What Moved My Priors: Homicide in London

I’ll write about violence and gun control at a later date, but I thought I’d share the moment that levered my position on gun control. It was about 5-6 years ago when I looked up crime statistics in London out of little more than curiousity.

London is a city of 9 million people, larger than any US city. It is an economically, religiously, and racially diverse city. Londoners struggle with soaring rents like people in most major cities. You will not be shocked to learn that London has crime rates commensurate with any other major city, including violent crime.

Except for homicide.

I spent the day looking up statistics trying to see if London had “solved” crime, but it certainly had not. It’s a crowded city full of people who are occasionally desperate and exhausted. Of course there is crime. Just not homicide. It’s one city, but it’s more than an anecdote. As far as comparisons go, it’s like someone made a synthetic control for US cities, but will strict gun control laws. And I don’t want to give the impression that I was staunchly laissez faire with regard to firearms only to have a few London statistics lift the scales from my eyes. But it was certainly a moment when a single set of sylized facts created a chain reaction in my mind, when things fell into place. It’s a complicated issue that I have deeper thoughts on, but there remains the fact that the citizens of London do not live in fear of their government or their neighbors for want of firearms, but they appear to be a lot safer for it.

Whether or not you personally want to own firearms is a different question. But limits on firearms does appear to have significant postive effects. London homicide is a fraction of the safest US city. The country as a whole has (I believe) not had a mass shooting since the tragedy that lead to nationwide gun restrictions 26 years ago. The US has had more mass shooting events in the last month than the UK has had in 26 years. And it’s not just mass shoootings. There’s a potentially coincidental, but nonetheless pronounced, drop in London violent crime since gun restrictions went into effect.

London violent crime since 1981

US citizens increasingly live under the watchful eye of armed professionals in our schools and places of business, with little or no positive effect save the knowledge that we are surrounded by firearms. I see little reason we are safer or more independent of government supervision for it. Conversely, places with less armed supervision, but also fewer firearms, are experiencing better outcomes. There are arguments to be had about what constitutes optimal firearm policy. But “firearms restrictions don’t work” simply doesn’t appear to be true.

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