A study which was recently published by Harvard took a look at firearm ownership, gun laws and violent crime, and suicide rates around the world. The authors sought to answer the question would banning firearms reduce murder and suicide?
The study, which was conducted by Don B. Kates, an American criminologist and constitutional lawyer, and Gary Mauser, a Canadian criminologist and university professor, offered a stark truth: More guns does not equal more deaths and less guns does not equal less deaths.
Kates and Mauser claim in the study that while some international comparisons have been viewed as evidence that more guns equals more deaths and therefore to reduce guns will reduce deaths, they indicate that some of these studies use inaccurate or misleading information to obtain the results.
According to the study, the so-called fact that the reason the murder rate is so high in the United States compared with other modern developed countries is due to the U.S. having uniquely easy access to guns, is simply not true. The study indicates those homicide rates are not an accurate representation and moreover, that those rates have nothing to do with the number of firearms in the country.
While gun ownership in the U.S. is high, the unusually high murder rate is not the norm. The study compares other developed countries with high gun ownership rates, including Norway, Finland, Germany, France and Denmark. These countries all have significantly lower murder rates than the U.S. as well as those countries in which gun ownership is much more uncommon. In other words, the high murder rate of the U.S. is the exception, not the rule, when comparing homicide rates to gun ownerships rates.
For example, in Luxembourg handguns are completely banned and gun ownership of any kind is extremely rare. However, the country’s murder rate is nine times that of Germany’s, despite Germany having gun ownership rates 30,000 times higher than Luxembourg.
In another instance, the study compares the U.S. with Russia. It cites that once the Soviet Union succeeded in disarming the majority of civilians, beginning in the 1960s murder rates skyrocketed. By the 1990s murder rates had become so high that the basically gun-less Russia was left with the highest murder rate of the civilized world, three times higher than that of the U.S., despite the country’s long-standing strict and stringent gun control policies.
In addition, other countries of the former Soviet Union, which have held on to the strict gun control policies, including the Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, as well as various other now‐independent European nations, all have similar murder rates.
The fact that these countries have very few firearms has not reduced the rate of violent crimes. In fact, according to the study, “Homicide results suggest that where guns are scarce other weapons are substituted in killings.”
In comparing gun ownership rates with homicide rates, the study concludes that “where firearms where are most dense violent crime rates are lowest, and where guns are least dense violent crime rates are highest.”
Just as the United States’ unusually high murder rate is used in the argument for gun control, England’s unusually low murder rate prior to the 1990s along with the country’s low rate of gun ownership presently is often cited as factual evidence that gun control reduces violence.
Yet, according to the study, what fails to be acknowledged is that first, England was already experiencing an all-time low in violence before gun control measures were introduced. Secondly, in the late 1990s England started to initiate stricter gun control policies, resulting in a complete ban of handguns as well as many long guns. Hundreds of thousands of firearms were confiscated from law-abiding citizens. By the year 2000, violent crime in England had increased so much that it had one of the highest violent crime rates in all of Europe, evening higher than that of the U.S.
In addition, England’s most recent crime statistics have been grossly misrepresented. In 2006 the criminal justice system, in an attempt to conserve resources, initiated a policy in which the police would no longer investigate “minor” crimes, such as burglary and minor assault. If a mugger, robber, burglar or others engaged in minor criminal activities are caught, the police simply give them a warning – a virtual slap on the wrist – then send them on their way, without filing charges, arresting or prosecuting them. In other words, crime has not gone down in England, but rather “minor” crimes are simply no longer counted as crime.