My Thoughts on Gun Control, Based on a Comparative Analysis of the US and the UK

A celebrated US gun control advert - from 1981, I believe. The world has moved on (West Germany no long exists, for example, following German reunification), but the facts remain broadly the same - dozens of gun-related deaths per year in other countries, over 10,000 in the US.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

Following the latest gun-based terrorist atrocity in US (the Las Vegas Strip Massacre, in which a 64-year old white man shot dead 59 people and wounded more than 500), here are my thoughts on gun control, based on a comparative analysis of the differences between the US and the UK.

First of all, let me explain that, in London, where I live, I can’t, off the top of my head, think of where to find a single gun shop. In contrast, I think it’s fair to say, guns are readily available in the US.

As CNN explains, “Hundreds of stores sell guns, from big chains like Walmart to family-run shops.” Background checks are conducted in store purchases,” where gun buyers have to fill out a form from the ATF (the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). However,required information only includes the buyer’s name, address, place of birth, race and citizenship. The store then runs a background check with the FBI, but this is a process that can only take a few minutes. There’s also a loophole to avoid any kind of background check — buying a gun at one of America’s many gun shows, where there are no checks.

In contrast, this is what you have to do to get a gun in the UK (the information is from the UK government):

You need a firearms certificate issued by the police to possess, buy or acquire a firearm or shotgun. You must also have a certificate to buy ammunition. You can get a firearm or shotgun certificate application form from the firearms licensing unit of your local police force.

You must: complete an application form; provide 4 passport photographs; have 2 referees for a firearm certificate and 1 referee for shotgun certificate; pay the fee for the certificate you are applying for.

You must also prove to the chief officer of police that you’re allowed to have a firearms certificate and pose no danger to public safety or to the peace.

A shotgun certificate won’t be given or renewed if the chief officer of police has a reason that you shouldn’t be allowed to have a shotgun under the Firearms Act. Or if they don’t think you have a good reason to have, buy or acquire a shotgun.

So now here are some statistics.

There was a total of 571 homicides (murder, manslaughter and infanticide) in the year ending March 2016 in England and Wales.

26 of those homicide victims (5% of the total) were killed by shooting.

In contrast, in the US, in 2015, there were 13,500 deaths by shooting.

The US has a population five times larger than the UK, so if the US had Britain’s gun laws, it is reasonable to assume that the death toll from guns would drop from 13,500 a year to around 130.

Or, to put it another way, if the UK had America’s gun culture, instead of 26 people being killed every year by guns, the number would be 2,700.

In other words, 100 times more people are killed by guns in the US than in the UK.

The US has around 300 million guns, whereas the UK has 1.8 million.

If the UK followed the US’s example, there would be 60 million guns in the UK.

If the US followed the UK’s example, there would be just nine million guns in the US.

And if there were just nine million guns in the US, instead of 300 million, I think it’s fair to suggest that there would be a phenomenal reduction in the number of gun deaths.

Defenders of America’s gun culture like to claim that “guns don’t kill people: people kill people,” but the evidence demonstrates that, in fact, while people do of course kill people, the overwhelming conclusion that has to be drawn from a dispassionate analysis of the facts is that it is predominantly people with guns who kill people.

Try gun control now, and see what happens.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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