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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lessons for UK knife crime from gun control in the USA

Calls to legalise guns, allowing ordinary citizens to arm themselves, have at times dominated this blog. The reason this debate is allowed to feature on a knife crime blog is because the broader issues are highly relevant i.e. about carrying weapons - blades or guns - and all types of violent crime. In short, as well as anti-knife, this blog is anti-all weapons for private use including anti-gun. Ultimately, this blog is focused on achieving non-violent, civilised, peaceful - and one day, we hope, happy - existence.

Many pro-gunners have spent some time on this blog trying to argue private gun use should be allowed, alluding to legal use in the USA making their 'pro' position valid (e.g. Graham Showell and Britain Needs Guns). Bearing that in mind, I was interested in recent murder / killing statistics published in Time magazine (Aug 20 2012) demonstrating unequivocally that the USA clearly has a major gun problem, and most definitely not a solution to the country's ills (or the world's, for that matter).

From 'The Case for Gun Control' by Fareed Zakaria: "Gun violence in America is off the chart compared to every other country on the planet. The gun-homicide rate per capita in the US is 30 times that of Britain and Australia, 10 times that of India and four times that of Switzerland.

"... [The USA] does have many, many more guns. There are 88.8 firearms per 100 people in the US. In second place is Yemen with 54.8, then Switzerland with 45.7 and Finland with 45.3. No other country has a rate above 40. The US handgun-ownership rate is 70% higher than that of the country with the next highest rate."

And an indisputable fact is very obvious: crime has been falling over the past few decades in the US. Specifically, while violent crime rates have fallen by 20%, numbers of firearm homicides is essentially unchanged. Zakaria makes the blindingly obvious point: "What can explain this anomaly except easier access to guns?" And to try to hammer home his point, he courts controversy by remarking that when people throw up their hands and say nothing can be done about guns, tell them they're being un-American - and unintelligent.

So it is also the case for knives. As for guns, common sense (as well as the evidence) is crystal clear that less knife carrying would reduce killings and maiming. The more we can ensure criminal knife use is prevented, the more we can ensure people - mainly our sons - can stay alive.

Preventing easy access to and sale of knives, licensing their use for carrying in public places, doesn't seem quite as dramatic a step as we may have initially thought. It must be straightforward to better control sales of large combat knives (that killed Jacky Marshall, for whom this blog was set up 'in memoriam' after she was stabbed to death in a Chichester McDonald's fast food restaurant) and any kind of blade carried for self-protection... surely?

So... if anyone tells you little can be done about knives (or guns), just tell them they're being un-British - and unintelligent.