The following letter was sent October 19, 1996 to
The Economist magazine in response to an editorial in the October 19, 1996 issue titled "A Tale of Two Lobbies." An edited version of this reply was the lead letter in the November 9th-15th issue.

A Letter to The Economist

Economist Misrepresents American and British
Gun Violence

"A Tale of Two Lobbies" demonstrates the anti-gun bias the writer has of seeing the firearms issue from the usual British and European perspective -- the perspective which is also representated in the mainstream American media.

The availability of legal firearms is not a factor in the presence or absence of violence, in either Britain or America. In the nineteenth century, both Britain and America enjoyed universal gun availability and the violent crime rate in both countries was a fraction of what it is today in either country. As recently as 1963 -- when any American could anonymously purchase any firearm (except for machine guns or sawed-off shotguns) through the mail, the homicide and violent crime rate in the United States was half what it is today.

Further, a recent study at the University of Chicago by criminologist John Lott, Jr., and economist David Mustard has found that homicide, assault, rape, and robbery are lower in areas of the United States where the public is allowed easy access to carrying concealed firearms in public. The areas of the United States where violent crime is the highest are also the areas with the strictest gun controls. Washington D.C. has a complete ban of legally-owned handguns. It also consistently ranks among the U.S. cities where the homicide rate is the highest.

The homicide rate in the United States varies not according to availability of guns, but according to ethnic and cultural differences. Japanese-Americans enjoy a low homicide rate comparible to the Japanese in Japan; African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans living in the inner cities suffer high rates of homicide, yet legal gun ownership among African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans ranks well below that of Anglo-Americans, who have lower rates of homicide and violence. A study comparing homicide rates along the American-Canadian border states and provinces, among ethnically and culturally similar populations, finds that homicide rates are similar to both each other and to Great Britain, also.

In America, where we have well-armed criminal gangs who use their arms to enforce drug-selling territories, restrictions on legal firearms serve only as unilateral disarmament of the potential victims of violence, and increases violent crime by shifting the balance of power to the illegally-armed criminal.

If Great Britain ever develops a violent criminal class equivalent to that which already exists in America, Brits may need to rethink the gun issue -- much as the post-Soviet Russians are doing, now that their criminal classes have been unleashed to terrorize the public.

J. Neil Schulman,
Author of Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns
(downloadable from


The British clamor for banning guns was caused by a massacre of 16 schoolchildren and a teacher at Dunblane, Scotland, in March 1996. Read Neil's commentary on that tragedy, "A Rude Awakening."

Return to Recent Writings.

Return to The World According to J. Neil Schulman.