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An International Survey of Gun Laws and Violent Crime:. The Republic of Ireland, Jamaica, Great Britain, Australia, and Canada . Dr. Gary A Mauser. Professor Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies Faculty of Business Administration Simon Fraser University Burnaby, BC, Canada

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an international survey of gun laws and violent crime

An International Survey of Gun Laws and Violent Crime:

The Republic of Ireland,

Jamaica, Great Britain,

Australia, and Canada

dr gary a mauser
Dr. Gary A Mauser

Professor

Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies

Faculty of Business Administration

Simon Fraser University

Burnaby, BC, Canada

Presented to the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology

Renaissance Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee

Saturday, 20 November 2004

American Society of Criminology

do british style firearm regulations create a safer society
Do British-style firearm regulations create a safer society?
  • Gun laws are explicitly focused on controlling firearms, but
  • The promise is that more restrictive gun laws will make society safer
  • What is the international evidence?

American Society of Criminology

an experiment in brazil
An experiment in Brazil
  • “[The gun law] is … to cut the spiral of violence.. ”
    • President Luiz da Silva, Brazil
  • “The amnesty is the latest step in the [Brazil] government’s efforts to reduce violent crime.”
    • BBC report November 11, 2003

American Society of Criminology

promises in south africa
Promises in South Africa
  • “South Africa hopes to make a dent in its frighteningly high crime rate with a new gun-control law that went into effect …”
    • Agence France Presse, National Post, July 3, 2004, A10
  • “We believe that in the long term these laws will ultimately create a safer South Africa.”
    • Police spokesman Andrew Lesch, July 3, 2004

American Society of Criminology

how can we measure improvements in public safety
How can we measure improvements in public safety?
  • Violent crime rates should drop
  • Homicide rates should fall
  • Not just criminal violence involving guns, but all criminal violence should fall
  • Not just gun homicide, but total homicide

American Society of Criminology

which measures are the most appropriate
Which measures are the most appropriate?
  • Gun deaths
  • Gun violence
  • Total violent crime
    • Robbery, armed robbery
  • Total homicide (or murder)

American Society of Criminology

gun death is a red herring
Gun Death is a Red Herring
  • Gun deaths are largely suicides
  • Suicide is not central to public safety
  • Substitution effect is supported empirically
  • The removal of firearms or sharps must balance liberty with personal safety

American Society of Criminology

gun death is mostly suicide
Gun death is mostly suicide
  • 57% of gun deaths in the US are due to suicides
  • 77% of gun deaths in Canada are due to suicides

American Society of Criminology

gun violence
Gun Violence
  • It is relevant to ask whether gun laws cause gun violence to decrease (or increase),
  • But …is this the best measure of public safety?
  • A policy could reduce gun violence, but overall violent crime could still increase
  • Gun crime is a small fraction of violent crime

American Society of Criminology

gun violence is a small fraction of violent crime
Gun violence is a small fraction of violent crime
  • Violent crime involving firearms:
  • Canada (2003) 2%
  • England and Wales (2001) 1%
  • United States (1999) 7%

American Society of Criminology

the most appropriate measures of public safety
The most appropriate measures of public safety
  • Homicide rate (or murder)
  • Violent crime rate
  • Robbery, armed robbery

American Society of Criminology

international trends compared with trends in the us
International trends compared with trends in the US
  • Countries that have introduced harsh general firearms laws in the 1990s:
    • Australia, Great Britain, and Canada
  • Countries that completely banned firearms in the 1970s:
    • Republic of Ireland and Jamaica

American Society of Criminology

a natural quasi experiment
A natural quasi-experiment
  • The justice system in the United States has increasingly diverged from that in Britain or in the Commonwealth:
    • Arrest/conviction rates higher in the US,
    • Sentencing/punishment more severe, and
    • Citizens can carry concealed handguns.

American Society of Criminology

please note
Please Note
  • To assess the effect of laws, we must compare trends across countries
  • Direct comparison of international averages is inappropriate
  • Police statistics, despite limitations, are the best international measure

American Society of Criminology

republic of ireland

Republic of Ireland

Gun prohibition and terrorism

irish gun law
Irish Gun Law
  • Firearms prohibited and confiscated in 1972
  • Concern with terrorism motivated this action as well as other police activities

American Society of Criminology

murders continue to increase
Murders continue to increase

American Society of Criminology

jamaica

Jamaica

The Gun Court and Drug Violence

jamaican gun laws
Jamaican Gun Laws
  • Gun court (1974 - 1982)
    • Firearms and ammunition prohibited
    • Mandatory life sentences
    • No bail, no jury trials for charges of possession of firearm or ammunition crimes,
  • Firearm ownership still prohibited

American Society of Criminology

murders continue to increase21
Murders continue to increase

American Society of Criminology

jamaican crime trends
Jamaican crime trends

American Society of Criminology

violent crime continues to increase
Violent crime continues to increase

American Society of Criminology

firearm laws have targeted legal owners
Firearm laws have targeted legal owners
  • The Firearms Amendment of 1988 was brought in following the Hungerford incident
    • Brought in shotgun licences
  • The Firearms Amendment of 1997 was brought in after the Dunblane shooting
    • Prohibited and confiscated all handguns

American Society of Criminology

homicide increasing
Homicide increasing

American Society of Criminology

murders increasing in scotland
Murders increasing in Scotland

American Society of Criminology

violent crime rates increasing
Violent crime rates increasing

American Society of Criminology

robbery is increasing but gun ownership legal is decreasing
Robbery is increasing but gun ownership (legal) is decreasing

American Society of Criminology

australian firearms legislation
Australian firearms legislation
  • In 1997, government brought in sweeping firearms legislation following shootings in Tasmania
  • Prohibited and confiscated semi-automatic long arms,
  • Introduced strict new licencing and registration regulations

American Society of Criminology

violent crime growing in australia but falling in the united states
Violent crime growing in Australia, but falling in the United States

American Society of Criminology

canadian firearms legislation
Canadian firearms legislation
  • 1977, introduced police screening for firearm purchasers
  • 1991, stiffer rules for ownership, prohibited a variety of firearms, magazines
  • 1995, owner licensing and universal firearm registration; banned many handguns

American Society of Criminology

violent crime rates are basically flat in canada but falling in the us
Violent crime rates are basically flat in Canada, but falling in the US

American Society of Criminology

decline in firearm suicide rate does not reduce total suicide rate
Decline in firearm suicide rate does not reduce total suicide rate

American Society of Criminology

1995 canadian firearms regulations
1995 Canadian firearms regulations
  • Total costs expected to reach $2 billion in 2004
  • Originally estimated to cost $2 million
  • Corruption investigation ongoing
  • No visible effect on violent crime rates or suicide rates

American Society of Criminology

summary
Summary
  • No evidence that restrictive firearm regulations have reduced violent crime or homicide rates in Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Jamaica, or the Republic of Ireland
  • Only the United States has witnessed a dramatic drop in criminal violence

American Society of Criminology

tentative conclusions
Tentative conclusions
  • British-style firearm laws and gun bans are ineffective and expensive
  • Prediction: new gun laws will fail in both Brazil and South Africa to curb violent crime or homicide

American Society of Criminology