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.