The BBC on How Safe Americans Feel

Justin Webb, the BBC North America editor, Missouri, has an interesting article. You have to read down a ways into this BBC article before you come across this point:

Brits arriving in New York, hoping to avoid being slaughtered on day one of their shopping mission to Manhattan are, by day two, beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about. By day three they have had had the scales lifted from their eyes.

I have met incredulous British tourists who have been shocked to the core by the peacefulness of the place, the lack of the violent undercurrent so ubiquitous in British cities, even British market towns.

"It seems so nice here," they quaver.

Well, it is! . . .

Wait till you get to London Texas, or Glasgow Montana, or Oxford Mississippi or Virgin Utah, for that matter, where every household is required by local ordinance to possess a gun.

Folks will have guns in all of these places and if you break into their homes they will probably kill you.

They will occasionally kill each other in anger or by mistake, but you never feel as unsafe as you can feel in south London.

It is a paradox. Along with the guns there is a tranquillity and civility about American life of which most British people can only dream. . . .

Possibly it would have been useful if this article had also contained a few numbers to back up the claims presented here. For example, it would have been useful to note that half the counties in the US have zero murders in any given year, another 25 percent have just one murder, and that over 70 percent of the murders are in just over 3 percent of the counties. Even within those counties, the violent areas are very small and heavily associated with drug gang activity. The areas outside the big urban counties are the places where gun ownership is highest, but it is where murder rates are lowest. For accidental gun deaths in the US, in 2004 there were a total of 649. Obviously the discussion could have gone even deeper and discussed how many of these accidents were committed by criminals, but the point is that I think that it would have made the article stronger and It would show people that the impressions that people had about America fit in with the reality.

Thanks very much to Richard of Newport for sending me this link.

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