Amidst a sharp increase in shootings and violent crime in England, the New York Times believes its found the culprit: American guns that are being smuggled in to the island nation where guns are banned. In a new story entitled “How American Guns Are Fueling U.K. Crime,” the paper pins the blame for the United Kingdom’s increasing crime rate on our Second Amendment, though eventually the authors reluctantly acknowledge that most illicit firearms seized in the U.K. come from Europe, not American soil.
Most illegal firearms in Britain still come from Europe. But investigators seized hundreds of smuggled American guns last year, a small figure by international standards, though experts say the number that the police do not discover is likely to be far higher.
The British police have traced some of the smuggled American guns back to loosely regulated gun fairs in states like Florida. Investigators have also seized American weapons being smuggled on a container ship and hidden in car engines.
Now the authorities fear that after Brexit, when borders with the European Union will be more tightly regulated, the illegal gun trade from America could accelerate, especially given the Trump administration’s broad support for the gun industry.
“A major Trump administration goal is to globalize the firearms trade and facilitate exports, and if you’re facilitating legal exports it’s almost inevitable that there will be an illegal diversion of weapons into criminal markets in other countries,” said Aaron Karp, a senior consultant for the Small Arms Survey in Geneva and a lecturer at Old Dominion University in Virginia.
According to Britain’s National Crime Agency, seizures of illegal firearms have doubled in the past year, and the Times reports that firearms offenses are up 38% since 2015. That seems to be the result of more gang members choosing to use a firearm instead of a knife as their weapon of choice, though knife-related homicides still outpace gun-related homicides in the country.
Still, the New York Times tries desperately to spin England’s growing crime problem on the United States and our Second Amendment.
Matthew Prefect, who leads the National Crime Agency’s firearms unit, said officials were concerned enough about smuggled guns that his unit had almost doubled its staffing in the last two years, as the agency tries to suppress the firearms market to try to prevent handguns becoming as common as knives.
“If suddenly guns became the weapon of choice as opposed to a knife,” Mr. Prefect said, “we’d be in a really difficult situation.”
If the United Kingdom does find itself in that difficult situation, it won’t be because of American gun laws. As Switzerland’s Small Arms Survey noted last year, there are more guns on the black markets in Europe than firearms in the hands of legal gun owners, and the RAND Corporation has pointed out that firearms are often sold in Europe through the so-called Dark Web. In other words, there’s already a sizable inventory of illicit firearms that are much closer to the United Kingdom than the United States.
Europe represents the largest market for arms trade on the dark web, generating revenues that are around five times higher than the US. Firearms listings (42 percent) were the most common listings on the dark web, followed by arms-related digital products (27 percent) and others, including ammunition (22 percent). Pistols were the most commonly listed firearm (84 percent), followed by rifles (10 percent) and sub-machine guns (6 percent).
Of course the New York Times doesn’t mention any of this in their reporting, choosing instead to craft a narrative that the United Kingdom can only be saved if Americans embrace strict gun control laws here. In reality, while some Americans may find it profitable to try to smuggle in guns (mostly antiques and deactivated firearms, according to British authorities), there’s already a steady supply of illicit firearms available for British gangs much closer to home. Even Brexit isn’t likely to change that; though borders may be tightened, it’s not like Europeans are suddenly going to stop traveling to the U.K. Opportunities to smuggle in firearms from Belgium and other black market hot spots aren’t going to disappear once Brexit’s in place, so if the United Kingdom is going to get serious about addressing its rising violent crime rate, they need to focus on consequences for violent criminals, no matter their weapon of choice or where they acquired it.