In the middle of the 20th century, you could buy a shotgun in London with no questions asked. New York, which at that time had had the stringent Sullivan Law restricting gun ownership since 1911, still had several times the gun murder rate of London, as well as several times the London murder rate with other weapons.
Neither guns nor gun control were the reason for the difference in murder rates.
People were the difference.
Yet many of the most zealous advocates of gun control laws, on both sides of the Atlantic, have also been advocates of lenience toward criminals.
In Britain, such people have been so successful that legal gun ownership has been reduced almost to the vanishing point, while even most convicted felons in Britain are not put behind bars.
The crime rate, including the rate of crimes committed with guns, is far higher in Britain now than it was back in the days when there were few restrictions on Britons buying firearms.
In 1954, there were only a dozen armed robberies in London, but by the 1990s - after decades of ever-tightening gun ownership restrictions - there were more than a hundred times as many armed robberies.
Gun control zealots' choice of Britain for comparison with the United States has been wholly tendentious, and not only because it ignored the history of the two countries.
It also ignored other countries with stronger gun control laws than the United States, such as Russia, Brazil and Mexico. All of these countries have higher murder rates than the United States.
You could compare other sets of countries and get similar results.
Gun ownership has been three times as high in Switzerland as in Germany, but the Swiss have had lower murder rates. Other countries with high rates of gun ownership and low murder rates include Israel, New Zealand, and Finland.
Guns are not the problem. People are the problem - including people who are determined to push gun control laws, either in ignorance of the facts or in defiance of the facts.
There is innocent ignorance and there is dogmatic and self-righteous ignorance. Every tragic mass shooting seems to bring out examples of both among gun control advocates.
Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California. His Web site is www.tsowell.com.