Dr. Ben Witherington III wrote a post on Wednesday morning attempting to reconcile his own support for strong gun control laws with Sunday's halt of a killer in Colorado Springs by an armed civilian. As I had a final exam to complete, I decided to go after only one of Dr. Witherington's erroneous points:
This much I know. I have lived in countries with much stricter gun control laws, and it certainly helps in regard to this problem, though it does not prevent them altogether.
In the comments, I wrote:
Statistics and sources, please. This is a big assertion. You need to back it up.
And Witherington responded:
I have lived in the U.K. for various years of my life, and so my experience is largely from England and Scotland. I have read the statistics taken over long periods of time and they seem very clear on this. I do not have them ready to hand, but we have blogged on this point last year, and someone did kindly provide the data-- a Mennonite if memory serves. It really isn't disputable.
What is interesting is that in a more pagan country like Canada, which nonetheless has a less Rambo heritage, being part of the Commonwealth, there is less violence even with somewhat similar gun control laws. I put this down to the greater civility and humane-ness bred into that culture, whereas what we are seeing in America is the coarsening of the culture in many ways (shock jocks and increasingly ugly politics are just two bad examples of this phenomenon).
I wrote a response with actual evidence. It should have been the 32nd comment. It fell into the moderation queue, but was not approved. There are now 46 comments in the thread.
Working from memory, this was the content of my comment:
I dispute it.
Gun crime is just part of an increasingly lawless environment. From 1991 to 1995, crimes against the person in England's inner cities increased 91 percent. And in the four years from 1997 to 2001, the rate of violent crime more than doubled. Your chances of being mugged in London are now six times greater than in New York. England's rates of assault, robbery, and burglary are far higher than America's, and 53 percent of English burglaries occur while occupants are at home, compared with 13 percent in the U.S., where burglars admit to fearing armed homeowners more than the police. In a United Nations study of crime in 18 developed nations published in July, England and Wales led the Western world's crime league, with nearly 55 crimes per 100 people.
Unfortunately, these new firearm regulations do not appear to have made the streets of Australia safer. Consider homicide rates. Homicide involving firearms is declining but the total homicide rates have remained basically flat from 1995 through to 2001 (Mouzos 2001). However, early reports show that the national homicide rate may have begun climbing again. Mouzos (2003) reports that homicides in 2001/02 increased by 20% from 2000/01. She also reports that, despite the declining firearm homicides, there is an increase in multiple victim incidents. Homicide rates remain at a historic high. Shortly after World War II, the Australian homicide rate was around 1 per 100,000. Since then, it has climbed until it peaked at 2.4 per 100,000 in 1988 (Graycar 2001).
The decline in homicide rate in the United States stands out against the flat—or even rising—homicide rate in Australia (figure 7). The divergence between Australia and the United States is even more apparent when one considers violent crime (figure 8). While violent crime is decreasing in the United States, it continues to increase in Australia. Over the past 6 years, both assault and robbery show no signs of decreasing (Australian Institute of Criminology 2003) (figure 9). It is too early to tell whether the gun ban has exacerbated the problem or simply not had any effect.
Crime was not supposed to rise after handguns were banned. Yet, since 1996 the serious-violent-crime rate has soared by 69 percent; robbery is up 45 percent, and murders up 54 percent. Before the law, armed robberies had fallen 50 percent from 1993 to 1997, but as soon as handguns were banned the robbery rate shot back up, almost to its 1993 level.
There's my evidence. Now where, Dr. Witherington, is yours?
What I wonder is why Ben Witherington did not see fit to approve this comment from the moderation queue. Could it be that he does not wish to be presented with evidence contrary to his opinions?