As you have probably noticed, the UN methods of “eliminating the illegal circulation of small arms and light weapons” have been quite unsuccessful. This paper explains some of the reasons why that is so.
The Programme of Action suffers, in this writer’s opinion, from a prejudice. It seems to have been written by someone who assumed that it is the availability of a weapon that causes violent criminal acts. That is an untrue assumption. If it were true, every nation would have to mount continuous campaigns to deter husbands and wives from quarrelling in the kitchen, because knives are readily available in every kitchen. That is not necessary because ordinary people do not become murderous criminals simply because a weapon is easily available.
Now let us look at the Programme of Action. It is unfortunate, but true, that attempts to deal with complex situations are usually coloured by the type of expertise available. In this case, the type of expertise available when the Programme of Action was drafted and then adopted was apparently administrative expertise, not likely to produce successful ways of dealing with situations that range from quasi-legal to flatly illegal. Administrative methods are good for dealing with legal transactions by persons firmly determined to stay within the law. They are remarkably poor at dealing with illegal ownership, illegal procuring, illegal sales, illegal trades of goods for goods, illegal shipments, smuggling, and other illegal transactions.
So–what are the actual effects of laws based on the British theory and the American theory, as opposed to the anticipated effects, now that we have had a few years to study them?
In the U.S., the latest FBI annual report statistics showed that the overall national violent crime rate for 2004 had decreased for the thirteenth consecutive year (starting in 1991), and had reached a 30-year low. As a check, the latest Bureau of Justice statistics showed that the overall national violent crime rate had reached a 32-year low in 2004.
The FBI data also show that in 2004, murder rates hit a 39-year low, robbery rates a 37-year low, and aggravated assault rates a 20-year low. All forms of violent crime have been steadily decreasing since 1991. Between 1991 and 2004, violent crime declined by 39 per cent, murder by 44 per cent, rape by 24 per cent, robbery by 50 per cent, and aggravated assault by 33 per cent.
Those are very good numbers, and the period from 1991 to 2004 has also been one with a steadily increasing number of states that feature mandatory concealed carry laws. Additionally, the American approach has been particularly good for women, as women are the preferred (even if not the most numerous) targets of violent criminals. Knowing that some women are able to protect human life from criminal violence has had a noticeable effect, reducing crimes against women. Causing violent criminals to fear women results in a desirable check on violent crime rates, as Paxton Quigley says in her excellent book, Armed and Female.
The British picture is quite different.
The British Home Office Statistical Bulletin, “Crime in England and Wales, 2004/2005,” tells us that their national violent crime rate increased by 109 per cent from 1995 to 2004/2005.
Between 2003/2004 and 2004/2005, reports of “threat or conspiracy to murder” went up by 31 per cent in the “top nine [police] forces (those that did the best reporting)” and up 3 per cent in “other forces.” Less serious woundings reports went up 25 per cent from the top nine and 12 per cent from the other forces. Possession of weapons reports went up 13 per cent from the top nine and 0 per cent from the other forces. Harassment reports went up 58 per cent in the top nine and 22 per cent in the other forces. Reports of sexual offences increased 17 per cent in 2004/2005, but this figure was confused by a change in the definition of “sexual offence” that occurred within the two reporting periods.
“Crime involving firearms” has been rising steadily since 1998/1999 (more than doubling), in spite of the total “elimination” of handguns imposed by a total ban on the private ownership and possession of handguns in 1995. One conclusion is inescapable: British violent criminals are experiencing no difficulty in acquiring and using as many illegal handguns as they want.
Read those figures and draw your own conclusions. In this writer’s view, the American approach is working, and the British idea is failing.
Give yourself thirty minutes to an hour to read the whole thing.