Britain can make itself safer by legalising handguns, libertarian think tank the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) has said.
In an article on their website, the ASI cites a recent report which looks into the causes and reasons behind the fluctuating levels of homicide and violent crime.
The report notes the general trend of violence growing between 1200 and 1505, which then suddenly nosedives over a 400-year period until the start of the 20th century. The fall coincides with an age of growing firearm ownership, until European governments started strictly regulating them.
One of the most concerning points of the report is the degree to which violence has increased in the United Kingdom since laws controlling the ownership of firearms were first seriously enacted in the 1920s.
Quoting the report, they said: “The homicide rate in England in 1920 was 0.84 and the assault rate was 2.39. In 1999, the corresponding rates were 1.44 and 419.29. Thus both the homicide and assault rates increased as the effective supply of handguns declined… That’s a 17,544% increase in England’s assault crime over the past 100 years”.
The report challenged the conventional ‘Whig’ view of history – that people have become progressively less violent as they have enjoyed the “civilising process” of European history – adding that study of historical fact didn’t support the idea that strong governments reduced murder rates, rather than an armed populace.
It explained: “Belgium and the Netherlands were at the forefront of the decline, yet they lacked strong centralized governments. When Sweden joined the trend, it wasn’t on the heels of an expansion in state power either. Conversely, the Italian states were in the rearguard of the decline in violence, yet their governments wielded an enormous bureaucracy and police force.
“The civilizing process theory is not consistent with the rise in violence between 1200 and 1500, it does not explain the sudden and precipitous decline and reversal of trend that occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries, and it is not consistent with the 1793 reversal of trend.”
This is not the first time the present British laws on handgun ownership, which are so strict they force the British Olympic pistol shooting team to train abroad, have been criticised recently. UKIP leader Nigel Farage became the first senior British politician to discuss the legalisation of handguns last year when he said it would be party policy.
Farage said: “Proper gun licensing is something we have done in this country responsibly and well and I think the knee jerk legislation that Blair brought in that meant… if you criminalise handguns then only the criminals carry the guns.
“We need a proper gun licensing system to which we already have, and I think the ban on handguns is ludicrous”.
Although Farage was criticised at the time for giving a “green light” to criminals and was accused of wanting to see “American-style crime” with his comments, the ASI insists there is no reason a return to gun ownership should increase the murder rate: “Switzerland and Israel have rates of homicide that are low despite rates of home firearm ownership that are at least as high as those in the United States”, they remark.