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No, Aussie and UK 'Gun Bans' Didn't Lower Violent Crime or Homicides

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Like claims that the viscous brown Aussie spread vegemite and equally vile British marmite are actually good to put into one’s mouth, American’s should be skeptical of popular left-wing claims that Aussie and British "gun control” measures reduced gun-related crime, or violent crime in general.

Let’s dig in, and offer some intellectual ammunition to keep in mind as the debate rages.

Headlines such as, “Australia Confiscated 650,000 Guns. Murders and Suicides Plummeted,” tell us that state-mandated gun confiscation results in decreases in violent crime, gun homicides, and mass shootings.

Really?

First, let's actually define some terms, which promoters of gun confiscation rarely do, for, if they did, they would have a harder time sliding slippery stats into the debates.

  1. Any and all stats on gun ownership/bans are correlative. But with growing numbers of correlative studies, one can come closer to a comfortable assumption of causation. Any honest person engaging in the debate must note that there are many factors that seem to correspond with lower crime rates. (One of those, in particular, is a growing economy.)
     
  2. We must look at stats while trying to consider the levels of black market crime for things such as drugs that contribute to violent confrontations.
     
  3. We have to consider the overall time window of the stats. This is particularly important in the case of Australia.
     
  4. Included in the U.S. gun death stats are suicides, which comprise the bulk of firearm deaths, and, though they vary from year to year, usually stand almost twice as high as homicides and accidental gun-related deaths. However, promoters of gun-grab laws seem to have no problem calling suicides “homicides.”
     
  5. We have to ask the most fundamental question: “What is a ‘mass shooting’?” And the answer to that is ambiguous. This is an area where gun-grabbers will take the most basic of definitions, that being a “shooting of more than one person” and include it in stats, thus throwing murder-suicides and gang violence in places like Chicago (where the gun “control” laws have not stopped gun-related crime) into the mix.

So let’s look at that Australian claim. The headline mentioned above is from Vox, but it’s being repeated, mantra-like, on many other sites.

The claim is simple. In 1996, after 35 people were killed in Tasmania by a man armed with an automatic rifle, Aussie politicians passed the National Firearms Agreement, which instituted mandatory gun confiscation for semi-automatic firearms, shotguns, and self-loading rifles, and offered a nifty “buy-back” as part of the mandate. How sweet.

Thus we get the declaration that violent crime and gun homicides/suicides went down immediately after the “ban” took nearly 20 percent of Aussie guns off “the streets”, as some have claimed.

The trouble is, it’s not true that violent crime, or even gun-related crime, decreased immediately after the gun ban. This is a case of temporal manipulation to reach a desired conclusion. In fact, gun-related crime increased for years after the 1996 “ban," and the only way disputants can claim that violent crime decreased is by widening the window of time beyond 10 years.

As John Lott has correctly noted, violent crime increased immediately after the “ban,” and homicides and armed robberies continued the upward trend until 2000, never dropping below 1996 levels until after 2010 (in the case of armed robberies, they still hadn’t gone below 1996 levels by 2010).

As Miguel Faria, MD. Noted, after the Aussie “ban” was insituted:

That same year in the state of Victoria, there was a 300 percent increase in homicides committed with firearms. The following year, robberies increased almost 60 percent in South Australia. By 1999, assaults had increased in New South Wales by almost 20 percent. Two years following the gun ban/confiscation, armed robberies rose by 73 percent, unarmed robberies by 28 percent, kidnappings by 38 percent, assaults by 17 percent and manslaughter by 29 percent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

John Lott also notes that gun ownership eventually returned to per-capita levels that mirrored the rates prior to the “ban.” So, first, the claim that the “ban” saw a resultant decrease in violent crime, including homicides, is false. Second, violent crime rates only began to decrease years later, as guns returned to Australian hands against the wishes of the politicians writing the laws.

All this while, the “ban” created what one might expect: a huge and dangerous black market for firearms in Oz. It seems many Aussies who wanted to use guns still found them, and peacefully-minded people were forced to go to the black market.

Meanwhile, during the same early-year period of the Aussie “ban,” the U.S. saw a staggering increase in gun ownership, and violent crime, including gun-related homicides and other acts, decreased dramatically.

And guess what? Even after Bill Clinton’s presidency inspired worried gun owners to keep and bear more arms, the per-capita ownership of firearms continued to increase upon his departure, and violent crime continued to decrease.

Here is the link to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting stats from 2007 to 2011 to prove it. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of violent crimes committed with a gun decreased by over 220,000.

As Larry Bell wrote for Forbes on a Pew study of gun homicide rates between 1993 and 2013:

Their accounting shows a 49 percent decline in the homicide rate, and a 75 percent decline of non-fatal violent crime victimization.

Meanwhile, in the U.K., violent crime and gun crime increased after their draconian gun “bans” of 1997. Over the next two years, as Dr. Faria and I noted in my book, “Live Free or Die”:

While robberies rose 81% in England and Wales , they fell 21% in the US. Likewise, assaults increased 53% in England and Wales, but declined 27% in the US.

Even the old image of the unarmed British Bobby was lost after the “gun ban,” as the U.K. government created armed “19” units to combat violence.

The “hot burglary” rate per-capita in the U.K. is also much higher (50%) than in the US (13%). That means that thieves don’t case a home as often in the U.K., and they do case them in the U.S. Why? As John Lott notes in his monumental book, “More Guns, Less Crime,” interviews with actual criminals tell us that they case homes to avoid confrontations with potentially armed residents.

So what is the takeaway?

How about this: criminals change their behavior when they suspect a potential victim or group of potential victims might be armed. They hunt for easier prey. 

Thanks for reading. And remember, don’t accept offerings of vegemite or marmite. Just like the Aussies and Brits have been wrong about those things, they’re wrong about self-protection and individual sovereignty versus the state.

(Cover Photo: M&R Glasgow)

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