The Truth About European Gun Laws

Gun control advocates like to compare the United States with Europe. They claim Europe’s low homicide rates are due to  their “tough” restrictions on gun ownership, use and carry. They ignore historical context. In fact, the laws restricting gun rights were implemented between World War One and World War Two. According to Don Kates . . .

European anti-gun laws only arrived after World War I, and they were not passed in order to curb crime. They were passed in response to the political violence of that tumultuous era (1918-1939) between the two World Wars.

Germany had no laws against the carrying of weapons or the acquisition of guns until 1919. In England, anyone could walk into a shop and buy a rifle until 1920, a shotgun until 1968. Buying a pistol at a shop only required a tax stamp, available at any post office, from 1903 until 1920. Private sales were unregulated. In France, modern gun laws began in 1938.

According to CNN . . .

. . . most [French] gun laws date back to the decrees of April 18, 1939. It was a time of official mobilization against Hitler’s imminent offensive, a time when a derelict French government cared less about its citizens killing each other than about the populace, or political factions, turning their weapons against the state for an insurrection.

Poland had widespread private arms ownership for self defense until under NAZI and Soviet occupations during and after WWII.

Following a severe increase in robberies in 1905, the Russian authorities reacted in 1906 by loosening the law and allowing all citizens free access to revolvers and ammunition, and to those who were gun permit holders virtually any firearm.

In Austria, according to a personal account, gun registration started in the 1940’s. I have not been able to find when Finnish gun laws were put into effect.  It was likely between 1918 and 1940.

The chart above is from a European academic paper comparing homicide in Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden. The European Union-financed study looked at firearms ownership and concluded that there is no correlation between levels of firearms ownership and homicide. From 2011 study of Homicide in Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden:

All three countries have strict firearm legislation, and in all of them ownership of firearms is subject to licence. In spite of this, partly for historical reasons, firearm ownership prevalence differs substantially between the countries. The Finnish gun ownership rate is one of the highest in Europe, and the Dutch rate is one of the lowest. In Sweden, the ownership rate is higher than the European average, but considerably lower than in Finland (see table 1).

Most of the guns owned by private persons in Finland and Sweden are shotguns or rifles used in hunting. The Finnish handgun ownership rate (6 per cent), although the second highest among the European Union member countries, is very low if compared, for example, with that in the United States. In the Netherlands and Sweden handgun ownership is even rarer (van Dijk et al. 2007).

There seems not to be any clear correlation between firearm ownership (at least legal firearm ownership) prevalence and homicide rates in Europe (Granath 2011; Kivivuori & Lehti 2010). According to the International Crime Victim Surveys, for example, in Finland, in spite of the high ownership prevalence and relatively high violent crime rates, the use of guns in robberies, sexual offences, or assault crimes is almost non-existent (van Dijk & van Kesteren & Smit 2007, 284).

If you look at the chart, it is obvious that homicides in Europe did not drop dramatically between 1920 and 1940, or shortly thereafter. Except for the war years, where homicides were much higher in the Netherlands, the homicide rate is essentially flat.  Strict firearms regulations, as a means of reducing the murder rate, was a failure.

That is not surprising, becasue that is not what it was designed for.  It was designed to prevent revolution against the elites. Colin Greenwood and Professor Joyce Lee Malcolm exposed that reason in their scholarly studies. Greenwood with his ground breaking Cambridge study in 1972, and Malcolm with her series of scholarly books, later.

©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.
Gun Watch

comments

  1. avatar MurrDog says:

    I’ve got a better idea. Let’s discount all your fancy numbers. It was all for the children.

    1. avatar Naught Forya says:

      If it saves just one…

      1. avatar Cliff H says:

        If it just saves the RIGHT one…

        Haven’t you seen that Liberal tear-jerk “for the children” commercial/PSA where the implore people to help ALL the needy children around the world because you can never tell where the next Einstein or Albert Schweizer or (your Nobel Prize winner here _____) might come from?

        They fail to mention that one of those children could just as likely grow up to be Pol Pot or Mao or Stalin. Just sayin’.

        1. avatar Ralph says:

          They fail to mention that one of those children could just as likely grow up to be Pol Pot or Mao or Stalin.

          Or Obama.

        2. avatar Ted says:

          Ralph,

          You owe me a cup of coffee and a new keyboard….

      2. avatar John Gaustad says:

        Same argument for keeping refugees out of the USA!!!

  2. avatar James in Houston says:

    Finland used to be under Russian rule. Before that it was under Swedish rule. Finns had been second class citizens in their own country until they broke away from Russia in 1917. As for ownership of firearms rifles and shotguns have always been commonly owned by Finns. Not too sure about pistols. Seems kinda murky. Today pistols are heavily regulated in Finland and difficult to acquire legally.

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      I wondered if someone would bring up this issue of historical significance. In 1905 there was an attempted mutiny or uprising in Russia. I wonder how many deaths were caused by the Okhrana’s (the tsarist era secret police) extra-judicial activities?

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Unimportant. Those killed were not of the ruling class.

  3. avatar nynemillameetuh says:

    Remember, kiddos, “moderate” social democrats hate the little guy being armed more than anyone else.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      ^^^^This.

      A Progressive Democrat wants to take away our guns. A moderate Democrat wants the Progressive Democrats to take away our guns.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Where would I look, if I wanted to see a “moderate democrat” on the subject of common sense gun confiscation?

    2. avatar Goose says:

      I can understand why,I personally don’t have a problem with rich people,I do have a problem with rich people that think they know what’s best for us financially embarrassed people. There are a whole lot more of us poor folks than there are of them and we are living in perilous times……….Especially for rich folks, a lot of people hate them and don’t even know why and they are chomping at the bit to bring down the rich folks and redistribute their wealth.If I were rich,I wouldn’t want a bunch of poor,armed,people hating on me.You hear the word “revolution” more and more each day and there are certain groups that a lot of us want gone.I think rich people are the most hated for whatever reason,some people just hate them for being rich,some people hate them for being liberal,some people single them out as the problem with this country.I’m not rich by any means but I think poor people cause more problems than anyone,they will claim that prisons are full of poor people because they can’t get adequate legal representation but I’m poor,most of the people I know are poor and none of us have that problem,I’ve had a few traffic violations but other than that,no problems with the police,that goes for all my poor friends too.If I were rich,I think I would probably be anti gun for poor folks just like the people that are rich and anti gun.

      1. avatar Ben says:

        That’s the issue right there. Being rich is not inherently bad. The problem comes when you have rich people who think that, because their status (whether financial, educational, and/or social) means that they should be “more equal” than others.

        As for the poor, poverty or tenuous financial status is not an excuse for criminality, which is why I find concepts like strain theory (societal structures pressurize people into committing crime) to be complete garbage. The individual makes the choice to murder, to steal, to buy and/or sells drugs, or to rape. That choice is universal across the financial brackets. Money may not be able to buy literal “happiness”, but it can be difficult for some to be happy without it. Despite this, making things (or risking such) more difficult for yourself and those around you does not help your situation.

        1. avatar LarryinTX says:

          Defining “poor”. If you are cold, wet, or hungry, you are not experiencing “happiness”. Unless, of course, you are also hunting or fishing.

        2. avatar Heartland Patriot says:

          Exactly correct and very well stated.

      2. avatar uncletom says:

        just because a person is rich why should he be able to tell you what and what not you can have? they more than likely got their wealth on the backs of the poor. still want them to control your life? if so then what is your bitch about slavery? it is the same in either case isn’t it, some one in total control of your life?

        1. avatar Stuki Moi says:

          This has become a much bigger issue over the past 4 decades. It used to be, America was a place where to get rich, you at least usually had to have done something worthvile for others to pay for.

          After completely going off the gold standard, being rich now just generally mean you are on the receiving, rather than the taking, end of Federal Reserve redistribution. Or, you belong to the cadre of Fed/finance/Asset pumping apologists, who prop up their paymasters by stomping on everyone else in the name of dubious interpretations of “property rights” and such.

  4. avatar Sixpack70 says:

    That’s why I love to challenge the anti gun simpletons who write in every gun article that if we just had strict gun laws like Europe, the U.S. would be just like Europe! I ask them to stop doing a direct comparison and check the before and after effects of European gun laws. There is not much there to support strict gun laws. Just like Australia when they did their big confiscation. The murder rate when up for a few years after. If gun drive murder rates according to the anti gun people, then why did Australia’s murder rate increase? It should have gone down with all of those “guns off the streets™”! But, they don’t have mass shootings anymore! They haven’t had a mass shooting because they haven’t had one. Not because of gun laws. They have had mass knifings resulting in 8 dead children (i guess it wasn’t for the children) and mass murder by arson. So, I guess being burned to death is preferable to being shot?

    A simple comparison of one raw number vs another raw number shows me that the person is not capable of analysing data, nor able to use critical thinking.

    1. avatar the ruester says:

      Even better; look at the death rate from just CIVIL wars in europe before ww1. One in Germany killed 7 million, mostly civilians. History proves europe is only ever a spark away from eating itself. The financial dust up with Greece was the sort of thing that, in the sans American past, would have resulted in an invasion of angry huns. The facade of the “enlightened european” is very, very thin.

  5. avatar lawfulgunowner1950 says:

    The truth about European gun laws is that European gun laws are 100% totally irrelevant. Europe doesn’t have the Second Amendment. We do because this country was founded on the idea that we weren’t european subjects beholden to kings queens or any royalty. The USA from it’s foundation rejected most of what today’s elitists want to embrace as “good European gun laws”
    To those who embrace European gun laws, I say
    MOLON LABE

    1. avatar TruthTellers says:

      We have a 2nd Amendment not just because we aren’t subjects of others and to aide in resistance to tyranny and crime, but because God gives all men the right to own them as he gave man free will.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Absorutery! But why doesn’t he just strike down with lightening bolts all those who are evil, or oppose your prayers? If he exists?

  6. avatar Ralph says:

    The difference between European and American crime just might — and I’m spitballing here — just might have something to do with Chicago, Detroit, Camden, Oakland, Compton, DC — need I go on?

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Don’t forget Memphis, Tennessee! (Memphis has recently vied for the violent crime capital of the United States.)

  7. avatar Terry-NC says:

    Since the Paris attacks, it has been reported that there are at least 60 million underground weapons throughout Europe. And essentially smuggling highways to/from the Middle East and the Balkans.

  8. avatar Louis Marschalko says:

    Europa was a much better place in 1910 than today.

    1. avatar NjGunGuy says:

      We know you’re a troll now, so go fuck off.

    2. avatar Stuki Moi says:

      As was the US. Europe went hard down the shitter a few short years later, while in the US, the decline has been more gradual, albeit accelerated.

  9. avatar Bungameng says:

    Why no mention of Czech Republic? Shall issue concealed carry, yet one of the lowest murder rates in the EU?

    1. Time and space. I have heard a lot of good things about the Czech Republic.

    2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      When people claim that “unarmed” Europe has a much lower violent crime rate than the United States, I go out of my way to tell them about the Czech Republic (for shall-issue concealed carry) and Switzerland (many/most homes have a full-auto rifle).

      Those two nations completely dismiss the notion that:
      (a) Everyone is unarmed in Europe, and
      (b) Firearms somehow compel people to commit violent crimes.

  10. avatar docduracoat says:

    In Sweden gun the laws are interesting
    Rifles for hunting are common.
    Permits and courses taken are required and there are limits as to how many you can own.
    Handguns are only allowed for competition
    If you do not compete with your handgun for 2 years, the police will revoke your permit and conficate your handgun without compensation.
    Self defense with a handgun is forbidden
    Handgun must be kept in a locked cabinet.
    Police can check, and if the gun is not locked in the cabinet, they will confiscate it, again without compensation.
    You have a duty to retreat and killing someone who is only stealing your property is ” blatantly unjustafiable”
    You are only allowed to defend yourself with the same level of force your attacker is using.

    1. avatar Stuki Moi says:

      “You are only allowed to defend yourself with the same level of force your attacker is using.”

      Now, that does a much better job of explaining the so called Swedish Rape Epidemic, than any number of Muslim scare stories.

      “Well, Inga, since I’m only trying to force my way into you, that’s all you are allowed to do to me. Otherwise I’ll call Sven down at the police station, who carries a whistle and has a siren on the roof of his Volvo, so he can issue you a stern directive!”

  11. avatar Russell Greenidge says:

    Sir, In Victorian England and Wales (Scottish and Irish laws were different) anyone not resident in an insane asylum or correctional facility could own and carry firearms. Beginning in 1870, one had to buy a cheap, no questions asked “permit”. This remained the case until the Pistols and Revolvers Act of 1903. That notwithstanding, an Irishman in Liverpool in 1911 successfully challenged his arrest for carrying a loaded revolver because it infringed upon his common law right to bear arms. In 19th Century Switzerland, the right was enjoyed without restriction by anyone not involuntarily committed. Sincerely, Russell (a former CCW student).

  12. avatar def says:

    I like how no one died of homicide in western Europe during WW2… Must have all been jeep accidents and plane crashes.

    1. avatar Paelorian says:

      Not mention the millions of deaths over the course of five years attributable to accidentally hooking up the showerhead to Zyklon B canisters instead of the water boiler. Or those hundreds of thousands of people who tripped onto bullets at the edge of open pits by the thousands. Nope, no homicides of powerless disarmed people to see here. Move along.

    2. avatar Stuki Moi says:

      A State can do no wrong. Nor commit any crime. People who die at their hands, aren’t victims of homicide. Instead, they are being justly dealt with for partaking in insurrection, terrorism, vigilantism or other antisocial behaviors.
      The state is the will, and protectors, of the people, after all.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        You forgot Judaism.

  13. avatar J says:

    You’re comparing American gun laws of today to Europe’s gun laws of 50-80 years ago. Well that’s a real solid argument! If people think that something written on a piece of paper 225 years ago gives them the undeniable right to own a deadly weapon, and that it cant be changed, then some people are more delusional than I thought!

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