conjure up some crime increases. There was a temporary increase in the armed robbery rate after the 1996 laws, but since then the armed robbery has fallen below what it was when the law was passed. More importantly (and you will never hear this from Lott), the firearms murder rate has halved, falling from 0.32 per 100k in 1995 to 0.16 in 2004. The non-firearms murder rate did not change significantly.
I’ve long been opposed to the 1996 laws because I didn’t think they would have a significant effect on crime, but the latest Australian crime figures are making me waver because it’s likely that laws were responsible for at least some part of the reduction.