Gun Control in Britain

Americans looking to more strongly regulate guns might want to consider the reality of my country, Britain which outlawed public handgun ownership in 1997 following massacres at Dunblane and Hungerford — a vastly more severe measure than anything on the table in America. Certainly, the two cases are nothing like identical. America is widely different demographically, culturally and geographically, and Britain banned guns fifteen years ago in a different political and cultural era.

Yet in Britain’s specific case, gun killings have not fallen since the introduction of the handgun ban:


And overall homicides significantly spiked following the handgun ban, although have more recently fallen back:


Correlation, of course, does not imply causation. The level of violence in a country is likely determined more than anything else by the cultural, social and economic climate, not by legislation (which is why Mexico which has strong gun control laws can have a vastly higher rate of violence than the United States).

On the other hand, what this does show is that banning gun ownership is in itself no panacea for violent crime and gun crime, underlining the reality that those with criminal intent who want to get guns will still get guns whether or not they are legal to the wider public.

32 thoughts on “Gun Control in Britain

  1. Gun control is simply part of the over all technology issue in society. People fear technology because they do not understand it’s essence.

    Just as people blame technology for the loss of jobs, they blame guns for murder, and every damn thing for their own inadequacies.

    If people are blaming, then it is a sure sign that they are light-years from the truth.

  2. Presumably gun control could lower the rate of crimes committed by the legally owned firearms; it would not have a direct influence on the violence committed by the illegal weapons, i.e. by criminals (though some studies suggest that weapons in the hands of the population lower the rate of muggings, assaults, etc – by the logic that they make it much more dangerous for the criminals). Of course, by that logic all of the gun violence in Britain falls into the latter category now.
    By looking on the data, USA do have both high rate of violence by criminals (drug wars, for example) and an unusually high amount of violence committed by the common wackos who have firearms. A sign of the social decay? A difficult economical climate? A widespread use of the mind-affecting drugs? Switzerland, Finland, Moldavia are not that dangerous to simply live in and people own guns there. Maybe Americans are just inherently sociopathic.

  3. It’s not so even-handed for Jim Willie to talk of the “fascist exhibitions” of US politicians while their Chinese counterparts seek to apply mass censorship to the Internet in league with a swath of Arab States whose own constitutions are arguably inimical to the idea of liberty because, amongst at least some of the people concerned, they believe that systems of Law structured around religions (which are inherently inflexible and thus prone to centralisation) are more desirable than the American Law & Economics model or just the UK common law system, as it sort of exists in Hong Kong.

    I want China to be rich, of course, the more trade the better, but to draw such a distinct division between such a large group of people under appreciates the inevitable complexity of social affairs.

    The Coming Isolation of USDollar

    • I agree with aspects of the article. A bit out there but anything is possible.

      The Chinese need to strike while the iron is hot and issue a freely floating Yuan, backed by Gold and rare resources. The US is in a lather over the Fiscal Cliff, and the world needs financial stability. They should have done it now, but I guess the new leaders are still bedding down their administration. If they leave it too long, US Shale gas will give the US the global edge again.

  4. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say Americans have become something far less than w they were. I’m not a world traveler, but I have seen enough of Europe to realize there is some justification for the term ugly American.
    Switzerland, a nation of 33 million people has approximately 15 million fully automatic weapons. Death from guns last year: 4.
    While we have never been what might be described as an elite people, immigration, legal and illegal, has changed the demographic of the country my ancestors conquered. We have refused to take into consideration somethings sociologists have always known: Diversity does not produce happier populations; we have been less than selective about who we allow into our country, and there is a genetic basis for behavioral differences between races.
    One of our problems is that we allow politicians, largely composed of lawyers, to make laws when scientists are often afraid to speak the real truth.

  5. Thanks, Aziz, for this post. I just wanted to add my “boots on the ground” perspective to the comments.
    I am an American living in Mexico for a couple of years and the level of violence for the average person is definitely NOT any higher than that in the States. The “vastly higher” rate you are referring to is a direct result of drug cartels killing other drug cartels.
    Interestingly, although private firearm ownership is illegal (with severe penalties) in Mexico, many of the upper-middle-class Mexicans that I’ve run across possess handguns anyway. This is mainly for protecting themselves and their property, not for any form of sport. As is the case everywhere, the police can’t and don’t protect anyone, they simply respond to “crimes in progress” or show up to fill out a report after the fact.
    Finally, I believe that the rampant psychoactive drug prescription/use is a major cause for the USA’s high incidence of murder rates by firearms.

  6. I said to JW in an email that I rekon the US, inc. will “out decentralize” the “East”. Now, that’s not guaranteed, very obviously, but if the desire arises later on for a huge increase of (political) power in the East vis a vis the US to be stopped, or at least minimized with a very low cost and in a relatively peaceful way, the US would only need to de-link from legal tender laws and advertise Bitcoin through Hollywood

  7. In the U.S., the notion that personal freedom and economic opportunity are our raison d’existence, is butting heads with a reality that suggests that this is not so much the case.

    The energy created by this persoanl and collective angst must find an outlet, and it has, in all the dysfunctional, out-of-balance characteristics that define American life, be the addictions [drugs, alcohol, electronics, sex, sports, etc.], or even murder, perhaps the last cry-out of the terminally sociopathic.

    Blaming guns for murder is like blaming food for obesity. The balance people have always sought can not be obtained within the structure of modern society whose goal it is to create imbalance, therefore stimulating the need to consume.

    De-centralization of society will not solve all of humanities dilemmas, but at least it will once again re-introduce real choices to people, instead of those pseudo-choices that only support the notion that ROI [return on investment] through maximum consumption is the alter to which all should genuflect on a regular basis.

    It’s all about balance.

  8. Yeah, nothing can make anything perfect, and if it could, anyway, your idea of perfection may be equally well justified as mine, though different, or perfection as we imagine it might simply serve us only because it is defined by its impossible utopianism. I just rekon think non central forms of co operation produce more peace and profit for large masses of people simultaneously

    • I believe the purpose of the second amendment is self-protection.

      When a population is done with the ruling class, the possession of guns probably doesn’t play much of a role in the transfer of power, be it peaceful or otherwise.

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  10. I agree that a gun ban is no real deterrent for those bent on criminal activity. Where I think it plays its part is in 1) that an armed society is not considered a particularly healthy one and 2) that it must greatly reduce the destructive effect of a person in crisis who ‘snaps’ at an individual or goes on a public rampage…

  11. Criminals do not obey the law, so legislation does not have a lot of effect on their behaviour.

    But I would suggest social anger rather than criminality is a significant cause of the sort of violent crime we are dealing with here, and social mismanagement causes social anger.

    Nothing makes people more angry than the realisation thet they are helpless victims. This is particularly noticeable when travel arrangements break down, The individual passenger can have no effect onthe situation, and this can lead to seve anger,

    The breakdown of social security measures people have been relying on is a similar trigger. The victim is rendered helpless by the system – but we are programmed to reject helplessness; we do something about it . When threre is nothing else he can do, the victim may do something so utterly egregious that he has to be noticed.

    And that, I submit, is why democracy is so important, It leaves people with a feeling of empowerment, and tende to defuse anger. But only when it works …

    If people feel democracy isn’t working for them or others like them, if they believe it has become dysfunctional, and they no longer have any say in the running of their society, and it is being run so as to exploit them for the advantage of a minority, they will become progressively more angry. In such a situation, limiting the availability of guns will reduce the damage they can do.

    But it will not stop the anger emerging in other less dramatic, but equally damaging ways.

    The genuinely solution is to ensure that society works for the benefit of society, not for the benefit of the rich or powerful, and that however bad a situation the individual may be in, there is something that will actually work for him, and for all the others like him.

    A solution that could work for anyone, but will only work for a lucky percentage, does not meet this requirement. This, I suggest, is the mistake snake-oil politicians make when they point out to those who are failing, the successes of others who have succeeded.

    • Well said and true. If you look at things in their totality it is not surprising that people no longer believe government acts wisely or in their behalf.

    • That is what Anti Depressants are for. To solve the short comings of Democracy. TV soap operas used to work, but the effect is somewhat dulled now.

      In the old days a good old fashioned riot seemed to help the masses and their feelings of helplessness. But now they take a pill for that.

        • It’s called regulatory capture and backroom deals. In Australia we had a disastrous desalination plant deal which has cost billions, and we can’t investigate due to “Commercial In confidence” clauses. A euphemism for possible corruption.

        • That kind of thing has to drive one bonkers and erode confidence, if there is any, in government.
          At times a rule of law seems another way of saying, “We only enforce the law on Wednesdays, and even then we are really incapable of doing anything decisive or with any deliberate speed or sense of justice”
          In America the law is the law except when it isn’t, or when it is politically inconvenient.

  12. ‘Correlation, of course, does not imply causation.’
    Correlation *does* imply causation, it just doesn’t prove it. ‘Correlation, of course, does not prove causation.’ is better.

  13. The facts are out there. I lived in the USA for years and the states which have the highest level of legal firearms ownership, with normal checks and balances such as, mental and jail records and proof of residency actually have the lowest amount of firearm crime. States such as New York and Washington D.C. which have handgun bans have the highest amount of day to day firearm crime. The reason for this is that a criminal fears private ownership of firearms, because it makes their chosen path much more dangerous. Governments around the world also fear private gun ownership, because it makes their job more difficult. One of germanys first pieces of legislation under Hitler was the registration and then outright ban of all privately owned firearms. Countrys like Syria today have the same laws in place, and as of now they have killed (according to the U.N) 60,000 people in the last 2 years. If you have the legal right to defend yourself as a law abiding citizen, that is a good thing. Whats funny is people getting really worried about randoms robbing and killing them, but the fact is that your own government actually kills more of its citizens than any other cause. You get sent to war etc. Responsible and legal ownership of firearms go hand in hand with your own personal freedom. Not everyone should own a gun, but having that right indicates a lot more than you think.

  14. Pingback: Gun Control in Britain | My Blog

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