I have argued on many occasions that gun violence is a result of culture and not of gun ownership or liberal gun laws.  This article in the Times shows that the British are learning exactly that.

Victorian gun crime—The Times, 03 March 2007 (emphasis added).

Illegally held guns are flooding Britain’s inner cities and a spate of fatal shootings in London has highlighted gun culture’s allure to disaffected youth. This comes despite the best efforts of the law and its enforcers to restrict the supply of guns. Yet, any man, woman or street urchin could own a gun in Victorian Britain — at least until 1870 when a licence fee was charged if they wanted to carry the weapon outside their home. And, surprisingly, there was very little gun crime.

The right to own firearms was enshrined in the 1689 Bill of Rights (the Americans had to get their ideas from somewhere) and as late as 1900 the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, was happy to declare how much he would “laud the day when there was a rifle in every cottage in England”.

There were a quarter of a million registered firearms in private hands before the First World War and the true figure was almost certainly far higher. In those years the average number of crimes involving firearms in London was 45. In 2006 it was 3,350.

True, in 1903 a Pistols Act restricted small handgun ownership to those who were not “drunken or insane”. This did not prove overrestrictive. When in 1909 unarmed police gave chase to a couple of gun-toting Latvian anarchist desperados in Tottenham, there was no shortage of passers-by who lent their pistols to the coppers.

. . .

[Later restrictive] legislation had less to do with armed robbery and more to do with the Lloyd George Government’s fear that a combination of disaffected soldiers returning from the Western Front, the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the surge in trade union membership might be harbingers of trouble. It was thus better if firearms were monopolised by the State and the more responsible classes.

. . .

In recent years, life in Britain’s cities has got far more dangerous. Since there are not more guns around, perhaps the real problem is cultural?

Ross Firestone, a commenter on the online version, notes:

Of course, the real problem is cultural.

In the rural American state of New Hampshire there are esssentially no gun laws. When I lived there as a boy I had the usual youthful arsenal: a handgun, a rimfire rifle, a shotgun and I was saving money to buy a center-fire rifle. Gun ownership is part of the culture of the state who’s motto is, “Live free or die!”. Yet the crime rate was very low then and still is.

I now live in urban Chicago. Handgun ownership is forbidden and long gun ownership is restricted so there are far fewer legally owned guns. The crime rate is 50 times that of New Hampshire.

This mirrors my own experience growing up in rural Utah and now living in the Nation’s Capital.  There wasn’t a problem with students bringing guns to school in my hometown.  Everyone just kept them in a gun rack in the back window of his pick-up.

(Via An Englishman’s Castle).

Advertisements