UK's Increase in Crime Not Related to Gun Control

RECEIVED Tue., Aug. 12, 2003

David Honish said in his letter of Aug. 8 ("Guns Prevent Violence") that the UK's ban on the ownership of handguns was followed by a rise in violent crime. Despite the implication, this is not cause and effect. Gun ownership in the UK was controlled before the ban, and handgun owners were members of target-shooting clubs and had to store their guns in secure conditions, usually at the club. Unlike Texas, they were not permitted to carry their guns with them, and home or personal defense was not a valid reason to be granted a gun license.
    Handguns were banned because of public revulsion after two incidents at Hungerford and Dunblane when members of shooting clubs used legally registered guns to go on murderous shooting sprees. The notorious 1996 incident in Dunblane was the final straw. Sixteen 5- and 6-year-old children and their teacher were shot multiple times to death in their school, and another 10 children and three teachers were wounded.
    Although handgun target shooting was a fast-growing sport, only a tiny fraction of the UK population owned guns. The desire to own a gun is viewed with suspicion by the majority, so there was almost no opposition, other than from shooting-club members, to the banning of handguns.
    While regrettably there has been an increase in violent crime in the UK, much of it related to illegal drugs, death by gun is nowhere near the U.S. level. In 1999 there were 4.08 gun homicides per 10,000 U.S. population and 0.12 gun homicides per 10,000 population in England/Wales.
    There are greatly different cultural attitudes to guns between the UK and U.S., which makes drawing comparisons of limited use. While the widespread ownership of guns might prevent or increase violence, citing the UK ban on handguns is not relevant to the discussion.
Peter May
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