Prof. Martin Killias

Killias Data

The linkage of the number of guns in a community to level of gun "abuse", used to justify the new gun laws [British], comes from the pen of Martin Killias, a Swiss Professor of Criminology.

His graph of total/firearms homicides versus the percentage of the homes with firearms, in 16 countries, shows a correlation of about 0.37. Is this a meaningful test for dependence on a scale of 0 to 1? A sound correlation is 0.75+. The same test against the percentage of cars in the 16 countries gives a correlation of 0.47! 1

What is very obvious is that Martin Killias has not shown a reasonable correlation as he claimed. This "data" produced by Killias was used extensively in Britain to sway legislators and help pass the restrictive legislation they now have. Martin Killias' study belongs in the camp of junk-science.

Critism of the Scottish and Home Office submision

One of the most frequent criticisms of literature favouring gun control is that it is often written with a pre-conceived agenda. Evidence which would tend to lend weight to the argument is promoted, whilst contradictory evidence is suppressed. Prof. Killias could be justifiably criticised for such an approach in relation to his statements regarding his home country of Switzerland.

In Switzerland gun control legislation barely exists, people are even allowed to own fully automatic assault rifles. Service in the militia is mandatory for Swiss males and after leaving the militia conscripts are required to keep their service weapon (and ammunition) in their own home. As a result Switzerland has a high rate of firearms ownership, surpassing even that of the United States. Switzerland is thus frequently an embarrassment to advocates of gun control, since its high rate of firearms ownership is associated with minuscule levels of crime.

Killias attempts to underplay this association by removing militia weapons from the gun ownership figures. He discounts assault rifles as "too bulky for criminals", this is glossed over in the Home Office submission who maintain that service ammunition is supplied in sealed containers and unavailable for sale in any arms shop. The statement is partially true and subtly misleading, service ammunition is supplied in sealed containers which must not be opened. But service ammunition is freely available, with a state subsidy, on over 2,500 rifle ranges and commercial ammunition in the same cartridges is also available through the gun trade. Assault rifles are fully automatic weapons, i.e. they will continue to fire whilst the trigger is pressed, they have been illegal in the UK since 1936. A semi-automatic rifle will fire a single shot each time the trigger is pulled. Semi-automatic rifles were banned in the UK following the Hungerford massacre; as they were "especially dangerous." If they are especially dangerous in the UK, why are more lethal firearms to be excluded from the Swiss figures?

Similarly Killias attempts to exclude militia pistols on the grounds that they are "uncommon" and unsuitable for criminal use. Over 260,000 of the current model have been issued and they are typical of modern police or service firearms. The Sig-Sauer P228 was selected by NATO specifically because of its small size and firepower. As centre-fire handguns are now apparently "especially dangerous" why should they be excluded from the Swiss figures?

Finally Killias makes misleading statements about Swiss firearms laws. As an example Killias claims "All cantons require a permit for the purchase of a gun." Such a statement is untrue rifles or shotguns may be acquired without a permit. In addition he claims that "Most cantons require a permit to carry a weapon outside one's home." In fact 11 cantons do not require a permit allowing 43% of the Swiss population to carry a concealed weapon without any official authorisation.

Killias has also attracted criticism for the methodology used in the ICS survey. The ICS survey is based upon a telephone survey and given the methodology used cannot be considered reliable. In each country some 2000 people were rung at random, the caller said that they were ringing on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior. The caller then proceeded to enquire as to the precautions taken against break-ins and whether firearms were in the house. In the 1st survey only 41% of the calls were successfully completed, in the 2nd survey 61%. Who would admit to a strange caller, particularly one claiming to be from the Ministry of the Interior, that they possessed an illegal firearm? 2


1 Source: Tasmania First Party, Denison Digest, Volume 1, No. 3 October 1997
2 Annex G - Criticism of Home Office Evidence

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