Telegraph's US Editor makes basic mistake on gun debate

One can criticise the NRA till one's heart's content. But the facts must be allowed to speak for themselves: the vast majority of Americans are safer than Brits

by Guy Bentley on 31 January 2013 00:28

The Telegraph's US editor Peter Foster wrote yesterday for the outlet, bemoaning the state of the US gun debate, complaining that it is “no longer anchored in reality”.

Commenting on the day’s Senate Judiciary hearing, Foster leapt upon the following remark from NRA member Dave Kopel:

Great Britain shows the perils of mass confiscation that some people have proposed. It has a higher violent crime rate than the United States and especially high rate of home invasion burglaries.

To which Foster’s reply was:

Is it necessary to spell out how absurd that claim is? The United States has 10.2 gun deaths per 100,000 people, the UK has 0.25. That means the US has 40 times more deaths per head than the UK. The “perils of mass confiscation” are clearly demonstrated.

Oh dear; the Telegraph’s US correspondent seems incapable of taking on board what professor Kopel actually said. Forgive me for spelling it out, but it appears someone has to. Professor Kopel specifically said “violent crime” and “home invasion burglaries”, not gun crime or gun murders.

Professor Kopel is therefore, in this respect, absolutely right. The UK has the second highest overall crime rate in the EU, the fifth highest robbery rate, and the fourth highest burglary rate.

Moreover, the UK has 2,034 violent crimes per 100,000 people ahead of even South Africa which has a rate of 1,609 per 100,000. Compare this with the US which has a rate of 466 violent crimes per 100,000.

Even as I am writing I can see the comment section of Foster's post filling up and pointing out his folly.

Whilst one can still hold a position advocating stricter gun control and criticise the likes of the NRA till one's heart’s content, the facts must be allowed to speak for themselves. True, the US has more gun deaths than Britain but overall the vast majority of Americans are safer than the majority of Brits.

(Source for violent crime stats)

Editor's note: I am, and have been aware for several weeks before this blogpost, that the link above that the author uses to substantiate his blog, has been revised on the principle that the UK and US violent crime rates are calculated using different measures.

It is worth watching this video to see how these differ, and what it means for the UK vs US violent crime rate statistic. Interestingly, even if the UK rate was calculated in an 'Apples to Apples' comparison, the UK would still have a higher violent crime rate per capita than the United States, though not by the same margin as previously indicated.

I felt it was prudent, and the responsible thing to do, to add this note to an article which otherwise, stands up well against the Telegraph editor's claims. The point remains, though perhaps, to a lesser extent.

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