NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

British Crime Experience

August 5, 2002

Over the past several years, crime has risen in Great Britain. Today, the chances of a person being mugged are six times greater in London than in New York City. In her new book, "Guns and Violence: The English Experience," Joyce Lee Malcolm explains Britain's crime epidemic. Malcolm argues that two major changes in British law created the current crime prone environment: the criminalization of self-defense and the increasing restriction on handguns, culminating in the 1997 ban of handgun ownership.

In 1997, after the Dublane Massacre, Britain outlawed all handguns. The penalty is 10 years in prison. However, this has not decreased gun crime, but encouraged it:

  • During the two years following the 1997 handgun ban, the use of handguns in crime rose 40 percent.
  • During seven months of 2001, armed robberies in London rose 53 percent.

Moreover, the British government forbids citizens from carrying ANY article that might be used for self-defense. This has led to bizarre scenarios:

  • In 1994, the police arrested a homeowner for using an imitation gun to detain two burglars who had broken into a home.
  • A British Petroleum executive used an ornamental sword blade to defend himself against attack and was later convicted of carrying an offensive weapon.

Adding to their crime problem is the fact that England is making it even harder for people to defend themselves. In Britain, self-defense must be "reasonable" as determined after the fact by a prosecutor. However, prosecutors are so exacting with this definition that a recent British law textbook says that the right to self-defense is so mitigated "as to cast doubt on whether it still forms part of the law."

Source: Paul Craig Roberts, "How the British Maximize Crime,", August 1, 2002, based on: Joyce Lee Malcom, Guns and Violence: The English Experience," Harvard University Press, May 2002.


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