June 12th, 2010

Failure of Euro-Style Gun Control Explained by Professor Lott

Cumbria England shooting UKIn the wake of a tragic, multiple shooting in Cumbria, England, there have been renewed calls for yet MORE gun bans in the UK. But it remains to be seen how much further the Brits can go without banning virtually all firearms. The Cumbria shooter was armed with an ordinary shotgun. Britain has already banned handguns and revolvers, banned self-loading and pump-action rifles, and banned most shotguns that hold more than two shells. The Brits have even banned Airsoft-type toy guns. The UK’s Violent Crime Reduction Act of 2006 made it a crime to manufacture, import or sell realistic imitation guns, and doubled the maximum sentence for carrying an imitation gun to 12 months. In Britain, it is even against the law to fire an air weapon beyond the boundary of any premises.

Can Britain prevent future mass shootings by banning yet more classes of firearms (whatever that might be)? Recent history suggests the answer is no. In Europe, some of the worst multiple-victim shootings occurred in those countries with the tightest restrictions on firearms. In the UK, to acquire a shotgun, one must go through a police interview, show “good reason” to own the shotgun, and then obtain a police-issued certificate. The police then visit the applicant’s home to verify the shotgun will be securely stored.

Cumbria England shooting UK

Lott Says More Gun Bans Won’t Solve Problem
Professor John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime, has written an interesting essay for the National Review Online. In that article, Lott analyzes the history of recent mass shootings in Europe. What he has found is that virtually all of these shootings have occurred in locations where it is illegal for private citizens to wield guns for self-protection. Lott suggests, therefore, that the problem of mass shootings will not be solved by more gun control… so long as potential victims are rendered defenseless by laws restricting the right to armed self-defense. Lott writes: “Look at recent history… all of the [multiple-victim public shootings in Western Europe] occurred in gun-free zones — places where guns in the hands of civilians are outlawed.” Here is Prof. Lott’s summary:

Contrary to public perception, Western Europe, most of whose countries have much tougher gun laws than the United States, has experienced many of the worst multiple-victim public shootings. Particularly telling, all the multiple-victim public shootings in Western Europe have occurred in places where civilians are not permitted to carry guns. The same is true in the United States: All the public shootings in which more than three people have been killed have occurred in places where civilians may not legally bring guns.

Large multiple-victim public shootings are exceedingly rare events, but they garner massive news attention, and the misperceptions they produce are hard to erase. When I have been interviewed by foreign journalists, even German ones, they usually start off by asking why multiple-victim public shootings are such an American problem. And of course, they are astonished when I remind them of the attacks in their own countries and point out that this is not an American problem, it is a universal problem, but with a common factor: The attacks occur in public places where civilians are banned from carrying guns. — John Lott

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