(RNN) – Pro-gun advocates have argued the United Kingdom is a perfect example of how ineffective gun laws are on crime. Despite having some of the strictest gun laws in the world, the U.K. has a far higher violent crime rate than the U.S.
However, a closer look shows the U.S. has more burglaries, rapes, and murders than the U.K. The reason for the U.K.’s higher violent crime rate is their far broader definition of a “violent” crime.
An oft-cited source for the argument that the U.S. has a lower violent crime rate than the U.K. is a 2009 article in the Daily Mail, an English tabloid. The story put the U.K. at the top of a so-called “League of Shame” for its violence.
The statistics in that article were compiled by Britain’s Conservative Party and drawn from different reports by the United Nations and the European Commission. They do not appear to be part of an official study, and specific reports used by the U.N. and E.C. were not named.
Citing various crime statistics, the article claims the U.K. was the most violent country in the EU. However, that title was not given by the EU or U.N.
Rather, it was Britain’s Conservative Party that named Britain “the most violent in the EU” on a day when one of its members was scheduled to give a speech on crime.
Despite the lack of sources for the numbers, and the possible partisan politicking of Britain’s Conservative Party, it’s worth comparing to U.S. numbers compiled by the FBI.
The robbery rates were similar between the two countries:
U.S. 2009 robbery rate: 133 per 100,000.
U.K. 2009 robbery rate: 164 per 100,000.
The burglary rates were far higher in the U.S.:
U.S. 2009 burglary rate: 716.3 per 100,000
U.K. 2009 burglary rate: 523 per 100,000.
And in the U.S., you were nearly four times as likely to be murdered:
U.S. 2009 murder rate: 5 per 100,000.
U.K. 2009 murder rate: 1.49 per 100,000.
So far, it looks as if one has a much higher chance of getting burgled and killed in the U.S. than in the U.K.
However, the Daily Mail article says the U.K. has a violent crime rate of 2,034 per 100,000 residents, while the U.S. has a violent crime rate of 466 per 100,000 residents.
Definition of ‘violent crime’ has impact on numbers
According to the FBI, there are four crimes classified as “violent” in crime statistics: murder/non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
The list does not include burglaries, which is considered a property crime in the U.S. but a violent crime in the U.K.
In addition to murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault and burglary, England and Wales classify domestic violence and all sexual offenses – not just forcible rape – as violent.
Scotland and Northern Ireland compile their own statistics and systems.
In England and Wales, sexual offenses and domestic violence contain a wide range of offenses and make up a significant part of the overall number of their violent crimes.
Sexual offenses include rape, sexual assault, sexual activity with children, soliciting prostitutes (but not prostitution itself), sexual threats, sexual touching and indecent exposure.
Domestic abuse, described as a form of “intimate personal violence,” includes the following: non-sexual emotional or financial abuse, threats, physical force, sexual assault and stalking carried out by a current or former partner or other family member.
Several other crimes that are classified as violent in the U.K. include vehicle theft, purse-snatching and bicycle theft.
In all, the definition of “violent crime” takes approximately six pages to thoroughly explain. It is found in a user guide to crime statistics published by the Home Office, a U.K. government department addressing crime.
U.S. has higher rape and murder rate than England
The definition of rape is an example of how different the two countries classify crimes.
Until 2012, the FBI only counted “forcible rape” in its violent crime statistics, defining it as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.”
The narrow definition has affected the FBI’s overall numbers. In 2010, the Chicago Police Department could not include 1,400 sexual assaults in federal numbers because the city’s definition of rape was broader than the FBI’s definition.
In England and Wales, a person is guilty of rape if “he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of the complainant with his penis, the complainant does not consent and the defendant does not reasonably believe consent has been given,” according to the BBC.
With these different definitions in mind, England and Wales reported 14,000 rapes in 2009. Based on a female population of approximately 27 million (although males are included in official reports), that comes out to 51 rapes per 100,000 females.
The U.S. reported 88,097 rapes in 2009, which comes out to 56 rapes per 100,000 females.
Despite having a narrower definition of rape that only includes female victims, the U.S. still has a higher rate of occurrence than England and Wales.
The U.S. also has a higher rate of murder, and most happen by way of gun: the FBI said 67.8 percent of murders in 2011 were by firearm.
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