Examining the History of Guns and Violence
Friday, November 29, 2002
BY THOMAS SOWELL
Professor Joyce Lee Malcolm of Bentley College deserves some sort of
special prize for taking on the thankless task of talking sense on a
subject where nonsense is deeply entrenched and fiercely dogmatic. In
her recently published book, Guns and Violence, Professor Malcolm
examines the history of firearms, gun control laws and violent crime in
England. What makes this more than an exercise in history is its
relevance to current controversies over gun control in America.
Gun control zealots love to make highly selective international
comparisons of gun ownership and murder rates. But Joyce Lee Malcolm
points out some of the pitfalls in that approach. For example, the
murder rate in New York City has been more than five times that of
London for two centuries -- and during most of that time neither city
had any gun control laws.
In 1911, New York state instituted one of the most severe gun
control laws in the United States, while serious gun control laws did
not begin in England until nearly a decade later. But New York City
still continued to have far higher murder rates than London.
If we are serious about the role of guns and gun control as factors
in differing rates of violence between countries, then we need to do
what history professor Joyce Lee Malcolm does -- examine the history of
guns and violence. In England, as she points out, over the centuries
"violent crime continued to decline markedly at the very time that guns
were becoming increasingly available."
England's Bill of Rights in 1688 was quite unambiguous that the
right of a private individual to be armed was an individual right,
independent of any collective right of militias. Guns were as freely
available to Englishmen as to Americans, on into the early 20th century.
Nor was gun control in England a response to any firearms murder
crisis. Over a period of three years near the end of the 19th century,
"there were only 59 fatalities from handguns in a population of nearly
30 million people," according to Professor Malcolm. "Of these, 19 were
accidents, 35 were suicides and only three were homicides -- an average
of one a year."
The rise of the interventionist state in early 20th century England
included efforts to restrict ownership of guns. After the First World
War, gun control laws began restricting the possession of firearms.
Then, after the Second World War, these restrictions grew more severe,
eventually disarming the civilian population of England -- or at least
the law-abiding part of it.
It was during this period of severe restrictions on owning firearms
that crime rates in general, and the murder rate in particular, began to
rise in England. "As the number of legal firearms have dwindled, the
numbers of armed crimes have risen," Professor Malcolm points out.
In 1954, there were only a dozen armed robberies in London but, by
the 1990s, there were more than a hundred times as many. In England, as
in the United States, drastic crackdowns on gun ownership by law-abiding
citizens were accompanied by ever greater leniency to criminals. In both
countries, this turned out to be a formula for disaster.
While England has not yet reached the American level of murders, it
has already surpassed the United States in rates of robbery and
burglary. Moreover, in recent years the murder rate in England has been
going up under still more severe gun control laws, while the murder rate
in the United States has been going down as more and more states have
allowed private citizens to carry concealed weapons -- and have begun
locking up more criminals.
In both countries, facts have no effect whatever on the dogmas of
gun control zealots.
In England, as in America, sensational gun crimes have been seized
upon and used politically to promote crackdowns on gun ownership by
law-abiding citizens, while doing nothing about criminals. American
zealots for the Brady bill say nothing about the fact that the man who
shot James Brady and tried to assassinate President Reagan has been out
walking the streets on furlough.
/// ZION LIST CHARTER: Please read it at ///
/// http://www.zionsbest.com/charter.html ///
This email was sent to: email@example.com
EASY UNSUBSCRIBE click here: http://topica.com/u/?aaP9AU.bWix1n.YXJjaGl2
Or send an email to: [EMAIL PROTECTED]
T O P I C A -- Register now to manage your mail!