Widely televised firearm murders in many countries
during the 20th Century have spurred politicians to introduce
restrictive gun laws. The politicians then promise that the new
restrictions will reduce criminal violence and "create a safer
society." It is time to pause and ask if gun laws actually do
reduce criminal violence.
Gun laws must be demonstrated to cut violent crime or gun control
is no more than a hollow promise. What makes gun control so
compelling for many is the belief that violent crime is driven by
the availability of guns and, more importantly, that criminal
violence in general may be reduced by limiting access to
In this study, the author examines crime trends in Commonwealth
countries that have recently introduced firearm regulations:
i.e., Great Britain, Australia, and Canada. The widely ignored
key to evaluating firearm regulations is to examine trends in
total violent crime, not just firearms crime. Since firearms are
only a small fraction of criminal violence, the public would not
be safer if the new law could reduce firearm violence but had no
effect on total criminal violence.
The United States provides a valuable point of comparison for
assessing crime rates because the criminal justice system there
differs so drastically from those in Europe and the Commonwealth.
Not only are criminal penalties typically more severe in the
United States, often much more severe, but also conviction and
incarceration rates are usually much higer. Perhaps the most
striking difference is that qualified citizens in the United
States can carry concealed handguns for self-defence. During the
past few decades, more than 25 states in the United States passed
laws allowing responsible citizens to carry concealed handguns.
In 2003, there are 35 states where citizens can get such a
The upshot is that violent crime rates, and homicide rates in
particular, have been falling in the United States. The drop in
the American crime rate is even more impressive when compared
with the rest of the world.