Gun Control -
A Failure of Policy, a Failure of Purpose
firearms are only a small fraction of criminal
violence, the public would not be safer if
restrictive legislation could reduce firearm
violence but had no effect on total criminal
firearm legislation has failed to reduce gun
violence in Australia, Canada, and Great Britain.
The policy of confiscating guns has been an
expensive failure, according to the paper
Experiment: Gun Control and Public Safety in Canada,
Australia, England and Wales, authored by
Professor Gary Mauser of the Simon Fraser
“What makes gun
control so compelling for many is the belief that
violent crime is driven by the availability of guns,
and more importantly, that criminal violence in
general may be reduced by limiting access to
firearms,” says Gary Mauser.
study examines crime trends in Commonwealth
countries that have recently introduced firearm
regulations. Mauser notes that the widely ignored
key to evaluating firearm regulations is to examine
trends in total violent crime, not just firearm
United States provides a valuable point of
comparison for assessing crime rates as that country
has witnessed a dramatic drop in criminal violence
over the past decade – for example, the homicide
rate in the US has fallen 42 percent since 1991.
This is particularly significant when compared with
the rest of the world – in 18 of the 25 countries
surveyed by the British Home Office, violent crime
increased during the 1990s.
justice system in the U.S. differs in many ways from
those in the Commonwealth but perhaps the most
striking difference is that qualified citizens in
the United States can carry concealed handguns for
self-defence. During the past few decades, more than
25 states in the U.S. have passed laws allowing
responsible citizens to carry concealed handguns. In
2003, there are 35 states where citizens can get
such a permit.
Disarming the public has not reduced criminal
violence in any country examined in this study. In
all these cases, disarming the public has been
ineffective, expensive, and often counter
productive. In all cases, the effort meant setting
up expensive bureaucracies that produce no
noticeable improvement to public safety or
have made the situation worse. Mauser points to
these trends in the countries he examined:
England and Wales
Conservative and Labour governments have introduced
restrictive firearms laws over the past 20 years;
all handguns were banned in 1997.
the 1990s alone, the homicide rate jumped 50
percent, going from 10 per million in 1990 to 15
per million in 2000. While not yet as high as the
US, in 2002 gun crime in England and Wales increased
by 35 percent. This is the fourth consecutive year
that gun crime has increased.
statistics show that violent crime in general has
increased since the late 1980s and since 1996 has
been more serious than in the United States.
Australian government made sweeping changes to the
firearms legislation in 1997. However, the total
homicide rate, after having remained basically flat
from 1995 to 2001, has now begun climbing again.
While violent crime is decreasing in the United
States, it is increasing in Australia. Over the past
six years, the overall rate of violent crime in
Australia has been on the rise – for example, armed
robberies have jumped 166 percent nationwide.
The confiscation and destruction of
legally owned firearms has cost Australian taxpayers
at least $500 million. The cost of the police
services bureaucracy, including the costly
infrastructure of the gun registration system,
has increased by $200 million since 1997.
“And for what?” asks Mauser. “There
has been no visible impact on violent crime. It is
impossible to justify such a massive amount of the
taxpayers’ money for no decrease in crime. For that
kind of tax money, the police could have had more
patrol cars, shorter shifts, or better equipment.”
The contrast between
the criminal violence rates in the United States and
in Canada is dramatic. Over the past decade,
the rate of violent crime in Canada has increased
while in the United States the violent crime rate
has plummeted. The homicide rate is dropping faster
in the US than in Canada.
Canadian experiment with firearm registration is
becoming a farce says Mauser. The effort to register
all firearms, which was originally claimed to cost
only $2 million, has now been estimated by the
Auditor General to top $1 billion. The final costs
are unknown but, if the costs of enforcement are
included, the total could easily reach $3 billion.
an illusion that gun bans protect the public. No
law, no matter how restrictive, can protect us from
people who decide to commit violent crimes. Maybe we
should crack down on criminals rather than hunters
and target shooters?” says Mauser.