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Results are In on British Gun Laws
by Dr. Michael S. Brown

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 did not 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 London Times 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".  Armed crime rose 10% 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 Manchester Guardian, on January 14th, laments the fact that their city is being called "Gunchester".  Police sources were quoted as saying that guns had become "almost a fashion accessory" among young criminals on the street.    Some gangs are armed with fully automatic weapons and the generally unarmed British police say that they risk confronting teenagers on mountain bikes brandishing machine guns. 

The Sunday Express sent a team of reporters out to investigate the problem and their story of June 20, 1999 said, "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 air guns are said to be in the works, although this might be likened to beating a dead horse.  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 titled "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 arming themselves.  The report states that, "Many retailers have actually gone out of business because of the repeated attacks on their premises."

This recent rise in crime is part of an upward trend that correlates well with the gradual tightening of gun control over the last several decades.  The relationship between increasing gun control and rising crime is well documented in a scholarly 1999 report by Olsen and Kopel, "All the Way Down the Slippery Slope - Gun Prohibition in England".

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 is available from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.  This report concludes that English crime rates in the period from 1981 to 1996 were actually higher than in the United States due to differences in the way crimes are reported.

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 and recent reports from Australia show similar effects from their gun confiscation.

It is no coincidence that crime typically goes up after a government passes new gun restrictions.  Several American researchers and criminologists have explored this effect.  There is no mystery here.  Disarming law abiding citizens emboldens criminals. 

Whenever people have given up their right to self defense in return for a promise of government protection, the results have been negative.  No amount of social engineering will change this basic consequence of human nature.  Unfortunately, the downward progression of gun control goes only one way.  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 emotional sound bites.

Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist in Vancouver, WA who moderates a large email list for discussion of gun issues in Washington State. You can reach the rest of his archive here.  He may be reached at

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You must understand, therefore, that there are two ways of fighting: by law or by force. The first way is natural to men, and the second to beasts. But as the first way often proves inadequate one must have recourse to the second. Niccolo Machiavelli in "The Prince."

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