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Have strict gun control laws spared the UK from the violence of American-style riots?

Posted by Alan Wirzbicki  August 10, 2011 03:33 PM

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Although the riots in the United Kingdom have caused approximately $200 million in property damage so far and engulfed almost every major city in England in violence, there has been one small silver lining: Compared to similar outbreaks of unrest in the United States, like the 1992 riots in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict, there has been relatively little loss of life. In LA, 53 people died; in the UK, four were dead as of Wednesday afternoon. This likely can be attributed to one major difference between the US and the UK, which is the low level of gun ownership in Britain (35 of the LA victims were killed by gunshot wounds).

Unlike in the United States, the UK has strict gun licensing laws that rank among the toughest gun control laws in the world. Further, most British policemen do not carry firearms in the course of their duties and need special permission to do so. The result is that while many people have been beaten and demand for baseball bats for personal protection has gone through the roof in England, there's only been minimal gun violence.

However, it’s unclear how strong a connection there is between the two. After all, correlation does not imply causation and it could be strongly argued on the other side that much of the looting has been encouraged because shop owners don’t have guns to deter mobs. But while the United Kingdom’s strict gun control laws may have increased the scale of property damage, it seems likely that they also have reduced the eventual casualty lists as well.

AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis: British police officers are deployed during riots in Hackney, east London, on Monday.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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