30 Murders by Firearm in England 2012 (equiv. 164), vs. 8,855 in US

By Juan Cole

The mentally imbalanced individual who hunted down UC Santa Barbara students and knifed three and shot 6 of them to death, wounding with gunfire 7 more, on Saturday, used a semi-automatic handgun. The most popular such weapon is a Glock. It is not an automatic weapon, meaning you have to squeeze the trigger each time to fire. But it is much easier to get off many shots one after another than in the case of a traditional pistol. The magazine for the Glock 17 has 17 rounds; one can get a high capacity magazine of 33 rounds. High capacity magazines and some semi-automatic weapons were banned in the Clinton era. But the gun manufacturers have bought Congress, so that that ban could no longer be implemented.

Let us not pretend that this is about hunters and hunting, folks. Anyone who shoots deer with a Glock should be denied sex the rest of their lives the way the Santa Barbara shooter complained he was. Having a hand gun in the house also does not make anyone safer; family members shoot each other with them or commit suicide with them when temporarily depressed; and burglars wrestle them away and shoot the owners with their own weapon, or the owners end up being charged with murder for shooting an unarmed burglar. Plus people are not well. I figure at least 20 percent of the US population has mood disorders or other mental problems such that you really wouldn’t want to see a gun in their hands. Nor is it about the actual, historical, 2nd Amendment. Our current legislative program in the US is “a semi-automatic high capacity weapon in the hands of every mentally unstable person.” But since Congress is also determined to pump 50 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in the next decade, which will pretty much sink us, the mania about everyone having guns is not the most dangerous hysteria currently gripping our country.

The United States continues to be peculiar in handing out powerful magazine-fed firearms to almost anyone who wants one and not requiring background checks on private purchases even if these are made at gun shows. 80% of civilian-owned firearms world-wide are in the US, and only Yemen vaguely competes with us for rates of firearm ownership; Yemen is a violent mess with Shiite insurgencies, al-Qaeda taking over cities from time to time, tribal feuding, southern separatism and US drone strikes. And even it has fewer guns per person than the USA.

It has gotten to the point where the increasing epidemic of mass shootings now threatens the US military, the most powerful military in the world.

The US is downright weird compared to civilized Western Europe or Australia (which enacted gun control after a mass shooting in 1996 and there have been no further such incidents).

Number of Murders by Firearms, US, 2012: 8,855

Percentage of all Murders that were committed by firearms in US: 69.3

Suicides in US 2011: 38,285

Gun Suicides in US, 2011: 19,766

Number of Murders by firearms, England and Wales, 2012-2013: 30
(equivalent to 164 US murders).

Percentage of all murders in England and Wales that were committed by firearm: 5.4 percent.

Number of suicides in England and Wales, 2011: 4871 (equivalent to about 25,818 in US or 31% lower)

Number of suicides by Firearam in England and Wales, 2011: 84

For more on murder by firearms in Britain, see the BBC.

The US has the highest gun ownership in the world and the highest murder rate in the developed world.

There is some correlation between high rates of gun ownership and high rates of violent crime in general, globally (and also if you compare state by state inside the US):


h/t Christopher Majka

In the case of Britain, firearms murders are 53 times fewer than in the US per capita. [Don’t bother with flawed citations of Switzerland or Israel, where most citizens are the equivalent of military reservists.]

Do hunters really need semi-automatic AR-15 assault weapons? Is that how they roll in deer season? The US public doesn’t think so.

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Related video:

AFP: “Guns in the US”

19 Responses

  1. Nauseating! If Wayne LaPierre and the rest of the NRA leadership found themselves across the ocean, they would doubtless advocate for more gun ownership.

  2. As I understand it, THREE of the seven people killed were stabbed.*
    We’ve been down this road before, comparing the American murder rates with those of (once-Great) Britain. Statistics can be as malleable as putty. The Brits are much more violent as a people than are Americans, by a factor of about 8.** This is, of course, something that has been known for centuries, what with all of the imposition of their mental attitude on the various peoples of the World. One might suggest that the actions once exported have now been returned to and retained at home with Karmic-like consequences.
    As far as this Isla Vista series of incidents, the stabbings/shootings, this Rodger character was another spoiled brat whose sense of entitlement drove him to commit acts of extreme violence and self-destruction. Once again, a lack of forethought involved those who were killed, all of whom would be alive had Rodger just accepted the eventual outcome and taken his own life at the outset. But, when one’s ego is stretched to the breaking point and insanity emerges, a person like Rodger or Lanza or any of the many other perpetrators of murders consider themselves above and beyond the norm. We see this more and more with those who are supposed to be committed to “serving and protecting,” with many police forces’ officers making snap decisions and taking the entirety of the legal processes into their own hands. What the heck, they even have surplus military hardware now. What the heck, they can act like the poor unfortunates who enter the armed forces with the intention of doing Good but wind up being the paid hit men and women of demented Presidents and other political forces. And, speaking of spoiled brats with an outsized ego and sense of entitlement, “Sonny” Bush ha how much blood on his hands?
    The really sad thing is the culture is becoming increasingly strained due to lacks and cracks in the overall national purpose. We’re in Memorial Day weekend, a holiday begun around the time of Civil War as “Decoration Day,” a day supposedly intended to honour the soldiers who had been lost, perhaps even forgotten. In the olden days, the toll taken on communities due to fallen warriors was probably much greater in that relatives and friends had been sacrificed. A sense of community was – therefore – shared more deeply as the lives of those personally known were extinguished. Today? The sense of community and honour is diminished, highlighted by scandals centring on veterans as the Veterans Administration’s ineptness is exposed and the need for care is ignored by those who start and support wars.***
    Perhaps the problems would be somewhat alleviated by rededicating ourselves to a sense of national community and purpose. Rather than celebrating death with violent movies and games and other distractions, a long and continuous festival of Life would be more in order. While he and I disagree on the causes of peoples’ resorting to violence, Samuel L. Jackson recently observed, “I don’t think it’s about more gun control. I grew up in the South with guns everywhere and we never shot anyone. This [shooting] is about people who aren’t taught the value of life.”^
    And, the Brits? Obviously, the more we disassociate ourselves from imperial adventures and conquests, the more Americans might be respected for allowing other nations to pursue their own destinies while we solve our own internal issues with treasure saved therefrom!

    * link to npr.org
    link to cnn.com
    ** link to stevengoddard.wordpress.com
    http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=118×171267
    *** link to politicususa.com
    ^ link to huffingtonpost.com

    • Britain is not several times more violent than the US. These assertions are distortions on the basis of the different ways the UK reports crimes. It has a lower murder rate, lower suicide rate, etc

      • I don’t know if it is possible to measure how much more or less violent the Brits are, but my several years of living there persuade me to believe they would have a much higher rate of gun deaths if guns were more readily available. Note, also, the recent exposure of British military brutality in southern Iraq. As for human rights during the British Empire there is little there to be proud of. And, let’s not forget Britain’s role in Ireland – the now-Republic and Northern Ireland.

    • Although I disagree with your claim that Brits are more violent than Americans, lets just say that you are right.
      So these more violent people commit less (gun) murders than in the US. Does that fact they have less access to guns make you think anything?

      • I didn’t say the Brits were more violent than Americans. To clarify, I should probably have said, “… they would have a much higher rate of gun deaths than they now have if guns were more readily available.”

  3. Santa Barbara PD said he stabbed his first three victims to death.. Those were his roommates. He then went on a shooting spree, killing four more people.

    • He killed three other people, then himself—he is the fourth you’re talking about.

  4. But the business of Amerika is business and the manufacture of arms, small and big, is big business. Combine this with the fact that Americans are very susceptible to fearmongering so there is lots of support from people who want to defend themselves even if they are more likely to be a big winner in the lottery.

    Then there are the “patriots” who need to be armed to defend against tyranny. If that isn’t BS, I don’t know what is. Tyranny is on the march via the alphabet soup of “intelligence” agencies, but the “patriots” are supporting them and calling for the heads of the whistleblowers.

  5. I am a Brit now living in the US, and I must say that while the UK has all but eliminated non sporting weapons from the general public I must agree with Bill that the Brits are a more aggressive people than your average American, the difference being that British violence is more ‘in your face’, in other words more personal since firearms are out of the question, (five years mandatory prison time for being caught with one for the first time) the weapon of choice is a knife or a brick – imagine if handguns were as easily available in the UK as in the US, I shudder to think.

    • yeah but it is demonstrably harder to kill people, especially a lot of people, with those kinds of weapons than with semi-automatic guns, so British murder rate is lower than US. Lower suicide rate by a third also suggests ease of offing oneself encourages suicide by firearm here.

    • Conversely, one could argue that guns are deforming American behavior, that our ancestors actually shared their British forebears’ preference for fists and brawls as a form of social expression, while guns act as a form of pushbutton death technology that contribute to the atomization of American society, along with cars, suburbs, TV, etc. A land of bunkers and keyboard commandoes, connected by Taxi Drivers and lone gunmen. Wait’ll we all know how to operate drones and you’ll see what we’re really like inside.

  6. The US is pursuing so many insane and stupid policies – totally upside down down and denying simple facts of life. The gun control argument becomes a distraction.

  7. “British forebears’ preference for fists and brawls as a form of social expression”. Times have not changed and this is what I was referring to in my post, the Brit’s propensity for violence, which can lead to deaths but not necessarily. Since my time living here in the US I’ve found your average American to be milder mannered and shall we say more civilised than my fellow countrymen (maybe the drinking habits should be taken into account).
    An example I encountered a couple of years ago in a crowded London street market where a brawl erupted between two of the market traders, the men probably in their forties having exhausted their vocabulary of expletives started lashing out with their fists, scattering customers, blood streaming down their faces – it took a middle-aged woman to bring them to their senses as she chastised them in the manner of a annoyed mum to her ten year old.
    Nope, I still prefer the quality of life in the US where my personal safety is concerned.

    • Conversely, I’m an American living in Britain and I feel 100 times safer here. The unknown about Americans having firearms frightens me and I lived in a rural area in the midwest. Not only that, the Britons have better access to health care than the Americans and Britons can buy guns here but it’s practically a chore to jump over hoops to get one.

  8. Consider the conduct of the hordes of British soccer fans who become deranged at any perceived affront to their teams and civilized people will be understandably relieved they don’t have the access to guns that Americans have.

  9. RegressivesRUS

    can u tell us how mny death by knives etc come from england? thankU, FYI England is slightly smaller than Oregon . .@barryeisler

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