Saturday, July 05, 2008

Rash and bloody deeds

Powerline's "Hindrocket" --

In Great Britain, following decades of increasingly stringent gun control, private ownership of handguns was banned in 1997. And, in fact, there appear to be few firearms in private hands.

But the result has not been what was intended. Crime rates in the U.K. have risen steadily, and violent crime has increased alarmingly in recent years. London is currently in the grip of a crime wave, as one brutal, sensational murder follows another. The perpetrators are nearly always young, and the crimes, often unspeakably vicious, are generally of the type conventionally labeled "senseless." The weapon of choice these days is the knife, and British papers are full of discussion of what to do about "knife crime."

From this you wouldn't want to conclude that knives have simply substituted for guns to produce a US style crime wave. For example, for the last period measured, 2006/07, England and Wales had 19,157 crimes of "most serious violence against the person" (Table 2.04), of which 755 were homicides. Statistical changes impede a direct comparison with the late 1990s, so evidence of a "crime wave" is tenuous (and the number of homicides is little different, despite population growth).

But here's another comparison. You can get to almost the same number of homicides by adding the 2007 murders for Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Forth Worth -- cities with a combined population of just over 5 million people, and therefore less than a tenth of the population of England and Wales. The aggravated assault comparison is just as bad.

Knife crime is of course a problem. But it doesn't spin you out of confronting the role that the overall supply of guns plays in driving crime rates in the USA.

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