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GUN Law FACTS
What Gun Controllers Don’t Want You to Know
Written by Howard Nemerov
I used to support gun control, meaning civilian disarmament. There was no reason, the rationale went, for a private citizen to own a gun. The only ones who wanted guns had small genitalia, were paranoid crazies, and criminals.
All this was assumed, without any empirical or statistical research to base it upon. Due to the influence of one of my clients who is a person of great honor, I began to research the issue of gun control on my own. Having been a college boy who loved library research, I knew how to ferret out fact from fiction. It was interesting to find that the claims of the NRA, John Lott, et al., were easy to verify from neutral or even slightly pro-gun control sources. More ominously, I found that the gun control groups consistently lied or twisted minor factoids taken out of context in their articles. This begged the question: if they are lying to advance their agenda, can we really trust the utopian outcome they promote as true? The Utopian Thesis of Gun Control The philosophy behind gun control is that by limiting access to guns, the public is made a safer place. This is a noble undertaking, and all persons of conscience should support this.
If it were proven beyond a reasonable doubt that disarming the law-abiding public would enhance public safety, save children’s lives, and enhance or preserve our civil rights, I would be in favor of gun control. Of course, there is a ”competing” hypothesis: placing firearms into the hands of law-abiding citizens accomplishes the same goals with fewer unpleasant side-effects. These hypotheses were being tested during my research. A simple litmus test could be set up; one can examine actual crime rates and trends in countries similar to our culture that have recently disarmed the public, and see what resulted. The United Kingdom is an English speaking democracy with a bicameral legislature, similar enough for our litmus test. The UK instituted a massive gun ban in 1997, finally banning all handguns. While a tool of choice for criminals, because of its ease of concealment, this attribute also makes it a valuable personal protection tool for a law-abiding citizen. If the gun control thesis is the correct one, then it should follow that by taking out an element that allegedly incites criminal behavior, in this case guns, crime rates should drop. So let’s take a look at the statistical record to find out.
Facts, Not Rhetoric
What always made me reluctant to address the issue of gun control was all the hyperbole surrounding it from both sides of the issue. Therefore, it was imperative to be able to locate similar statistics from multiple sources, to insure factual validity. First, it is important to establish a pre-ban baseline and then compare it to similar research after the ban to determine crime trends. For that, we will reference the International Crime Victimization Surveys of 1992 and 2000. In general, the research shows that violent crime rates were lower in the UK than the United States in 1992.
(Rated in percent of those interviewed responding ”yes” to being victimized.)
Burglary with entry: UK – 2.5% U.S. – 3.5%
Robbery: UK – .9% U.S. – 1.7%
Sexual assault of women: UK – .3% U.S. – 1.5%
Assault with force: UK – 1.1% U.S. – 2.2%
In the 2000 survey the researchers combined the three violent crimes of robbery, rape, and assault into one category entitled ”Selected Contact Crime.”
Here is what they report (post-ban for UK.)
Burglary with entry: UK – 2.8% U.S. – 1.8%
Selected contact crime: UK – 3.6% U.S. – 1.9%
These two reports were done with essentially the same criteria and methods, and they clearly show that while selected violent crime rates rose 100% in the UK, they fell 65 % in the U.S. During this time, Britain outlawed private ownership of firearms, while over 70 million additional civilian firearms were sold in the U.S. At the very least, a reasonable person is forced to conclude that availability of firearms to the general public is not a contributing factor to any increase in crime. These trends are confirmed by Britain’s own Home Office.
In the period of 1997 through 2001, homicide rose 19 % in the UK while it fell 12 % in the USA.
Violent crime incidents rose 26% in the UK while falling 12% in the USA.
Robbery rates rose 92% in the UK and fell 15% in the USA.
“Trust Us, We’re Your Government ”
“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?” – Thomas Jefferson
”Congress by the power of taxation, by that of raising an army, and by their control over the militia, have the sword in one hand and the purse in the other. Shall we be safe without either? Let him candidly tell me, where and when did freedom exist, when the sword and purse were given up from the people?” – Patrick Henry .
This same British Home Office report attempts to put a happy face on the UK crime trend by proclaiming on page one that during the period of 2002-2003 crime has dropped, attempting to devalue the entire body of the report to the reader. Such hyperbole is also expressed in another British Home Office report entitled ”Crime in England and Wales 2002/2003,” which consists of two parts. The first section relies on Britain’s new Crime Survey, a governmental attempt to show crime reduction by selecting a small group of subjects to question. The Crime Survey findings contrast sharply with the second section of actual compiled police statistics that show sharp rises in nearly all crime categories. Here are some crime trends collected from UK police crime data for the period of 1995 to 2003.
Homicide rose 41%.
Attempted murder rose 29%.
Total Violent Crime rose 219%.
For those who believe that gun control benefits women and children, who are generally smaller and less physically capable of protecting themselves, it is interesting to note that during this time period female rape increased 129%, child abduction rose 143%, and cruelty to or neglect of children increased 79%. In his book ”More Guns, Less Crime,” John Lott discusses how when criminals know more citizens are armed they switch from crimes where they come into direct contact with their victims to crimes where there is no contact. So instead of robbery, where they confront the intended victim, they wait until people leave home and commit burglary. In an email interview, Professor Lott said: ”They do this in order to avoid victims who are now better able to defend themselves.” ”More Guns, Less Crime” showed how such a crime trend is indeed in effect in Right-to-Carry states, where violent (confrontational) crime is dropping faster than property (non-confrontational) crime. The reason I bring this up now is because this substitution effect is borne out in the UK, where total property crime dropped 1% from 1995 to 2003. As victims are more available due to the loss of self-defense capabilities, criminals see no need to spend the extra effort to plan burglary in order to avoid their victims; it is far easier to confront them and wave a gun in their face, demanding loot and sex.
Some may still want to deny the truth, saying ”but the population has increased, so even if crime increases, there still is no increase in crime rates.” On the surface, this is a valid argument, but the same report shows that violent crime rates (per 100,000 population) increased 216% from 1995 to 2003, while property offenses dropped 2%.
In her book ”Guns and Violence,” Joyce Lee Malcolm discusses the same substitution effect was active historically as well. In the first part of the book, she does an overview of the earlier eras in Britain and concludes: ”…this era in which firearms first came into common use in everyday life as well as for the citizen militia, the century in which an Englishman’s right to have ‘arms for his defence’ was proclaimed, also witnessed a sharp decline in violent homicide.” In an e-mail interview, I asked Professor Malcolm about the discrepancy between the British Home Office Crime Survey results and the police statistics included in the same report from 2003.
Question: In your book you mention in the introduction that there are some irregularities in how the police report crime. Does this in fact make the Crime Survey a more accurate indicator of crime trends in the UK? Professor Malcolm: ”The differences between the UK crime victimization studies and police statistics are indeed confusing and almost always at odds. Both come from government and are official. For many years the English police seemed to record only about 1/3 of the crimes reported to them, making the victimization studies more accurate. They also purposely underestimated a crime like burglary, for example, by counting several offences by the same individual as one burglary. The police reporting was so unabashedly political that the victimization studies were undertaken.”
Question: This brings up two concerns: first, it seems that one of the governmental branches, either the Home Office or the police, is in effect lying. Second, how can people trust the government when they can’t even come out with a consistent answer on crime rates or even what constitutes a crime?
Professor Malcolm: ”The government now seems to be insisting that the police actually record a higher level of the crimes reported to them, but don’t seem willing to explain what proportion or how it is being done. As a result, as crime rates go up dramatically in police statistics, especially for violent crime, the government keeps saying they are not really going up, it is just that the police are using a different method of recording crime. But for some crime, such as murder, the police could not easily have been under-reporting in the past, although they do track murders to pull them from the totals if the final judgement is anything less than a court finding of murder. At this point the government has used the ”new method of calculating crime” excuse so repeatedly and without explanation that I am inclined not to trust their assurances that crime is going down or remaining steady. Murder, for instance, is at the highest level since statistics were kept.”
Question: Why is the British Crime Survey is at odds with the International Crime Victimization Survey of 2002 and your own article at Reason.com , which indicate that the UK is indeed increasingly more crime-ridden in many categories than the U.S.?
Professor Malcolm: ”I think the international crime victimization study released in 2002 is more reliable and offers a comparison of how England and Wales are doing compared to other industrial countries. Sadly, England has many times the violent crime of most European countries. But their methods of fighting crime by disarming and prosecuting victims is so counter-productive that the results do not surprise me. Unfortunately it is in the government’s interest to demonstrate that its crime-fighting initiative is successful, which makes its assertions doubtful.” The key point to remember is that murder is a statistic that is hard to fudge, and therefore a reliable indicator of crime trends. The police actually under-report murder rates, because if the court reduces the sentence, the police subtract that case from murder totals. Even so, murder has risen dramatically since the gun ban went into effect.
Referring back to the Founders’ quotes leading this section, pray tell me this: how are the people of the United Kingdom going to force a redressing of grievances upon their government? They have surrendered their arms and their purse, and therefore have no protection against a government acting without restraint, nor do they have the means to show their government any spirit of resistance to flawed and deadly policy. Once again, the age-old lessons are being taught on yet another stage: absolute power corrupts absolutely; and if you surrender your personal responsibility to a government which promises to take care of you, they will only take care of themselves.
The English experience proves that guns and violence have no corresponding relationship that justifies gun control. Do we want to go down the same road as the UK when the evidence is so alarming? When the consequences could be so deadly? How will we force our government to return power to the people once it has taken it? Perhaps gun control will go away when we have the ”Million Armed Mom March in Washington, D.C.” Women will drive this issue when they ask the politicians, ”Tell me exactly how you expect me to defend my children against violent predators? If gun control is so wonderful, how come more women are being raped and children being abused in England since guns were banned? Do you plan to sacrifice our lives to pander to your moneyed sponsor/constituents? Or do you just want power so much that you don’t care who suffers?”
George Santayana coined the phrase: ”Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” To which I humbly wish to add: Those who have tasted power and developed an addiction to it, studied of history, intend to repeat it.
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