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Columns : Editorial

Foreign Correspondence

February 01, 2006  |  by - Also by this author

I can't, and I won't, say that all cops are pro-gun. But I will tell you that many Police readers are staunch supporters of the Second Amendment. They want to bear arms and they want the law-abiding people in their jurisdictions to have the right to bear arms. A lot of the correspondence that we receive tends to involve such issues.

For example, one reader recently forwarded a little treatise to us that purportedly comes from an Australian law enforcement officer named Ed Chenel. The message begins, "Hi Yanks and Canadians," and goes on to detail the effects of a 12-month-old gun confiscation program in the Land Down Under.

There are a few things that you need to know about the Chenel e-mail, which can be found on the Internet by plugging "Australia" and "gun control" into your favorite search engine. One, the Australian law in question was effected in 1997. So this letter has been floating around the Internet like some mythical Sargasso Sea ghost ship since 1998. More importantly, while the stats in the Chenel message are pretty accurate, they are open to interpretation as to whether they are numerically significant.

I'm not criticizing Mr. Chenel here. To be honest, I'm not even sure that Mr. Chenel exists. The point is that any statistical analysis of the effects of a law on crime trends should involve more than one year's worth of data.

Fortunately, such analysis does exist. Gary A. Mauser, a professor at Canada's Simon Fraser University, has produced a fascinating academic report on Australian gun control that should be required reading for people on both sides of America's gun control debate. Published in November 2003, Mauser's "The Failed Experiment: Gun Control and Public Safety in Canada, Australia, England and Wales" is a scalding attack on ill-conceived gun control laws.

One of the things that Mauser clearly establishes is that the enactment of Draconian gun control laws in each of the countries studied was a knee-jerk reaction to a terrible crime. For example, the 1996 incident in Dunblane, Scotland, in which a mentally unstable man shot and killed 16 elementary school students resulted in a 1997 law banning handguns throughout the United Kingdom.

The result was not exactly what the gun control proponents wanted. The year the law was enacted there were approximately 2,600 gun crime incidents in the U.K. A year later, there were 3,600 and gun crime in the U.K. continues to trend upward. What happened in the U.K. is basically what Second Amendment advocates in the United States have always contended: When gun ownership becomes a crime, then only criminals have guns. Similar trends have also resulted from gun bans in Australia and Canada.

In contrast, there are 35 states in the U.S. that allow their law-abiding citizens to carry handguns in public. Studies show that gun crime has not increased in these states and in many cases it has dropped.

Another startling conclusion that can be drawn from the Australian and Canadian gun control experience is that the cost of such a program is huge. The first year of the Australian program cost about a half billion Australian dollars.

What's happened in Canada is even more shocking. The law was sold to the Canadian public as an inexpensive solution to the gun question. It was supposed to cost 85 million Canadian dollars and create a small bureaucracy. A decade later, the program has eaten more than $1 billion in government funds and created a bureaucracy that employs more than 1,700 people.

All that money could have been spent to do something that would really reduce violent crime in Canada. The Ontario Police Association estimates that 1 billion Canadian dollars could have paid the salaries of 1,000 patrol officers for a decade. There's a lesson here for Americans on both sides of the gun control issue.

Tags: Gun Control Advocacy, Second Amendment, International Police


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