- There have been 97 deaths in terror attacks in the UK since 2005.
- In contrast, there have been over 408 deaths in mass shootings this year alone in the US.
- Britain has strict gun control, so terrorists are forced to use alternative, less lethal methods.
- The London Bridge attacker was armed with a kitchen knife.
- Strict gun control is a good way to curb terrorism.
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There have been 97 deaths in terror attacks in the UK since 2005. It's an appalling toll, capped yesterday by the stabbing attack on London Bridge in which two people died.
But Britons should count themselves lucky, in comparison to what has happened in the United States. There have been over 408 deaths in 366 mass shootings this year alone in America.*In America, the death toll has come largely from mass shootings. In the UK, while terrorists have used guns in a small number of incidents, most of the deaths have come through other, less effective methods: Stabbings, driving vehicles into crowds, and explosives.
- Deaths in mass killings in the US and UK
- US: 408 in 2019 alone
- UK: 97 total since 2005
- Sources: Insider and Sky News.
The obvious difference between the two countries is that Britain has strict gun control laws. Very few people own guns in the UK. And if you want to own one, the restrictions are onerous. Handguns are all but banned. Automatic weapons are completely banned. Rifles, for sport or hunting, can only be obtained after you have received permission from the police, who conduct background checks on applicants. Shooting clubs must also obtain licenses.
With guns off the menu, terrorists have to find alternative ways of killing people. The London Bridge attacker was armed with a kitchen knife. He wasn't stopped by "good guys with guns." He was stopped by a Mini Cooper tour driver who kicked him in the head.
The statistics suggest that using a knife, bomb, or vehicle is far less lethal than using a gun. In the US this year there have already been more mass shooting deaths, and more individual mass shooting incidents, than there are days in the year.
Guns aren't completely absent from British life, of course. As yesterday's incident on London Bridge showed, there are specially trained armed response officers who can react quickly to attacks. Yesterday's attack was ended when one officer drew his weapon and killed the attacker, who appeared to be trying to detonate a suicide vest. (The device turned out to be fake.) Only about 5% of all UK police officers carry guns. British police have been historically reluctant to carry arms because they believe that unarmed officers are more approachable for the public.
Many of the recent terror attacks in the UK have been stopped by armed officers. The low fatality rate suggests that you don't need a heavily armed police force — just a contingent of armed police — to keep the public safe.
But the wider lesson from these numbers is obvious. If you want to reduce deaths from terrorism, and if you want to reduce the effectiveness of terrorists, then really strict gun control is a good way to do it.
*Correction: There have been 408 deaths in 366 mass shootings in 2019 in the US. An earlier version of this story incorrectly said there were only 366 deaths.