July 25, 2004

Crime and Guns

When I was growing up, one of the most effective arguments for gun control compared the US and Britain. It went something like, “In the US there are <some astronomical number> murders per year, and you can own a gun, in Britain you guns are banned, how many murders to they have per year? Two.” I don’t know what happened, but look at the comparison now. Mark Steyn reports:

Even when you factor in America’s nutcake jurisdictions with the crackhead mayors, the overall crime rate in England and Wales is higher than in all 50 states, even though over there they have more policemen per capita than in the US, on vastly higher rates of pay installing more video surveillance cameras than anywhere else in the Western world. Robbery, sex crimes, and violence against the person are higher in England and Wales; property crime is twice as high; vehicle theft is higher still; the British are 2.3 times more likely than Americans to be assaulted, and three times more likely to be violently assaulted. Between 1973 and 1992, burglary rates in the US fell by half. In Britain, not even the Home Office’s disreputable reporting methods (if a burglar steals from 15 different apartments in one building, it counts as a single crime) can conceal the remorseless rise: Britons are now more than twice as likely as Americans to be mugged; two-thirds will have their property broken into at some time in their lives. Even more revealing is the divergent character between UK and US property crime: In America, just over 10% of all burglaries are “hot burglaries” - committed while the owners are present; in Britain, it’s over half.

I have never really had much enthusiasm for gun advocacy. However, when I came to Israel one of the first things I noticed is that there are guns everywhere. Many people own handguns, but what you really notice are the off-duty soldiers carrying semiautomatic rifles. In the US soldiers leave their guns on base, but in Israel your gun is considered part of your uniform, you have to take it everywhere.

Actually, legal guns are quite strictly controlled. Though it not hard to get one, you do have to get a license, and you have to put in a certain number of hours at the practice range. It’s a common sight here to see people flashing their gun license at security guards – all crowded public places have them: restaurants, supermarkets, malls, etc.

But given the prevalence of guns, it’s interesting to note that the armed crime rate is extremely low. In particular what Steyn calls "British crimes" are unheard of:

the ones I read about when I drive up to Montreal, buy a day-old Telegraph, sit at a sidewalk cafe and wonder why you guys put up with it. You know the sort of thing: the fellow in South Wales who gets kicked to death by thugs just for a laugh, the guy who can't swim who gets tossed off a bridge in the Midlands, the girl who gets her face slashed tottering home in her stilettoes from the nightclub in Manchester . . .
Back in the old days, when terrorists used to try to get away after proving their patriotism, they were almost invariably gunned down by either a civilian or an off-duty soldier. In fact, it is probably recognition of the fact that terrorism in Israel is suicidal that forced them, in desperation, to openly embrace suicide attacks. Posted by David Boxenhorn at July 25, 2004 01:28 AM
Comments & Trackbacks

× Network: