NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

France Passes U.S. In Crime Rate

May 13, 2002

Seemingly protected by some of the stiffest gun restrictions in the world, Europeans have discovered recently they are not immune from mass killings in which guns are employed. No longer are such incidents confined to supposedly gun-toting America.

Recent mass killings -- often with politicians as the targets -- have left at least 46 dead in Germany, France, Switzerland and Hungary. In addition, assassinations in the Netherlands and Italy left two politicians dead.

  • Although overall crime has risen very slightly in the last decade in western Europe, criminals have become more aggressive.
  • Last year, in two surveys using different criteria, France surpassed the U.S. in crimes per capita.
  • In homicides, however, France's per capita rate is still one-eighth that of the U.S., experts report.
  • For 1997 through 1999, Sweden had the highest per capita homicide rate in Europe, at 1.94 per 100,000 population, and Germany had the lowest, at 1.28 -- compared to the U.S., at 6.26.

Stricter French gun laws have slashed legal sales to 100,000 now from 300,000 a decade ago.

Switzerland has the loosest gun laws -- requiring a permit to buy a gun from a shop, or a simple written contract for a private sale. Britain outlawed pistols in 1997.

Source: Donald G. McNeil Jr., "Not Only in America: Gun Killings Shake the Europeans," New York Times, May 11, 2002.


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