Wednesday, August 15, 2007

British Gun Control & ASBO

One of the rewards of writing this blog is the feedback I get from my readers.

I encourage this, even when the comments section contributors take me to task for something I've said which they consider egregious, stupid or just plain wrong.

The other day I wrote about one of my own personal hot buttons, the socialist 'Nanny State" and I used as my example the easiest target ... The Brits.

Our English Cousins have fairly well thoroughly embraced Socialism, will-he/nil-he, and elected representatives whose agenda includes complete governmental control over their daily lives. Sure, we're well on our way here in America, but at least our Liberals are sometimes blocked by the Not-So-Loyal Opposition, the Conservatives.

In England, there's little to choose between Labour and Tory, except the number of members of the Communist Party. (The Tory's are said to have fewer Communists, not "no Communists", but the number of Socialists is apparently approximately the same if my own observations are to be trusted.)

Having written a deliberately provocative article about British Gun Control, I was pleased this evening to find a polite, well-reasoned comment by "David - ABSOmonger" stating that "Gun Control Works!" He also states that "ASBOs work."

He had a few other things to say, and while I cordially invite you to click on the link above and read the full text of his comment, I'll include a bit of it here.

... I am someone who dishes out these ASBOs and frankly, based on that I can say that Gerry you haven't got a clue.

Last year in Britain there were 46 firearms murders - which if scaled up to reflect population size would mean that the USA would have around 220 a year. But you don't have 220 a year do you?

Well ... no, David. I haven't a clue. I also don't know where you got your numbers.

I don't know what the firearms murder rate was in Britain last year, nor do I know what the firearms murder rate in America was last year.

So I GOOGLEd it.

So far, I have only anecdotal information and until I can find real hard data I am forced to rely on this. I'm hoping that David - ASBOmonger will provide me with the source of his numbers of '46' and '220'. With any luck, David will recontact me and we can begin some sort of dialogue.

In the meantime:

In a 2002 opinion article, Thomas Sowell wrote an article for TOWNHALL.COM (quoted by '') with the following statements:

The rise of the interventionist state in early 20th century England included efforts to restrict ownership of guns. After the First World War, gun control laws began restricting the possession of firearms. Then, after the Second World War, these restrictions grew more severe, eventually disarming the civilian population of England -- or at least the law-abiding part of it.

It was during this period of severe restrictions on owning firearms that crime rates in general, and the murder rate in particular, began to rise in England. "As the number of legal firearms have dwindled, the numbers of armed crimes have risen," Professor Malcolm points out.

In 1954, there were only a dozen armed robberies in London but, by the 1990s, there were more than a hundred times as many. In England, as in the United States, drastic crackdowns on gun ownership by law-abiding citizens were accompanied by ever greater leniency to criminals. In both countries, this turned out to be a formula for disaster.

While England has not yet reached the American level of murders, it has already surpassed the United States in rates of robbery and burglary. Moreover, in recent years the murder rate in England has been going up under still more severe gun control laws, while the murder rate in the United States has been going down as more and more states have allowed private citizens to carry concealed weapons -- and have begun locking up more criminals.

In both countries, facts have no effect whatever on the dogmas of gun control zealots. The fact that most guns used to murder people in England were not legally purchased has no effect on their faith in gun control laws there, any more than faith in such laws here is affected by the fact that the gun used by the recent Beltway snipers was not purchased legally either.

In England as in America, sensational gun crimes have been seized upon and used politically to promote crackdowns on gun ownership by law-abiding citizens, while doing nothing about criminals.

Please note here that Sowell addresses two issues which David has not.

First, the MURDER rates, not the rate of murder by firearms.
Second, the rates of robbery and burglary.

We'll probably get back to that, but the value of this article is that it directly compares crime rates of Britain vs America, and ties them in with firearms ownership.
Still living in the past, I quote a 2002 article in the Telegraph:

England and Wales have the highest crime rate among the world's leading economies, according to a new report by the United Nations.

The survey, which is likely to prove embarrassing to David Blunkett, the Home Secretary. shows that people are more likely to be mugged, burgled, robbed or assaulted here than in America, Germany, Russia, South Africa or any other of the world's 20 largest nations. Only the Dominican Republic, New Zealand and Finland have higher crime rates than England and Wales.
(Emphasis added - Geek)

I know what you're thinking.

You say "But Geek, this is all just opinion. It's no more than anecdotal evidence, and usually not more than that. Where are the numbers?"

Okay, here are some numbers.

Remember that 'statistics' can mean anything you say they mean, and also that not all LEO departments report crime numbers the same way. Here's a U.S. Department of Justice report from 1998, reporting a comparison of British vs American crime rates in the 1981 - 1996 period. (Note that there weren't a lot of states in America who had enacted laws permitting Concealed Carry by private citizens in this period.)

The report states that it considers "Victim Surveys vs Police Records" and it addresses the question "Is the violent crime rate higher in the United States or England?"

For the sake of brevity, I'll summarize the first few paragraphs of the report.
  • Police records and Victim Surveys don't report the same crime rates.
  • Whether American or British crime rates are higher in either country often depends on which numbers you choose to recognize.

Here are two quotes from the report:

American police were about twice as likely as English police to record a robbery coming to their attention in 1995. Assuming the same was true for rates of robbery recorded by police in 1996, the English rate is not directly comparable to the American rate because American police recorded a greater fraction than English police of the robberies reported to them. Had English police recorded the same fraction of robberies that were reported to them as had American police, the English robbery rate would have been 2.8 per 1,000 population, exceeding the American rate of 2.0 robberies per 1,000.


Both victim surveys and police statistics for 1995 indicated higher property crime rates in England than in the United States.
(Emphasis added)

Go read the article for the semi-raw numbers and a direct comparison of crime rates by category.

Another (related) report from DOJ provides highlights, which you may find interesting. This is a little more difficult to interpret than the preceding report, and David will find it encouraging despite the opening statement:

"Whether measured by surveys of crime victims or by police statistics, serious crime rates are not generally higher in the United States than England."

Again, in fairness to David's position, the murder rate in America in the reporting period varied annually between 10.0 and just under 8.0 per 1000, while that in Britain hovered reliably in the 1.0 per 1000 range.

I would like to see that expanded to include murder by firearm vs murder by other weapon, and cross-referenced to the present date against the expanded state-by-state legitimization of Concealed Carry laws, but I honestly cannot make assumptions either way.

I do note, however, that Brits are now experiencing an increased number of laws restricting civilian ownership of edged weapons (knives) while neither state nor Federal government in America seems concerned about this side issue.

One wonders .. is it because Brits who are determined to murder have resorted to 'other means'? Certainly, we don't see a change in Brit murder rate during this period regardless of weapons bans.

Let's go back to Anecdotal Evidence and November, 2002, when REASON ONLINE's Joyce Malcolm gleefully announced "Gun Control's Twisted Outcome: Restricted Firearms Helps Make England More Crime-Ridden Than The U.S." .

On a June evening two years ago, Dan Rather made many stiff British upper lips quiver by reporting that England had a crime problem and that, apart from murder, "theirs is worse than ours."

The response was swift and sharp. "Have a Nice Daydream," The Mirror, a London daily, shot back, reporting: "Britain reacted with fury and disbelief last night to claims by American newsmen that crime and violence are worse here than in the US."

But sandwiched between the article's battery of official denials -- "totally misleading," "a huge over-simplification," "astounding and outrageous" -- and a compilation of lurid crimes from "the wild west culture on the other side of the Atlantic where every other car is carrying a gun," The Mirror conceded that the CBS anchorman was correct. Except for murder and rape, it admitted, "Britain has overtaken the US for all major crimes."

and ...

In the two years since Dan Rather was so roundly rebuked, violence in England has gotten markedly worse.

and ...

The results -- the toughest firearm restrictions of any democracy -- are credited by the world's gun control advocates with producing a low rate of violent crime. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell reflected this conventional wisdom when, in a 1988 speech to the American Bar Association, he attributed England's low rates of violent crime to the fact that "private ownership of guns is strictly controlled."

In reality, the English approach has not re-duced (sic) violent crime. Instead it has left law-abiding citizens at the mercy of criminals who are confident that their victims have neither the means nor the legal right to resist them. Imitating this model would be a public safety disaster for the United States.

The illusion that the English government had protected its citizens by disarming them seemed credible because few realized the country had an astonishingly low level of armed crime even before guns were restricted. A government study for the years 1890-92, for example, found only three handgun homicides, an average of one a year, in a population of 30 million. In 1904 there were only four armed robberies in London, then the largest city in the world. A hundred years and many gun laws later, the BBC reported that England's firearms restrictions "seem to have had little impact in the criminal underworld." Guns are virtually outlawed, and, as the old slogan predicted, only outlaws have guns. Worse, they are increasingly ready to use them.

Nearly five centuries of growing civility ended in 1954.
Violent crime has been climbing ever since.

Well, that's Bad News for the "Gun Control Works" crowd in Britain, isn't it?

Going back to David's original comment ... now I "Have A Clue", and so do you.

I've done the research, and (no surprise to me) I have found evidence which convince me that "Gun Control does NOT 'WORK'".

With any luck at all, David the ASPOmonger will reply and point out the errors of my research. We should all learn from his counterpoint.

I still find that difficult to accept that British street cops believe "ASBOs Work". Here in America, we are familiar with 'restraining orders' which serve only to enrage husbands against their wives, with sometimes fatal consequences for the wives. It strikes me as extraordinary that a 'real cop' believes that ASBOs are a tool which allows them to take bad guys off the streets ... speaking of confining the bad guys to a jail cell.

If they were bad enough to warrant an ASBO, I wonder, why weren't the bad guys recognized as bad enough to justify jail time?

I've rewritten and republished this a few times now, and I still haven't come to any kind of Grand Finale' punch line. Perhaps this is a question that deserves more exploration and discussion.


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