The fallacy of applying British gun laws in America

British gun laws are just that: British. Let's not pretend they'd work as well in the US

by Geoffrey McLatchey on 26 February 2013 14:29

In the national debate concerning gun control, it seems the conversation is steered almost invariably towards a comparison of policies and statistics of the United States and Britain. Last week, leading anti-gun spokesman Piers Morgan made his usual argument while hosting a US Navy SEAL. During the debate Morgan pointed out that United States’ gun homicide rates are far higher than those of the United Kingdom’s, which clearly demonstrates a need for policy change in the United States.

There is only one problem with this rationale – the United States is not the United Kingdom. To compare American and British gun control policies and draw the conclusion that an adoption of British policy would make for a safer America is scientifically preposterous. To do so would fail to take into account the numerous uncontrolled variables that make each nation subject to its policies, most notably, geography.

Enforcing any regulation is a far more daunting task when faced with the US population of nearly 315 million compared to the UK’s 63 million. Factor in that Britain is a small island nation and the United States shares a border with a cartel-rampant Mexico, and the task of enforcing gun control laws becomes increasingly more difficult. One needs look only to the Fed’s failed “War on Drugs” or our illegal immigration problem to understand that an infringement of the Second Amendment will not stop criminals from obtaining illegal firearms.

What is undoubtedly worse than drawing conclusions from uncontrolled variables is ignoring results that do not do well to support one’s original hypothesis – a habitual practice for self-proclaimed ‘progressives’ and one not immune to the gun control debate. And so, we arrive back at the central thesis of Morgan’s argument that nobody pretended to be surprised by until recently – gun violence is more prevalent in a country where there are guns, than in a country where there are very few.

Capitalizing on recent tragedies, this exceedingly obvious observation has been transformed into some sort of brilliant reflection of what needs to change in the States. In any sense, if we are to take up the position of ignoring the differences between each country, the British vs. American anti-gun argument is only further disingenuous by pointing simply to gun-related homicides and ignoring violent crime statistics.

Although there is disagreement over “violent crime” statistics in American and British law due to differences of opinion in what constitutes such a label, the more specific assault and burglary rates are both higher in Britain than in America. In England and Wales 730 instances of assault per 100,000 people were recorded for 2010 while reported assaults in the United States were 262 per 100,000. A similar difference exists in reported burglary per 100,000 people with England and Wales reporting 986 in 2010 and the United States reporting 715.

Assuming a burglar or attacker’s main deterrent to committing such crimes is fear of fatal retaliation, such disparities are accounted for in the law’s provision of means to do so. Thus, as criminals have less to fear in the realm of physical harm (specifically the possibility of the victim being in possession of a firearm), burglary or assault become crimes with relatively less negative consequence.

Another 2010 statistic indicating decreased criminal concern of retaliatory measures shows 56 percent of UK burglaries take place while the victim is home, whereas only 25 percent of burglaries in the US occur with the homeowner present.

In an effort to gain a better understanding of two countries destined to produce different outcomes from similar policies we must understand that we are not one in the same. However, if we are to introduce the United Kingdom into our own gun control debate, let us at least introduce all the relevant statistics.

In the meantime, it is it hard to take seriously a president who wants to ban assault rifles in the interest of public safety in a country where 70 percent of gun related homicides are conducted with a handgun. Morgan uses similar rhetoric stressing the point that Americans don’t “need” assault rifles. It seems only a matter of time before American’s won’t “need” a second amendment either. After all, if Morgan was serious about reducing gun-related deaths, his focus would be on handguns, not rifles.

The policy comparison tactic between the US and the UK is designed to intentionally mislead the public into supporting a blatant step towards banning all firearms. By equating the United States to the United Kingdom, American civil liberties take a backseat and the Constitution is left debilitated under the all too familiar guise of “public safety”.

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