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UK Gun Laws Daft – The Right to Bear Arms cuts crime (against the innocent)

Tom Winnifrith
Wednesday 5 September 2012

If someone tries to burgle your house you should have the right to shoot him. If you do, it is his lookout not a cue for the Old Bill to arrest you. The law should be on the side of the victim not the criminal. Yet once again we have the case of homeowners being persecuted by the British establishment for simply protecting what was theirs. Andy and Tracie Ferrie faced four night-time intruders at their isolated cottage and Andy fired a shotgun injuring two of them. Diddums. But who is banged up for three days? The burglars or the poor Ferries? No prizes for guessing.

The British attitude to guns changed after Dunblane when a madman went on a rampage. Since then it has become very difficult for law abiding decent folk to own a gun. You need all sorts of licenses and need to show that you are sensible. Out on the streets of Dalston the criminal gangs who use guns to “ply their trade” do not bother with such niceties and guns are freely available. And so we have created a society where, because of one madman, criminals can get hold of guns but ordinary decent folk find it terribly hard to do the same.

In the USA anyone can get a gun with relative ease. It is a constitutional right to bear arms. The woolly minded liberal classes reckon that this makes the USA a crime hotspot. Of course that is rubbish. For what it is worth the murder rate in the US is 4.2 people per 100,000 whereas in the UK it is 1.2 per 100,000. Of those American murders 60% are gun-crimes. And most of those occur in the big city ghettos (the rates in parts of Baltimore, Detroit, etc are off the scale) and many involve criminals shooting other criminals (go for it fellows, see if I care). What is interesting is that the long term trend is to a lower murder rate in the US. See the 2012 seminal work of Claude Fischer “A crime puzzle, violent crime declines in America” which shows that the trend since 1776 has essentially been downwards.

But when it comes to burglary the US suffered c2.1 million burglaries for 308 million people in 2010 (0.7%). In England and Wales, the police number is c600,000 for 55 million people (1.1%). In other words the US rate per annum is massively lower – equating to 400 fewer burglaries per 100,000 people than back here in Blighty. 400 fewer burglaries and 3 more murders per 100,000 – those are the scores on the doors.

As it happens The British Crime survey suggests that the number of actual burglaries is far higher but that with a clean up rate of sub 20% lots of folk simply cannot be arsed to report a small incident to the Old Bill. It indicates that the burglary rate may actually be closer to 2%. Another recent study showed the extent of what a criminal hotspot the UK is. I quote:

“London was found to be the crime capital of Europe, with the chances of being a victim said to be higher than every other EU capital. Residents of the UK city were even reported to be at even greater risk than those living in Istanbul or, that former crime mecca, New York.

The studies show that whereas 18% of Istanbul and 23% of New York residents had been the victim of the 10 categories of crimes ranging from assault to burglary, a whopping 32% of London residents claimed to have been victims.”

Of course there are many cultural differences which explain burglary rates. But gun ownership is one of them. If you burgle a home in the US you face a very real prospect that some guy will shoot you. If he does he will not be prosecuted. If you (the criminal) survive you will be. And you will get a stiff prison sentence. If you burgle a home in the UK it is unlikely that you will face a homeowner with a gun and given recent case history if the homeowner does have a gun he is ever less likely to brandish it. On the 1 in 5 chance that you are caught then how will you be punished give that the maximum sentence for burglary is 14 years?

According to the Sentencing Council, only 52% of convicted burglars go to prison. The average stretch for those that do is less than two years. With time off for good behaviour etcetera most will be out within a year.

And so US murder rates continue their long term decline. UK murder rates continue to increase. US burglary rates are anywhere between 60% and 30% of those in the UK. Please do explain why our gun laws are so much more sensible and make us all feel freer and safer than most Americans? I just do not get it. In the defence of the liberty of the non criminal classes, the US constitutional right to bear arms seems to make perfect sense to me.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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