Guns in the US? Let’s talk about Gun Ownership in Europe
The United States of America has the 2nd amendment which provides its citizens the right to bear arms. This right to gun ownership is a hot topic of debate every time a mass shooting takes place, which sends innocent people into their early graves. There are limitations on who can buy a gun, with background checks taking place. There are limitations on what kind of weaponry you can buy. Nonetheless, this is not considered enough. Moreover, it will never be considered enough.
Many articles exist that aim to convince people all guns should be banned. This article will not focus on banning guns. It will not focus on the United States. We are going to talk about the right to own guns in Europe, and why we should own more.
Gun Ownership in Europe
Contrary to what people are made to belief, there are guns in Europe. There are large differences per country, depending on laws and regulations. The map below will give an indication of where the European guns are.
The information of the map above was gathered by the Washington Post and shows the number of guns per 100 inhabitants. The number is slightly different from the percentage of gun owners, since those that own multiple guns will skew the data. Furthermore, the data does not tell us what kind of guns they are. A hunting rifle is obviously rather different from an AR-15. Of course, no European country comes close to the 112 guns per 100 citizens that the United States has. Hence, we are not saying the American system is perfect. Yet, this is not a black or white situation.
The Idea Behind Gun Ownership – Hunting
Gun ownership is often defended by two arguments; the guns are used for hunting, or the gun is used for self-defense. The idea of hunting explains gun ownership in Alaska and Finland, where nature rules the land and vast forests are spread around the towns. However, most people never go hunting and it is not a common spare time activity across Europe anymore. This does not make it a bad argument, but it makes it a relatively weak one. On top of that, you only need a rifle to hunt. Hand guns or rapid fire are not common tools when it comes to hunting.
The Idea Behind Gun Ownership – Self-Defense
That brings us to the second argument; self-defense. Europe praises itself on being a safe area of the globe, with relatively low crime rates. Europeans see gun legalization as something that will change that. They fear walking over the street and being harassed by thugs and crime gangs. Nobody wants a society where it becomes easier for criminals to acquire weapons. Nobody would want the mass shootings that appear so common in the United States to spread to Europe. Europeans feel safe enough and trust the police sufficiently to feel no need to have a gun for self-defense.
However, Europe faces other threats than just those of its criminals. Although the United States is protected by oceans on both sides, the nations of Europe have no such protection. Europe is a continent with a history of invasions and being invaded. When it comes to invasions, how useful would it be to be able to protect yourself?
Guns in Switzerland
Having said all that, most of you will still believe guns will lead to more crime. That is, until we look at Switzerland. Switzerland has one gun for every two people in the country. It has half the guns per capita the United States has, but it has only one-tenth as many killings by firearms. Historians say that the Swiss gun ownership is one of the reasons the Germans did not invade them during World War 2. The Swiss would have made it too difficult for the National-Socialists to control the country as shots could be fired by every household.
The Swiss history of gun ownership goes alongside a long history of neutrality in Europe’s many wars. Everyone avoided Switzerland, believing the costs of an invasion would outweigh the gains. Of course it is aided by its Alpine location, hidden in the mountains and not posing any major strategic value. Yet, although this location lowered the gains, it was gun ownership that increased the costs involved with invasion.
Crime in the United Kingdom
The UK has taken a very different approach to guns. They cracked down hard and in turn saw an increase in crime and violence. Knives became more common, and even acid is now used as a weapon on the streets of London. Lacking guns, those that seek to do harm have found other ways. The explosion in Manchester near an Ariana Grande concert is just one example. Vehicles and machetes have replaced the gun.
An Imperfect Correlation
We must maintain this awareness; guns and crime do not form a perfect correlation. Yes, with guns it is easier to commit a crime and to harm a lot of people. No, guns do not cause crime. In order to combat crime and make our countries safe, we should not seek to take away the gun, we should seek to take away those that do harm. We must figure out how the Swiss can have guns with low crime rates, while the United States has many more firearm homicides, and while the United Kingdom has spikes in violent crime while it banned guns.
The Great Benefit for Europe
Europe, and the European Union alike, seeks peace. Switzerland is an example of a nation of peace. Switzerland remains neutral in war, and is not invaded as it would prove too difficult to control. Poland has been conquered many times in history, putting up strong resistance but ultimately not able to withstand the might of Germany and Russia. Poland currently only has 1.3 guns per 100 inhabitants.
Although Poland invests in its army, its army would stand no chance against Russia. Although Poland is part of NATO, the United States is showing reluctance to continue with its prominent role as police officer of the world, and France and the United Kingdom have watched Poland being conquered before. They promised to join the war if Hitler invaded Poland, which gave Poland a false sense of security. Although they did join the war eventually, after some delay, they handed Poland to the Soviet Union at the end of the war. Rather than Poland being liberated by its allies, it was handed to another conqueror. Clearly, Poland should learn from the past and not place too much trust in its allies.
What would really help Poland is gun ownership for its inhabitants. If you wish to deter war in Europe, it must be too costly to invade a country. To eliminate the threat of a Russian invasion of the east, we must arm the people in Europe. The Nazi’s and Soviet’s could not be defeated by its resistance movements, precisely because its inhabitants had been disarmed.
The Road Ahead…
Any form of gun legalization requires background checks, limitations and sensible regulations. It must be implemented in phases to allow people to get used to it. Perhaps as a start, rifles should be easier to own, the kind with single-shot fire. Handguns can be allowed to be kept inside the house, but not to carry around in public. Firearm crime must be severely punished. All these things are possible as long as there is a will.
A free and prosperous Europe, one without war and totalitarian regimes, needs its inhabitants to own guns.