Many advocates of gun control point to Great Britain as an example of a gun free paradise where violence and crime are rare. Well, there may be trouble in paradise.
Our friends across the Atlantic did tighten their already strict gun laws with the Firearms Act of 1997, making self-defense with a firearm completely impossible for ordinary people. Obedient British subjects generally maintained a stiff upper lip as they surrendered their guns and their rights.
How much did crime drop as a result of this sacrifice? It didn't drop at all. In fact, according to the local newspapers, England is being swept by a wave of crime, including plenty of gun crimes.
The Sunday Times of London published a story on January 16th that sums up the situation rather well. The headline reads, "Killings Rise As 3 Million Illegal Guns Flood Britain." While the law has disarmed law-abiding citizens, a black market has flourished, as usual with prohibitions, to supply criminal elements. According to the report, "Up to 3 million illegal guns are in circulation in Britain, leading to a rise in drive-by shootings and gangland-style executions."
Young criminals (ages 15 to 25 with prior convictions), according to the Sunday Times, "own or have access to guns ranging from Beretta submachine guns to Luger pistols, which can be bought from underworld dealers for as little as £200 ($320 U.S.)."
Armed crime rose 10 percent in 1998 and the numbers for 1999 may be even more dramatic.
The British experiment with gun prohibition has resulted in the same outcome as other forms of prohibition. Since guns are banned, every criminal wants one and it is very profitable to smuggle them in. According to a police spokesman, weapons from eastern Europe, some still new in their boxes, are turning up during investigations. Criminals now have unprecedented access to high quality guns at affordable prices. The Sunday Times further stated: "Criminals have maintained a steady flow of smuggled guns from eastern Europe, exhibition weapons reactivated in illegal "factories" run by underworld dealers, and guns stolen from private collections."
On January 14, the Manchester Guardian lamented that their city is being called "Gunchester." Police sources are saying that guns have become "almost a fashion accessory" among young criminals on the street. The generally unarmed British police say they risk confronting teenagers on mountain bikes brandishing machine guns.
And, the Sunday Express sent out a team of reporters to investigate the problem; their story on June 20, 1999 reported, "In recent months there have been a frightening number of shootings in Britain's major cities, despite new laws banning gun ownership after the Dunblane tragedy. Our investigation established that guns are available through means open to any criminally-minded individual."
The government is expected to respond by further tightening the laws on weapons of all sorts. Additional regulations controlling knives and airguns are said to be in the works. The very act of armed self-defense is already punishable by law. That right has been handed over to the government in return for a promise of protection.
Perhaps motor vehicles need to be more heavily regulated as well. According to a commercial security report entitled, "New Wave in Retail Crime," British bandits are using vehicles to smash storefronts in a type of crime called "ramraiding," which would be impractical if shopkeepers had the option of defending themselves and their property. "Many retailers have actually gone out of business because of the repeated attacks on their premises." This rise in crime correlates with the tightening of gun control laws in Britain.
The traditional view of England as a low crime society has also been seriously damaged by the 1998 study titled, "Crime and Justice in the United States and in England and Wales," which supports the aforementioned statistics and is available from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. The negative result from gun control laws should not surprise us. American cities have had similar counterproductive results whenever gun control has been implemented locally. Recent reports from Australia tell exactly the same story.
It is no coincidence that crime typically goes up after a government enacts gun restrictions. Several American researchers and criminologists have reported this seemingly paradoxical effect. Whenever people give up their right to self-defense in return for a promise of government protection, the results have been dismal. No amount of social engineering will change this basic consequence of human nature.
Unfortunately, the loss of liberty that accompanies indiscriminate gun control that affects mostly the law-abiding goes only in one direction. British subjects will never regain the basic human right to armed self-defense.
Proponents of gun control in America have a lot of explaining to do. Unfortunately, with the aid of their media allies, this new information will probably be ignored completely or brushed off with a few carefully chosen sound bites.
Dr. Brown is an optometrist in Vancouver, Washington. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 2000;5(3):106. Copyright©2000 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)