Guns and crime in England

I frequently want to look up certain things about guns and crime in England that I vaguely remember and I have trouble finding things I thought were fairly well documented.

The other day I found FIREARM CONTROLS IN BRITAIN PART I THE HISTORY OF FIREARMS CONTROLS IN GREAT BRITAIN EARLY LEGISLATION and decided to blog about it to make it easier for me (and perhaps others) to find in the future. I have a link to this post on my “Important posts” page for easy reference in the future.

Here are some important points from the UK Parliament Publications linked to above. The most important parts are bolded.

  • Early English legislation relating to firearms was concerned only with the duty of the citizen to arm himself for the defence of the realm and for the maintenance of order.
  • Until the start of the 20th century, therefore, the right to keep arms was vigorously upheld by Parliament and all attempts at legislation to restrict arms generally or firearms in particular failed completely.
  • The Pistols Act of 1903 was the first piece of legislation to attempt some control on pistols. It required only that a prospective purchaser provide proof that he held a gun licence available on demand at a post office, or that he was a householder, or was to proceed abroad.
  • During the early part of this century anyone, respectable citizen, criminal or lunatic, could walk into a gunshop and buy any firearm he wanted.
  • The 1988 Act had many different effects. The Home Office failed to produce a single case in which self loading rifles had been used in crime other than the Hungerford incident. In that case, the fact that the rifle was self loading was of no significance because the rate at which shots were actually fired was within the capability of any firearm including the most simple single shot weapon.
  • Countries all require a permit of some sort to acquire a handgun, but in general these are much more easily obtained than they were in this country….Single and double barrel shotguns will remain completely uncontrolled and, as now, will be freely sold in gunshops and even supermarkets.

In regards to the Dunblane atrocity:

  • The Government of the day rapidly appointed Lord Cullen to head an inquiry and asked that judgement be delayed until he had reported.
  • The Labour Party in opposition took an entirely different approach and rapidly produced a 15 page submission to Lord Cullen
  • It is clear that those who prepared the submission sought no professional assistance in producing this document and that they did not consult with the shooting community. It seems that they did not regard the matter as sufficiently important to warrant extensive research.
  • The document displays a complete unawareness of the nature and economic value of shooting sports in general or of pistol shooting in particular.
  • The Labour submission also demonstrated an incomplete knowledge of the safeguards already in place in firearms legislation and of the many obstacles placed in the way of a person wishing to hold a firearm certificate. They noted the increase in reported crime involving firearms, though their analysis of the trend was flawed and failed to even attempt to correlate the reduction in legally held firearms and changes in rates of armed crime.
  • then the Labour submission turned to the extremely complex question of international comparisons, the researchers failed to realise that published statistics are not comparable and quoted conclusions from carefully selected works that have not stood up to even modest examination of their reliability.
  • On the basis of this flimsy and entirely unreliable evidence, the Labour Party suggested a whole raft of reforms of firearms legislation, including many which have civil liberties implications. They proposed, for example, that chief constables should have absolute discretion to refuse any application and should not be required to give reasons for doing so (Para 32). They conceded that a Star Chamber system might further consider the chief constable’s decision in some cases, though the applicant would not be told why the decision had been taken.
  • This mass of law was based on intrinsically flawed panic legislation of 1920. It has been added to by one panic measure after another. It has never been the subject of rational consideration. The principles which should apply to all legislation are lost. No-one has ever stated a precise objective for the legislation or indicated how it will be measured against that objective to see whether or not it is working.

Guns, crime, and the misuse of statistics:

  • There can be no system of measuring the number of illegally held firearms and estimates made vary considerably. Some commentators have suggested a figure of four million illegal firearms in circulation in Britain. Bearing in mind tht almost one million illegally held firearms have been surrendered to, or confiscated by, the police since the end of World War II and that the number of firearms available for use in crime does not seem to have diminished, it seems reasonable to suggest that the number of illegal firearms cannot fall far short of the total number legally held.
  • A time series study relating to Great Britain is a relatively simple process, but simplistic conclusions should not be drawn from it. However, if the thesis that more guns means more violent crime is correct, it must follow that fewer guns should mean fewer violent crimes. Home Office criminal statistics for England and Wales have given figures for the use of firearms in crime only for relatively modern times, prior to which the only information available was that from major cities, notably London, or from anecdotal and unreliable evidence. All the evidence that can be found from these sources shows that when there were no controls on firearms the rate of armed crime was very low and it remained so until the mid 1960s when it began to escalate. But the rate of legal firearms ownership was declining and has continued to decline whilst the rate of armed crime has grown.
  • Though there has been a gradual increase in the use of firearms in homicide it has remained a fairly constant proportion of all homicides.
  • The rise in the use of pistols in homicide since 1992 reflects a most important change in the nature of homicide and may well be associated in the rise of drug and criminal gang related shootings which are being reported in the media and by the police. A discernible change in the pattern of homicides involving firearms is taking place which may reflect a total failure to effectively police a segment of the community and which will have far reaching implications if not tackled effectively. Tackling this phenomenon through the medium of stricter controls of pistols is clearly not an option. They were extremely strictly controlled throughout the period and are now effectively banned.
  • Figures for crimes labelled as homicide in various countries are simply not comparable. Since 1967, homicide figures for England and Wales have been adjusted to exclude any cases which do not result in conviction, or where the person is not prosecuted on grounds of self defence or otherwise. This reduces the apparent number of homicides by between 13 per cent and 15 per cent. The adjustment is made only in respect of figures shown in one part of the Annual Criminal Statistics. In another part relating to the use of firearms, no adjustment is made. A table of the number of homicides in which firearms were used in England and Wales will therefore differ according to which section of the annual statistics was used as its base. Similarly in statistics relating to the use of firearms, a homicide will be recorded where the firearm was used as a blunt instrument, but in the specific homicide statistics, that case will be shown under “blunt instrument”. [Emphasis added.]
  • Acting within the remit of Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice recommended that a study be undertaken in member states into the regulation of firearms together with other topics assumed to be related to such regulation.
  • The authors of the UN Report draw a series of conclusions which are not justified by their own evidence. The only conclusion which can safely be drawn in that there is no casual relationship between the number of firearms in a State and the levels of death through homicide, suicide or accident.
  • The data produced in the survey provide no evidence of any correlation between firearms ownership and firearms accident levels.
  • The UN survey makes no pretence of controlling for any of the many variables known to influence suicide rates, but even these crude figures show that there is no correlation between firearms ownership and either overall suicide rates or firearms suicide rates.
  • The debate seems to assume that the United States is a homogenous unit, but that does not seem to be the case. Homicide rates vary from the extraordinarily high level of about 80 per hundred thousand in Washington DC which has a total ban on the ownership of most firearms, to rates less than those in the UK and Europe in States like Vermont which does not allow any restrictions on firearms ownership.
  • In the Study, Crime and Justice in the United States and in England and Wales, 1981-96 by Professor David Farrington of Cambridge University and Dr Patrick Langan of the US Department of Justice, compared rates of reported assaults, robbery and burglary in the two countries were compared to discover that in all cases, England and Wales has overtaken the United States. The report was based on both crime victim surveys and police statistics and so is as reliable as any such report can be. The situation was reached in 1996 where the robbery rate in England and Wales is 40 per cent higher than it is in the United States whilst assault, burglary and “auto-crime” in England and Wales are almost double those in the United States.
  • Of even more significance is that the fact that the “hot” burglary rate (burglary committed whilst someone is in the house) involved 13 per cent of burglaries in the United States and about 50 per cent in England and Wales (Wright and Rossi 1986).
  • Many of the international studies on the relationship between levels of firearms ownership and crime rates have value only if studied with great care taking proper account of the many variables. A time series study in this country shows that no such relationship exists here and a study of the more reliable cross sectional analyses fails to disclose sufficient evidence of any such relationship and tends to disprove it.
  • Attempts have been made throughout this century to reduce levels of crime generally and levels of violent crime in particular by imposing strict controls on access to firearms. These have been applied in most parts the world and over a long period. There has yet to be a single follow-up study which shows that the imposition of controls on firearms, or the tightening of existing controls, has caused any reduction in the use of firearms in crime over time in any particular country or more generally. [Emphasis added.]

The first bolded point is of great importance and I repeat for even more emphasis:

Since 1967, homicide figures for England and Wales have been adjusted to exclude any cases which do not result in conviction.

This last bolded point is, in essence, a restatement of Just one question.

Don’t ever let anyone get away with bringing up England as justification for gun control. They are ignorant, misinformed, or lying.


4 thoughts on “Guns and crime in England

  1. “Don’t ever let anyone get away with bringing up England as justification for gun control. They are ignorant, misinformed, or lying.”

    To this list I would add “congenitally irrational”. I believe that a small but not totally insignificant portion of humanity are born with a mental defect that makes them irrational. They can often be very intelligent, personable and well educated but batshit crazy when it comes to gun control or some other subject yet totally reasonable on other subjects. This drives ME crazy! 🙁

    Former NYC Mayor Bloomberg is one example.

  2. “Since 1967, homicide figures for England and Wales have been adjusted to exclude any cases which do not result in conviction.”

    Chicago will embrace this as their new standard, instantly reducing the murder rate by 2/3rds.

  3. One possible answer to “Just One Question” might be Dodge City, Kansas, in the 19th century when the railroad first came to town, enabling cattle to be cheaply transported to the eastern cities. It is my understanding that the cowboys were required to deposit their guns with the sheriff upon entering town as a condition for remaining in town (That part, at least, of “Gunsmoke” wasn’t completely made up). Taking the guns from a bunch of drunken teen transients with money and large quantities of booze for the first time in their lives made the city safer. The citizens of the town, significantly, were not required to surrender their guns.

  4. Pingback: SayUncle » News you can use

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