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Why London is safer than Oakland

Malcolm Potts, professor of population and family planning | June 7, 2017

I am glad that next week I will fly to the safety of the United Kingdom.

The terrorist attacks in Manchester (22 killed and 119 injured) and London Bridge (7 deaths and 48 injured, some critically) are horrible tragedies and I don’t want to diminish their significance. But for an average individual citizen walking the streets, or drinking in a  bar, the  USA is much more deadly place than  than the UK..

crime scene tapeYesterday in the United States, an average of 289 people were shot and 36 killed. Today, in the United States an average of 289 people are shot and 36 killed. Tomorrow, in the United States, an average of 289 people will be shot and 36 killed. It simply goes on and on.

Since 1963 more Americans have been killed on the streets and in their bed rooms than died on the battlefield in the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.  Even in 2001, when the 9/11 attacks killed 2,977 people, I was three times as likely to be killed by a neighbor with a gun than a suicidal terrorist.

We ignore violent deaths when they occur one at a time, but react strongly to several violent deaths in the same place, at the same time. Why? I suspect it is a response that proved adaptive in the Stone Age. We are an extraordinarily violent species. For most of human history, if you found one corpse it might have been someone who fell out of a tree or had been attacked by a lion, but if you found two or more corpses in the same place it was a very strong indication that somebody out there was attacking your clan. It made sense, in Shakespeare’s words “to screw your courage to the sticking place.”

President Trump still lives in the Stone Age. Following the London attack, he tweeted, “Do you notice we are not having gun debate right now, That’s because they used knives and a truck.” No!  Every day guns in America kill seven times as many people as many people as a van and knives did in London on one day last week.

Sadly, there are few ways to stop radicalized young men willing to die when killing others from mounting attacks. There are many proven ways to reduce gun violence.

Next week, when I land in London, I will feel safer than I did when I took off from San Francisco.



Comments to “Why London is safer than Oakland

  1. Malcolm, how is your trip to the UK, especially since you said “USA is much more deadly place than the UK.”

    Did you learn anything we can do to overcome our increasingly out of control violence, inequalities and hate?

    I strongly urge you and UC colleagues like Robert Reich to join together to fight back like we did in the 60s and 70s, but this time to produce, implement and perpetuate permanent solutions.

    Can you and Robert make that happen before climate changes destroy our opportunities to solve these and other destructive problems like worldwide violence, inequalities and hate?

    • Malcolm, how come there has been no reply/update from you on your trip to the UK, especially now that Trump claims he had a most successful G20 trip?

      Did you decide that it is hopeless to come back now that Trump dominates our democracy, or oligarchy, or whatever it is that we have now?

  2. Many people don’t feel safe on UC Berkeley campus, where radical ideologies and violence run rampant.

  3. Mr. Professor,
    Don’t you educators ever study logic??
    I studied logic and your comments and article could not hold water in a serious debate.
    Your comments, like most in your group, are opinions that are based on emotion without statistical fact or even considering the additional component of “risk”.
    Statistically there is more “risk” in London of being near a terrorist attack than there is “risk” here at home of being shot as you say.
    Guns give you the right to protect yourself and there is only one person responsible for your safety; that would be you.
    The moral decline in the country is the reason for bad behavior; not gun ownership. You can’t legislate morality.
    Why don’t you look at stories about how many good people are alive today because they had a gun to defend themselves from a home invasion??
    Lastly, thanks to Black Lives Matter group, Obama policy, irresponsible and fake media, I now live in one of the most violent cities. We lost many police officers, so, crime and gun shootings have gone up. Bad guys still get guns. But now the good guys aren’t around to protect people. California has the most restrictive gun laws in the U.S.
    So your argument that you don’t feel safe proves the point that MORE laws do not make any difference! It’s about behavior.
    And by the way, in my city it is statistically black on black crime or black on white crime. If black lives really matter, and all lives should matter , why aren’t we addressing the bad behavior of SOME gun owners or gang violence instead of color of skin or race????? It’s not gun ownership ; it’s bad behavior; That is a logical argument because it is not logical to say ” all gun ownership is bad ” or ” owning guns makes a country more unsafe than another country”. You are not reasoning. That is your lesson in logic professor vs spouting how you “feel”.

    • Ms. Zarlingo, you state that, “It’s not gun ownership ; it’s bad behavior; That is a logical argument because it is not logical to say ‘all gun ownership is bad’ or ‘owning guns makes a country more unsafe than another country.'”

      In reality, however, much social science research suggests that it is the uniquely American phenomenon of gun proliferation and poor race relations that leads to gun violence. Institutional racism ghettoizes, impoverishes, under-educates and otherwise strips people of color of their human potential, thus increasing crime in those locales (i.e. your “bad behavior”). Because we are a bifurcated society, we often lack empathy and understanding because our fellow citizens are so seemingly foreign to us. Lastly, the proliferation of guns escalates almost every conflict into a life-or-death altercation (how many road-rage cases end in gun violence here in the U.S. as opposed to say, Canada, where there are almost as many guns per capita?). I would suggest, as a quick primer, “Bowling for Columbine” which explores our uniquely American gun violence epidemic and doesn’t tend to oversimplify, as your appeal to “logic” ironically does.

  4. Human Race, We Have a Problem!

    We’re not mitigating global warming, violence and inequalities fast enough because we don’t know how to communicate and we don’t know how to cooperate with each other.

    So this year we passed 410 ppm atmospheric CO2 even though a decade ago Bill McKibben declared “350 or Bust” to be the tipping point for climate changes.

    And yesterday, the testimony given to the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington, plus our presidential election keep proving that our political system is in a state of chaos where neither political party can be trusted to protect We The People because the majority of our politicians are indentured servants to the power of money.

    Now this post appears to document a fact of life in America today that violence is worse here than terrorism is in Europe.

    So we are destroying any possibility of an acceptable quality of life for future generations with no social science solutions in sight that will fix a root cause of our survival problems in time:

    • Greetings Mr. St. John,

      I’ve often bristled at your posts, but hadn’t really figured out exactly why until today.

      The Chicken Little “Sky-Is-Falling” routine shuts down debate just as quickly as climate change deniers and their “alternative facts.” It immobilizes otherwise sympathetic and engaged people.

      It is, however, the modus operandi of the elder generation, who, truth be told, are largely responsible for making the world as it is.

      Unless you have some concrete solutions and can expend some serious effort trying to bring them into being, please stop with the alarmist yelling.

      Future generations will thank you.

      • tim, the root cause of our failure to produce and perpetuate an acceptable quality of life for future generations is the fact of life that no one, including our political and intellectual leaders, can produce “— concrete solutions and can expend some serious effort trying to bring them into being —” or we wouldn’t have the out of control climate changes, violence and inequalities throughout the world we are experiencing today. Two of our greatest historians, Will and Ariel Durant, have documented this human failure mode that has never changed over the history of our civilization.

        Also, evolutionary biologists, as documented in the “Can We Adapt in Time?” article I referenced above, conclude our failures are due to the “limitations of the human mind.”

        There is also one most preeminent UC professor, Robert Reich, who informs, educates and motivates far, far better than I do, but we must join him in his efforts to save the human race, and we keep failing to do even that.

  5. I agree to the point if security is near you but as of now there have been 3 major attacks in the last 10 weeks in London. I think Oakland is very dangerous when it comes to gang gun crime and would rather take my chances in London

  6. Dear Professor,

    you compare unequal things, which is highly unscientific.

    You say “Yesterday in the United States, an average of 289 people were shot and 36 killed.” and you deduce that US is less safe than UK. But how many of those deaths were gang-related? How many suicides? How many were because of an altercation between drunk people at 3am?

    Now, tell me, what are the chances that a 3-year old will be blown up with shrapnels and nails in a pop concert in the US?? Or a young girl being torn in half by a truck, as happened in Stockholm?

    This is what you have to ask yourself. And, please, don’t mention a public shooting again, unless you have proof that the shooting was orchestrated by a network of evil forces, such an entire country (like ISIS), and radical preachers and religious leaders, and was tolerated by the local community.

    Your arguments may have flied in the 60’s. But now, we see through them.
    You ignore the context. You ignore statistics. You ignore logic.

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