In 1997, the United Kingdom enacted strict legislation effectively banning almost all firearms across the country. This was in the wake of the Dunblane school massacre, which sent the entire nation into a panic over gun control.
So, how did this ban affect gun crime in the United Kingdom? It rose, dramatically.
The number of crimes in England and Wales involving firearms nearly doubled over the course of six years, before slowly tapering off. Only recently have crime rates reached their pre-ban levels. There are numerous explanations for this, including the commonly spouted rhetoric that when guns are outlawed, only the outlaws have guns. By forcing guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, they had far more to fear from criminals, and criminals had far less to fear from their victims.
The 1996 Australian firearms ban prohibited all semiautomatic rifles and shotguns, and established a much stricter licensing system. Much like the United Kingdom’s gun control attempts, it had a similarly luke-warm effect. As of 2008, Australia has seen only a nine percent decrease in gun-related homicides and a one-third decrease in armed robbery rates from the 1990s. It also saw a 40 percent increase in assaults, and a 20 percent increase in sexual assaults.
These aren’t philosophical musings or hypothetical questions. We have seen the results of weapons bans before, and they aren’t exactly positive. It’s also worth keeping in mind that these bans both took place in island nations, which have none of the difficulties the United States does as far as border control is concerned.
There is literally a massive war taking place right now in a country that is connected by land to the U.S. Not only that, but it is a war being fought by criminals against a government.
Is it really so unlikely that if the United States did enact far-stricter regulations on firearms, they would still travel into the country in massive quantities from our southern border? If bans on cannabis, cocaine, and heroin have been such colossal failures, what chance do we have of ever enforcing gun control?
Not to mention the impossible task of enforcing such regulations in some southern states where guns are as big a part of cultural identity as rain is to the Pacific Northwest.
I’m not saying there should be no regulations on gun ownership whatsoever. It is true that gun ownership rates and successful suicide attempts have a strong positive correlation, due to the fact that suicide is a reasonably impulsive decision, and as anyone who has survived an attempt will tell you, facing death has a way of putting things in perspective.
But, putting a gun into those people’s hands is not the thing that makes them want to kill themselves. Guns do create opportunities for violence, in the same way poverty creates incentives. But, an opportunity without action is nothing. It needs an agent to act upon it.
Guns are tools. Admittedly, they are tools meant to perform a singular, brutal action, but they are tools nonetheless. A hammer does not hit a nail on its own. It requires a craftsman wielding it to do so.