Ask any devoted gun-hater and he’ll tell you it’s just “common sense” that guns in the hands of private citizens will only lead to more crime. The high homicide rate in the United States (relative to other Western industrialized societies) and its high gun-ownership rate are cited without question as evidence for this position.
The trouble is, a more thorough examination of the facts reveals that not all is as it would seem. For example, as Ryan McMaken has pointed out, there really is no such thing as an American homicide rate. A multiplicity of states spread across a continent, each comprised of different races, religions, ethnic groups, poverty rates – and gun laws – reveals that attempts to sum up causes for crime in such simplistic terms is destined to fail.
International comparisons are rife with pitfalls. Norway, for example, has a gun-ownership rate comparable with the United States (about 36 percent), but a very low homicide rate. Switzerland also stands out, with its liberal gun laws and very low homicide rate. Fairer country-to-country comparisons would be made between the US and Brazil or Russia, two countries with large, diverse populations spread over large geographical areas. Both of the latter have homicide rates far in excess of the U.S. rate, despite their very strict gun laws.
Furthermore, countries in Western Europe with historically low homicide rates have seen conditions worsen under strict gun-control regimes. After the UK banned handguns in 1997 its homicide rate spiked by 50 percent (Scotland’s rate shot up to the highest in Western Europe). Several years later it finally returned to pre-ban levels – a “success” touted by its rabid pro-control elites – but knife-related and gun-related crime are both rising, along with the number of murders, rapes, and assaults committed by knife-wielding attackers. The promise that strict gun control would make people safer has been proven wrong time and again.
Back in the United States, one city provides an interesting study in contrasts. While cities like Chicago and New York have banned or strictly limited handgun ownership, the city of Kennesaw, Georgia (population: approximately 30,000), actually passed an ordinance in 1982 requiring that each household contain at least one firearm. A generation later the results are clear: In the last six years there has been just one homicide. That means the wealthy country of Lichtenstein – with approximately 37,000 people and very strict gun laws – has had more homicides than gun-friendly Kennesaw in recent years.