Less Guns, More Murders

I’ve been considering the two graphics that can be viewed at this site.  For many countries in the world, low gun ownership seems to correlate with higher murder rates.  North America, South America, and sub-Saharan Africa all strongly support the notion that the fewer people who own firearms, the more people are murdered.

But I find Great Britain to be particularly interesting, as it seems to be an outlier.  Low gun ownership, and yet the people living there also enjoy low homicide rates.

There is, in fact, large swathes of the globe where the same thing can be found.  And that is throughout most of Asia.  It seems to me that a link can be drawn between Confucius and the trend of the people in some Asian countries to avoid murder.

statue of confucius

Although Confucius is generally regarded in the United States to be the source of pithy sayings that find their way into fortune cookies, his teachings were widely and enthusiastically embraced by many cultures.  It could be argued that the man was one of the most influential figures in all of human history, with the philosophy he authored shaping the very destiny of mankind.

The main reason for this, the single most significant factor which ensured that Confucius would be so strongly intertwined with the fate of most of humanity,  is that his writings are full of admonitions to obey authority.  People rise to their social positions due to their inherent quality, those who are above you on the social ladder should be obeyed because they are better than you are, and strict obedience to civil authority is an expression of the highest virtue.

chinese man kowtow

As you can imagine, kings and emperors grabbed at this philosophy with both hands.  The man on the throne was there because he was closer to perfection than anyone below his station, and was deserving to rule.  Revolution, rebellion, or even disagreement with the edicts handed down from on high was not only morally wrong, but extremely foolish as well.  Since the guy in charge was best suited for the job, the next person to fill his shoes would naturally be inferior.

So we can attribute, at least in part, the tendency for most Asian countries to have low homicide rates to a brutal indoctrination program that has lasted for more than two millennium.

This isn’t true of all the places that have low firearm ownership as well as low homicide rates, of course.  For one thing, the teachings of Confucius have not been embraced and incorporated into all of the cultures found in Asia.  But I think the same Pavlovian conditioning to follow the law can be found in many.

So how does that explain Great Britain?  Do the people living in the UK have a greater regard for a strict adherence to the law than those in the US?

These are questions that I cannot answer, as I have never even visited the UK.  But I do think that the map very clearly shows that the culture and society found in the United States are very different than that which is prevalent in the United Kingdom.  This should be considered by those who insist that Americans should adopt the gun control laws which hold sway across the Pond.

7 thoughts on “Less Guns, More Murders

  1. Part of the issue is that the UK counts “murders” based on the number of successful convictions where other locations count murders based on the number of deaths from violence.

    A more relevant number from the UK would be “Deaths of interest to Police” or something similar, but there is not an apples to apples comparison of homicide rates between the US and the UK.

  2. Japan is the big counter-example, of course. The murder rate is very low, and they have an absolute ban on private ownership of handguns and very strict controls on hunting weapons.

    I think the reason is because organized crime there really is very tightly organized. The Yakuza are the criminals who own guns, but they have a very strict code not to involve private citizens in their quarrels. Most murders committed with firearms are Yakuza-on-Yakuza.

    • There is a saying taught to very young children in Japan. I believe it is “The nail which stands out is hammered flat!” In other words, toe the line set out by society or suffer rather dire consequences.

      I think this cleaves pretty closely to the Confucius ideal of obey, obey, obey. Even if it is Japanese instead of Chinese culture.

      So far as the Yakuza is concerned, you are certainly correct that they follow their own extremely rigid and unbending code of behavior. Criminals with a playbook, as it were.

  3. It starts with Statistics and Lies.

    The published murder rates in the the UK are not actually what we think of as “murder rates”. The published murder rates are actually what in the US would be called the murder clearance rate.

    In the US they count the number of dead bodies, divide by the number of people and obtain a murder rate. Seems pretty straightforward, right? In fact it is far too straight-forward for the UK, so they have chosen a much more complex approach, one that incidentally also hides a very large number of the murders. “Since 1967, homicide figures for England and Wales have been adjusted to exclude any cases which do not result in conviction”.

    In fact, it’s so complex and misleading I’ll have to refer you to the article about how weird it is.


  4. The story about Great Britain having a much lower murder rate than the US is bogus. They report murders differently there, if they reported murders the way we do, their rate would be about double ours. Japan does something similar where they just don’t report suspicious deaths as murders.

  5. “…. throughout most of Asia…” with regard to having low murder rates.

    You do have to disregard murder by one’s own government though. The biggest (but not the only) example is China under Mao. Largely put into power with Russia’s assistance, from the 1930’s through 1950’s (?) the democide amounted to some 70 million killed.

  6. I would argue, though, that since the rise of Neo-Confuciaism in the Song Dynasty, Mencius’ (Meng-tzu) interpretation of Confucius has been more influential than Confucius himself (rather like the Platonic Socrates has masked other interpretations of him in the West). Mencius, it should be remembered, originated the concept of the “Mandate of Heaven”, which unlike the Western “Divine Right of Kings” could be withdrawn from a depraved ruler and bestowed elsewhere.

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