A current Weekly Standard article,
Crime Without Punishment, observes that European crime rates are
soaring to levels that match or exceed the U.S.’s even while U.S crime
rates decline for the tenth consecutive year. Schadenfreude
is not a pretty emotion, but it’s hard not to feel a twinge of it
after so many years of listening to snotty Europeans lecture us
Americans on how U.S. crime rates demonstrate that we are a nation of
violent barbarians who can be saved only if we swallow European social
The article proposes as an explanation that local control of
policing is more effective than Europe’s system of large centralized
police agencies. This may well be true; in fact, it probably is true.
But it fails to explain the time variance — because that structural
difference is not new, but the flipover in relative crime rates
between the U.S. and Europe is recent.
If that’s not what is going on, what is? The article passes over
two potential explanations far too quickly. One: differences in
patterns of civilian firearms ownership. Two: the novel presence of
large unassimilated minority groups in European cities.
The article correctly notes that “John Lott has shown that greater
gun ownership reduces crime” but then dismisses this with “gun
ownership levels are about the same as they were when crime hit its
all-time highs in America 30 years ago”. However, the
distribution of firearms has changed in relevant ways. As
Gary Kleck noted ten years ago, the composition of the U.S. firearms
stock in the early 1970s was dominated by rifles and shotguns.
Nowadays it is dominated by pistols. Americans, aided by a recent
state-level trend towards right-to-carry laws, are packing concealed
weapons on the street in greater numbers than ever before — and those
are the weapons known to have the most dramatic effect in suppressing
crime. Indeed, one of the principal results of Lott’s regression
analysis is that encouraging civilians to carry concealed is both a
cheaper and a more effective way to deter crime than increasing police
The article dismisses immigration with “violence and theft have
also spiked in countries that let in few immigrants”. Again, there is
an issue of distribution here. American experience tells us that it
is not the absolute number of unassimilated poor that matters, but the
extent to which they are concentrated in subsidized ghettos with
little contact with the mainstream and no incentive to assimilate.
After the repeated news stories observing that skyrocketing crime in Paris
is largely a phenomenon of Arab thug-boys from bleak government-run
housing projects, this should not be a difficult concept to grasp.
What’s new in Europe is not comparatively poor policing, but rather
the combination of two trends: laws disarming civilians and the
formation of persistent, crime-breeding ghetto cultures analogous to
the U.S.’s urban underclass. Both trends are clearest in Great
Britain, where violent assaults and hot burglaries have shot up 44%
since handguns were banned in 1996, and police now find they have to
go armed to counter gangs of automatic-weapon-wielding thugs in the
slum areas of Manchester and other big cities.
The prescription seems clear: arm and assimilate. Arm the victims
before they become victims and assimilate the criminals before they
become criminals. Raising the frequency of civilian concealed carry
of firearms will deter crime, just as it does in the U.S.
Assimilating the new wave of poor Third-World immigrants and breaking
up the ghettos will drain the stagnant pools in which crime
And the next Euro-snob to lecture me on how America’s “gun culture”
causes crime is going to get both barrels of this prescription right
in his face…
UPDATE: The Boston Globe is running a story on the failure
of gun control in Great Britain.
UPDATE: A reader points out that I was inexplicit about what has
led to the formation of a ghettoized underclass in Europe’s cities.
It is, of course, the same blunder that started the same process in
American cities forty years ago — the social-welfare state,