Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Iceland: Heavily Armed, Almost No Gun Deaths

This January 17, 2013 International Business Times article mentions that Iceland is the 15th best armed nation on Earth (about 1/3 of the population owns a gun), but:
But violent crime is virtually nonexistent in this land of Viking descendants and geysers. In 2009, only four gun-related deaths were recorded, including one suicide and one accidental shooting.
This could possibly be attributed to strict gun control laws in Iceland -- a national database registers and tracks all guns, and all gun buyers must be licensed by the state to possess firearms.
The hunting association claims that this is because semiauto rifles are banned, and handguns are pretty scarce.  But that hardly seems an adequate explanation for such an incredibly death rate, even by suicide.  Maybe it has something to do with the culture of Iceland?

I confess that I keep looking at countries to immigrate to, now that the U.S. is headed for complete internal collapse.

This May 16, 2013 BBC report about how Iceland is both heavily armed and almost crime free also mentions something that a lot of people really don't want to hear as a possible explanation:
In addition, there are, comparatively speaking, few hard drugs in Iceland.
According to a 2012 UNODC report, use among 15-64-year-olds in Iceland of cocaine was 0.9%, of ecstasy 0.5%, and of amphetamines 0.7%.
Iceland is also pretty strict on alcohol:
Liquor Laws -- The legal drinking age in Iceland is 20. Grocery stores have only low-alcohol beer; all other alcohol is sold in state-controlled stores called Vinbuð, with limited opening hours. Drunk-driving laws are extremely strict; just one drink could put you over the blood alcohol limit (0.05%).
Read more: http://www.frommers.com/destinations/iceland/254359#sthash.jibg5BH6.dpbs#ixzz36EXi6Rsz 
 My guess is that decades of slowly less strict alcohol prohibition may have also played some part in diminishing a culture built around intoxication, which is a major factor in violent crime of all sorts.  Homicide rates declined, but not significantly, after beer was legalized in 1989.

It appears that the consumption of "spirits" (distilled alcohol, I am guessing) declined, as did suicide, after the legalization of beer.  This does not surprise me; it is surprisingly easy to reach incredibly stupid levels of behavior with distilled alcohol, which often leads to other stupid, and irrevocable actions.  Yes, there are people who manage to do this with beer, but it seems to take a much more concerted, almost college student level of effort.

1 comment:

SJ said...

Some time ago, I read a book on the history of Iceland.

Settled by people from Norway, it was originally a somewhat-violent place.

The culture had lots of vendetta violence. But the culture also allowed negotiated settlements, and kept to a set of laws that were recited, amended, and voted on at the yearly Althing.

I think the Althing was part of a self-organization that took place when the settlers realized that they didn't have a single powerful leader, but still wanted a system of laws.

A couple of centuries into its history, Iceland welcomed Christianity. They are one of the few instances of a European culture doing a peaceful transition from pagan to Christian.

I would like to say that Christianity stamped out the vendetta-type violence, but I suspect that other factors were at play.

Including the culture that had a high respect for the law. And a culture that had always allowed negotiated settlement to end a blood-feud.