Colin Greenwood on international comparisons
Colin Greenwood (a British law enforcement officer who, back in 1972 authored "Firearms Control," a critical study of the British gun laws) has submitted a paper to Parliament's Select Committee on Northern Ireland on the matter. Among his notes:
"8. In 1991, Professor Brandon Centrewall studied handgun availability and homicide in the jurisdictions on each side of the US/Canada border where demographic differences could be factored out. He found that, though restrictions were few in the US States and the number of legally held handguns exceeded those on the Canadian side by a factor of 10, rates of homicide were virtually identical ((1991) American Journal of Epidemiology V134 pp 1245-65).
9. As an example of a study so broadly based as to compensate to some extent for an inability to factor out demographic and other differences, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations published a survey (E/CN.15/1997/4 dated 7 March 1997) of 33 countries. If broad band analyses are conducted, this survey shows that there is no correlation between rates of gun ownership and crime, accidents or suicides.
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
10. Any debate about cross sectional analyses is clouded by reference to the United States where it is said that guns are subject to no controls and crime rates are consequently many times those of the United Kingdom. In fact there are some 20,000 statutes concerning gun ownership at Federal, State and local levels. They vary from a virtual ban on gun ownership in many areas, including Washington DC, to a very lax regime in States like Vermont. Within the United States, there is no correlation between the strictness of the gun control system and rates of armed crime. Washington DC has a homicide rate of about 80 per hundred thousand despite its harsh system of regulating firearms. Vermont with little control has a homicide rate lower than that in England and Wales.
11. When crime in the United States is compared with that in England and Wales the generally accepted picture is proved to be entirely false. A study by Dr Patrick Langan of the US Department of Justice and Dr David Farrington of Cambridge University published in 1998 showed that in both recorded crime and crime victim surveys, England and Wales has higher rates of robbery, assault, burglary and motor vehicle thefts. These figures do not take account of differences in recording systems mentioned earlier. The following table shows figure per 1,000 population [omitted]
* Other studies (British Crime Surveys 1982, 1984, 1988 and 1992) showed that 43 per cent of burglaries in England and Wales were committed on occupied houses. A similar rate has been found in Holland. In the US only 9 per cent of burglaries were of occupied houses (Kleck G, Targeting Guns 1997 Aldine de Gruyter, New York).
12. Whilst the United States has a much higher homicide rate than England and Wales, the gap seems to be closing. In 1980, the US had an unadjusted homicide rate of 10.5 per hundred thousand population but in 1998 that had dropped to 6.26. England and Wales had an adjusted homicide rate of 1.1 per hundred thousand in 1980, rising to 1.43 in 1998 and to 1.55 in 2000. Thus in 1980, the US had a homicide rate almost 10 times that of England and Wales. By 1998, the differential was down to 4.4. Home Office adjustments reduce the recorded homicide figure by at least 12 per cent so that change is even more marked."