Out of Control Policy Blog

Gun-Control Laws Fail to Prevent Gun Crimes in England; Ayn Rand on Self-Defense

In England, gun crimes committed by youth gangs are becoming a big problem.

Footage of boys, hardly out of childhood, wielding revolvers, shotguns and jumping on police cars was posted on YouTube just two weeks after Rhys Jones was killed.

Yet it was the 11-year-old's murder during an unprecedented feud between youths in Croxteth and neighbouring Norris Green which brought Liverpool's gang violence to public prominence.

The battle between the Croxteth Crew, to which Sean Mercer belonged, and the Strand Gang, operating in the city's L11 postcode, formed the backdrop to the schoolboy's murder – an innocent victim caught in the crossfire of gangs blighted by a hatred for one another.

Despite the country's strict gun-control laws (or, more likely, because of them), gang members are still getting their hands on guns and using them to shoot and kill rivals and innocent bystanders. It seems that criminals do not obey laws on the other side of the pond either!

This is the point that gun-control advocates seem unable to grasp: gun control laws only work against law-abiding citizens. Moreover, as economist John Lott noted in his famous book, More Guns, Less Crime, gun-control laws prevent innocent, law-abiding citizens from defending themselves against those that would violate laws to commit crimes against them. Criminals don't like getting shot any more than do victims. When there are fewer gun laws, there is a greater chance a potential victim will be armed and able to fight back. This provides a greater deterrent to crime. Where citizens are forced to be unarmed, they are much easier targets for criminals.

Since we are celebrating the ideas of Ayn Rand this week at Reason (see here and the related articles and videos posted at reason.org and reason.tv), consider Rand's similar views on self-defense:

The necessary consequence of man's right to life is his right to self-defense. In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. All the reasons which make the initiation of physical force an evil, make the retaliatory use of physical force a moral imperative.

If some "pacifist" society renounced the retaliatory use of force, it would be left helplessly at the mercy of the first thug who decided to be immoral. Such a society would achieve the opposite of its intention: instead of abolishing evil, it would encourage and reward it.

[From "The Nature of Government," The Virtue of Selfishness (1964)]

* Thanks to Reason reader Phil Meade for pointing out to me the British gang/gun-crime article discussed above.

Adam Summers is Senior Policy Analyst

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