So were Piers Morgan and Christiane Amanpour dishonest about crime rates last night?
MORGAN: . . . How do you justify the claim more guns makes more safe people in America? I don't -- don't get it.
LOTT: Every place that guns have been banned, murder rates have gone up. You cannot point to one place, whether it's Chicago or whether it's D.C. or whether it's been England of whether it's been Jamaica or Ireland.
MORGAN: I'm sorry, but that's just a complete lie. It's a complete lie. The gun murder rate in Britain is 35 a year, average. You need to stop repeating a blatant lie, about what happens in other countries. [cross talk] No, you're not going to get away with this. You lied about it the other day. Thirty-five gun murders a year in Britain, eleven to twelve thousand in America. Stop lying, because what you say drives Americans to defend themselves.
Amanpour: After Dunblane, they put in these bans, they put in these punishments, fines, jail sentences, etc. and its true that straight afterwards there wasn't a huge change, but 2002/2003 until 2011 the rate plummeted by 44%.
Two clear points can be seen from the next two figures. First, after the ban, clearly homicide rates bounce around over time, but there is not one single year during the 15 years after the ban where the number of homicides is lower than it was immediately prior to the ban in 1996. By the way, the average yearly homicides from 1990 to 1996 was 601. For the time period after the ban started it was 707, an 18 percent increase. Second, the number of homicides remained higher than the immediate pre-ban rate despite a large increase in the number of police officers during 2003 and 2004.
If you look at the percent changes, the change from 1996 to 2003 was bigger than the drop since then. If she says that there is no "huge change" between 1996 and 2003, how can she say that there is a "plummet" after that (when it fell by 32%, not the claimed 44%)?
Note also that Morgan must have misspoken about the number of gun homicides a year. Indeed, at least since 1990, the average has been twice that high and has never even got as low as the average of 35 a year that he claimed. I think that total homicides are the most important concern, rather than how a homicide was committed, but if that is what some would rather focus on, it is still hard to see that even firearm homicides fell after the ban. The averages in the pre- and post-ban periods are virtually identical (61 pre-ban and 62 post-ban), and there are only two years that the number of firearm homicides fell below what the number was in 1996 (2009 and 2010).
Obviously, guns are involved in more than just homicides or murders. One thing that is clear has been the huge increase in gun crime generally in England and Wales since the gun ban (for similar discussions see here, here, and here). Firearm Offenses involving handguns, rifles and shotguns were falling from 1991 to 1997. At that point, they stopped falling and kept increasing until 2006. The number of firearm offenses in 2011 was still 16 percent higher than in 1996 and the average for 1997 to 2011 was 8,326 or 31 percent higher than in the 1990 to 1996 period. If Piers means to include Scotland in Britain, that would raise the number of gun homicides in 60 to 73.
As an aside, homicides in England and Wales are not counted the same as in other countries. Their homicide numbers "exclude any cases which do not result in conviction, or where the person is not prosecuted on grounds of self defence or otherwise" (Report to Parliament). If correct, the problem isn't just that it reduces the recorded homicide rate in England and Wales, but what would a similar reduction mean for the US.
More information on the adjustment for England and Wales is below for "Update 4." If taken literally and as I discuss below, that isn't clear, a simple comparison can be made. In 2012, the US murder rate was 4.7 per 100,000, a total of 14,827. Arrests amounted to only 7,133. Using only people who were arrested (not just convicted) would lower the US murder rate to 2.26 per 100,000.
Gun crimes have apparently also been seriously underreported in the UK. From the UK Telegraph in 2008:
The internal memo, written by a senior officer, says there has been significant under reporting of serious crime and warns of "serious concerns" that confidence in the police and Government will be knocked when the true levels are revealed.
It was drawn up in response to a briefing paper given to the Metropolitan Police Authority outlining Home Office changes to the definition of crimes.
Under the changes, police have been told to classify all offences as gun or knife crime when there is a threat with a weapon. Previously, this did not happen if the weapons were hidden.
Similarly, more assaults are to be classified as grievous bodily harm rather than the less serious actual bodily harm when a victim is injured.
In the memo, Det Chief Superintendent Peter Barron said: "The potential increase could be a rise in recorded GBH of 58 per cent, a rise in gun crime of 20 per cent and a rise in knife crime of 15 per cent." . . .
"Their crime figures are totally inaccurate. Unless a gun gets discharged, it often doesn't get reported. A lot of people are brandishing guns out there and they are not put in the figures because a gun isn't discharged.
"If the figures from hospitals, of people coming in with gunshot and knife wounds, were used, the figures would be a lot greater. The hospital figures should be taken far more seriously." . . .
I am more concerned about total murders than just firearm murders, but firearm murders have also risen after the 1997 handgun ban. Indeed, there are only two years after the ban where the number of murders were below what it was before the ban. In 2011, there were 60 murders, up from 49 in 1996.
The discussion on CNN was supposed to be a Townhall where people from different views were in the audience. Instead the people that they brought in from Arizona and Wisconsin and other places were all on the same side. I asked the people in my section if anyone opposed increased gun control regulations and no one said that they did. Several shouted that they wanted to ban all semi-automatic guns.
The most recent violent crime data for England and Wales is available here and for the US here. One important thing to note first is that the rate that crimes are reported to police is much higher in the US than England and Wales, and that difference will make England and Wales look relatively better than they actually are. But still if one uses violent crimes reported to police, US in 2011 there were 1,203,564 and in England and Wales 821,957. The US doesn't differentiate Violent crime with and without injuries, but in England and Wales 368,647 violent crimes involve injuries and 453,310 do not. Given that the US has about 314 million people and England and Wales 56 million people (a ratio of 5.6 to 1), 368,647*5.6 = 2,064,423, or still about 72 percent greater than the number for the US. I have often pointed to the International Crime Victimization Survey as a better comparison because it deals with the different rates that crimes are reported and it tries to make sure that crimes are defined the same way across countries. As expected, that measure makes England and Wales look even worse compared to the US.
Further notes on England and Wales homicide numbers:
In the 2002/2003 reporting year, 172 homicides were attributed to the serial killer Harold Shipman.
In 2005/2006 reporting, 52 homicides were from the 7 July London bombing.
In 2000, 58 homicides were due to a group of chinese immigrants found suffocated in a lorrie crossing into Britain. The person who perpetrated the crime was in England.
Two points: 1) Even if these numbers are subtracted from the previous figures, nothing substantial is changed. None of the values previously showing a higher number of homicides or a higher homicide rate after the ban are changed. 2) There are also similar unusual events in years prior to the ban.
Finally, the definition of homicides have changed over time in England and Wales. If case it wasn't obvious earlier, because of this change and in order to insure that the same definition is used over time, I used the measure of homicides provided here, see Table 1.01 and the column marked "Number of offences currently recorded as homicide"
It is hard to do a similar comparison for Japan because their gun laws have been essentially the same for hundreds of years. Even prior to WWII only the Samurai could own guns for anything but hunting and hunting is still allowed now.
UPDATE: Jason Riley has one of his typically interesting pieces in the Wall Street Journal. After recounting the exchange that I noted at the beginning of this post, Mr. Riley writes:
. . . In his book, "A Brief History of Crime: The Decline of Order, Justice and Liberty in England," Peter Hitchens cites a 2001 study that found "the use of handguns in crime rose by 40 percent in the two years after such weapons were banned in the U.K." The study is not an outlier. Joyce Lee Malcolm, the author of "Guns and Violence: The English Experience," reports that "armed robberies in London rose from 4 in 1954, when there were no controls on shotguns and double the number of licensed pistol owners, to 1,400 in 1981 and to 1,600 in 1991." She adds: "In 1998, a year after a ban on virtually all handguns, gun crime was up another 10 percent." . . .UPDATE: Discussion on CNN International from December 18, 2012 where there were similar attacks on the data that I discuss above.
UPDATE2: Here is an amusing clip of Piers Morgan preaching about the importance of civil discourse (thanks to Breitbart TV).
UPDATE 3: After Piers had on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones last night. What is amazing is how Piers called up Politico reporter Dylan Byers to complain that Jones demonstrated "vitriol, hatred, and zealotry [that] is really quite scary."
UPDATE 4: There is a much more serious problem in comparing homicides in the US and England and Wales. Homicides in England and Wales are adjusted based on the outcomes of trials. This adjustment reduced the number of homicides in 1997 by about 12 percent. There is no similar adjustment for the US data.