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Editorial

26 April 2007

There is a correlation. Of the four former British colonies and Britain, Britain has the tightest restrictions on gun ownership. The US has the least restrictive laws of all. We do not claim guns in and of themselves cause violence. But they certainly make the results of violence worse. In the table below, some English-speaking former colonies are ranked according to their incidence of murder-by-gun among developed countries. Of the developed countries, these four are most homogeneous considering, language, culture, governance, and primary religious practice (monotheism).

Rank among developed countriesCountry Per 100,000 Multiples Gun Policy
#8 United States: 2.79 27.2 Weapons, including assault weapons generally available, essentially limited only by national data base of known offenders.
#20Canada:0.504.9 Gun registration required. Automatic weapons banned.
#27Australia:0.272.6 Registration and permits required. Assault weaponry generally banned. States have some discretion.
#31New Zealand: 0.17 1.7 Users must be licensed; assault weaapons licensed. No fool-proof method to avoid gun access by the unsuitable.
#32 United Kingdom:0.101.0 Hand guns banned for all purposes. Police permits requred to own shotguns or hunting rifles.

The multiples column is most revealing. See British Council for astute summary of the gun / anti-gun debate. One example: "If guns prevent crime then why doesn't the USA have the lowest crime rate in the world? Guns don't protect you. Statistics show that you are more likely to be shot if you have a gun in the house. And the person who gets shot is more likely to be the householder than the intruder."

These data speak to one avenue for reducing violence and death from guns. Gun registration and banning automatic weapons could cut death-by-gun murder rates by a factor of five (5). Another factor of about five is avaialable from stricter policies. It is no accident that the UK is the safest-from-gun-violence nation on the list.

These countries were selected for two reasons: 1) Their similarities minimize the likelihood of uncontolled factors biasing the results, and 2) their gun control laws vary widely. There can be no question that limiting access to guns favorably affects the murder-by-gun rates and murder rates overall.

Organiztions such as The National Rifle Association vehemently deny any negative association. They go so far as to cite statistics of their own which they claim shows the reverse. In fact their statistics are not random samples of a known population. Further, they deny the accuracy of data kept by authorities in each nation, most particularly the US and Australia.

Since this web site makes every effort to collect accurate data and interpret it properly, when we err, and we have, we correct it as soon as possible. But the evidence here, while it varies from year to year is so consistent that we can be sure of an effect.

Quoting from John Garnaut: smh.com.au:

      "THE tough gun controls introduced after the Port Arthur massacre have probably saved about 2500 lives, economists say.

      Debunking a widely reported study to the contrary, their analysis suggests that removing 600,000 guns from circulation has sharply reduced suicide and murder rates.

      Andrew Leigh, at the Australian National University, and Christine Neill of Canada's Wilfrid Laurier University found a sharp, statistically significant reduction in murder and suicide.

      "There were on average 250 fewer firearm deaths per year after the implementation of the National Firearms Agreement than would have been expected," they said.

      Using deaths data since 1915, the authors estimated gun control had led to about 35 fewer murders and 247 fewer suicides annually since 1997. They calculate slightly smaller numbers when their statistical model is restricted to data after 1969.

      Their report found no evidence that gun control may have simply caused a substitution from shooting to other killing methods.

      "The fact that overall violent deaths have fallen since 1996 strongly suggests there has not been substantial method substitution," the report says.

      The authors slam an earlier report in the British Journal of Criminology that claimed the firearms agreement had no effect on death rates.

      That study, by Jeanine Baker from the Sporting Shooters' Association of Australia and Samara McPhedran from the Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting, exploited less than a third of the available annual data and used "very dubious" statistical methodology, they say.

      The Federal Government's 1997 National Firearms Agreement allowed the buyback of semi-automatic rifles, pump-action shotguns and other firearms. The agreement, which introduced some of the world's toughest gun laws, was negotiated by the Prime Minister, John Howard, 35 people were shot at Port Arthur in 1996.

      The most recent reliable figures, for 2002-03, show there were 0.27 firearm-related homicides per 100,000 Australians - about one-fifteenth of the US rate.

      "The risk of dying by gunshot halved over the past 10 years," said Philip Alpers, adjunct associate professor at the University of Sydney's School of Public Health."

Comments

Thd fact remains that nations where their citizens do not have ready access to guns have much lower murder rates. Instilling fear is what the NRA is all about. Isn't it time we changed course?

Don't the statistics speak for themselves?

Posted by RoadToPeace on Friday, April 04, 2008 at 06:44:42

The US and the UK are quite similar nations. Please explain why the US is some 27 times more murderous than the UK if it is not for the differences in gun control.

Posted by RoadToPeace on Saturday, May 17, 2008 at 23:47:05

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