Thursday, May 27, 2004


A reader who takes more of an interest in guns than I do has emailed me as follows:

"The Australian compulsory gun "buyback": See the red line in slide 17 of this Australian Institute of Criminology report (PDF). (Background to the report here). Note that the "gun buyback" happened in 1997 but the national homicide rate showed not a twitch in response.

A more international flavoured report is here (PDF) which describes Australia's gun-buyback scheme and associated bans as a "failed experiment". The article concludes: "In all cases, disarming the public has been ineffective, expensive and often counterproductive". Also of note is this summary of the Australian statistics -- showing that "The number of (firearm) offences has increased even when 642,000 guns were destroyed".

It is not necessary to agree with Lott's contrarian "more guns equals less crime" hypothesis to support the long established right to own firearms -- as this summary of British history shows. This Austrian paper (PDF), for example, accepts as a starting position the idea that reduced gun availability would reduce crime, but then argues that the cost of enforcement and the extent of evasion undermines the practicality of the whole scheme. The real value of Lott is that his work dramatically shows that the much more widely believed "less guns equals less crime" hypothesis is based on not much more than wishful thinking. Sometimes science requires stirrers to shift the dead weight of unthinking complacency. The relationship between guns and crime is probably complex, changeable, highly dependent on other factors, highly variable between societies and even generations within the same society, and not easily subject to any simplistic "one size fits all" rules.

Unfortunately legislators and antigun zealots think we belong to a deterministic world where humans behave as predictably as Skinner-box pigeons. As humans are not pigeons, their ham-fisted legislation almost always fails, usually producing unintended consequences that the hapless social engineers never imagined. In general the great cost of establishing and enforcing these systems is money that would be better spent on more direct crime prevention and law enforcement measures. Something many police forces have actually pointed out: "The New Zealand government discontinued firearms registration in 1984 after the New Zealand police recommended it's termination. The Canadian Police Association was at the brink ofwithdrawing it's support of the firearms registration because of it's serious shortcomings. At the height of the Austrian gun debate some two years ago leading police officials stated that a then called-for prohibition of handguns would not only be senseless and a waste of time and money, but that itwould be outright dangerous because of it's impact on the black arms market." (Source again here [PDF])

This Canadian site calls gun control advocates. Hoplophobics. It's great to see the old leftist debating device of psychologising every competitive opinion (eg xenophobia, homophobia etc) used against them!"


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