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A British Perspective

On the peacefulness of an armed society:

Brits arriving in New York, hoping to avoid being slaughtered on day one of their shopping mission to Manhattan are, by day two, beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about. By day three they have had had the scales lifted from their eyes.

I have met incredulous British tourists who have been shocked to the core by the peacefulness of the place, the lack of the violent undercurrent so ubiquitous in British cities, even British market towns.

"It seems so nice here," they quaver.

Well, it is!

How about that. This kind of ignorance is what happens when you rely on the BBC (in general) for your news about the colonies. Which makes it all the more surprising and out of character for it to print a piece like this.


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Steve wrote:

Could it be that our criminals know they MIGHT get shot and British criminals know they WON'T? Things that make ys' go HMMMMM?

Chuck Williams wrote:

New York City's murder rate is still twice that of London.

"But analysts pointed out that the five boroughs that make up the city - Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island - still have a murder rate more than twice as high as London. New York has one murder for every 16,600 inhabitants, while London has one for every 38,900."

Robert wrote:

I think the point of the article wasn't that guns lead to a civil society. I think the point was that a) guns don't preclude a civil society, and b) an absence of bands of youths who roam the streets drunk leads to a civil society. On the other hand, some college towns in the USA see that very behavior every weekend, usually without much incident.

Jim Bennett wrote:

But the New York murder rate, like that of most US cities, is disproportionately concentrated in the areas that drug gangs operate in. It is in substantial part an artifact of the "war on drugs".

Burglars in the UK ae now moving more to home invasions (i.e., deliberately entering while the residents are at home), partly because the passive measures adopted to combat burglaries have been somewhat effective. Needless to say, home invasions in the US are relatively rare expect in victim-disarmament zones. However, it is not gun control per se that is behind the UK crime rates -- shotguns are still legal and they would be perfectly adequate to stop home invasions. It is the difference in self-defense doctrines that is the real problem. Using a gun to defend your self against an invader even inside your own home can get you prosecuted. Reformers should address the self-defense doctrines first and then worry about choice of weapons.

Jonathan wrote:

Broad-brush comparisons of US vs. UK crime are highly misleading. US crime rates vary greatly by region (i.e., culture). Not only does the USA overall have lower rates of violent crime than does the UK overall, many parts of the USA have murder rates that are lower than UK murder rates. And for those parts of the USA -- mainly a few big cities -- that have high murder rates by UK and western European standards, the rates are higher not just for murders committed with guns but also for murders done with knives, hands and feet, etc.

The violent-crime problem in Britain has little to do with guns. It has much to do with the criminalization of self-defense and with a political decision to replicate the USA's failed 1960s experiment in non-punishment of crime.

Bruce Hoult wrote:

Hmm .. having thus far only left the security of New Zealand to visit Australia, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the USA (13 trips and 19 months in total so far, spread over nearly 20 years) ... perhaps I really don't want to visit the UK after all.

Jay Manifold wrote:


1. I thought "there is no public drunkenness in polite America, simply none" was bizarre. There is almost nothing but public drunkenness (or narcotic use) in precisely the most dangerous neighborhoods of the city where I live. In those neighborhoods the violent death rate approaches that of pre-surge Iraq (~80 per 100,000 per year), and it can be challenging to spot a single pedestrian who is not visibly intoxicated (or mentally ill). It's poor impulse control on parade.

2. Outside of such neighborhoods, Americans live in the safest large communities ever created by human beings, particularly in the West North Central census region.

3. What Jim Bennett said.

4. Alastair Cooke is unfortunately no longer available for comment. I'd love to have heard what he would have had to say about all this.

Josh Reiter wrote:

"New York City's murder rate is still twice that of London."

But probably half of all murders are what we call, "good riddance" deaths. Meaning, good riddance some idiot criminal shot and killed some other idiot criminal.

DaveP. wrote:

London murder rates are half what New York murder rates are... maybe true (the English cops don't report crimes the same way the New York cops do, and tend to underreport for bueraucratic reasons) but incredibly misleading.
First, New York (even though it is safer today than it has been in a long time) is still on the far end of the curve as far as per-capita violence. Most of the less-violent places are areas where guns are NOT banned, and the violence rate tends to decrease as gun control does. Contrarily, of course, most of the MORE-violent places in America have the most draconian gun control: Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington DC...

Second, England as a whole has banned guns. It is impossible for a common citizen to own a handgun for self-protection in England, and extraordinarily difficult to own a longarm and keep it in one's home. Yet London has a murder rate half that of a city that, while it itself bans guns, is in a nation notorious for gun ownership and in a state where it is legal to own and carry a handgun for self-protection, and with a high percentage of hunters.
Sorta implies that banning guns doesn't do all that much good, doesn't it?

In other words, most of the most violent cities in America have gun laws reminiscent of London's, where they don't work either.

How's THAT fit your narrative, Chuck?

Edward Wright wrote:

FWIW, on my first trip to England, I needed to stop at a bank to use an ATM machine. That cost me an entire afternoon because I happened to pick a bank that had just been robbed and the police had the entire block sealed off.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on April 27, 2008 7:12 AM.

A New Rule was the previous entry in this blog.

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