Recently, Parliament enacted yet another gun ban, this time on “air cartridge” guns, i.e. the air guns made by Brocock and a few other companies. Once again I felt my blood pressure rising, and no doubt my lifespan shortening, but then it occurred to me, why am I getting so worked up, after all I don’t even own an air-cartridge gun?
This was not an easy question to answer, it took some thought. I am struck by a comment made by Frank Cook MP in Parliament to the effect that the main effect of the handgun ban was to make everyone who owned one extremely paranoid. Hmm, I think it made a few people paranoid, but mostly I think it made nearly every gun owner, not just handgun owners, extremely cynical about the operation of government. The people who weren’t made cynical by this exercise I think are mostly excluded on account of the fact that they already were cynical.
Now, if you talk to someone who owned handguns at the time, they will give you a laundry list of reasons why handguns shouldn’t have been banned, and they are explored in some depth in earlier editorials on this site. However, it is not often put forward that the best reason not to ban them was that it made a large group of decent people immensely cynical about any action the Government takes. Instead of our believing the Government is there to help us, we believe that it is a group of self-aggrandising bigots whose only interest is getting themselves re-elected on the back of knee-jerk actions taken whenever the Daily Mail and company starts whinging.
To take this observation a bit further, next year the Home Office will conduct a “review” of firearms controls in order to draft a new consolidation Firearms Act. This all sounds well and good until you realise that the Dunblane Public Inquiry specifically recommended against banning target shooting with handguns, yet it was banned. The Firearms Consultative Committee has made umpteen recommendations on changes in firearm laws over the years, but perhaps 10% or less of those recommendations have ever been enacted, and only slightly more have ever really been closely considered. Not only that, but the Home Affairs Committee have done two separate reports on firearm law since 1996, and little notice was taken of those reports either.
Contrast this to the panic over air-cartridge guns. Little in the way of proof that they actually were a significant threat to public safety has ever been presented. No-one in the House of Commons even commented against the prohibition as the Bill moved through Parliament. The police wanted the ban, and hey presto, a wave of the magic legislative wand, and they are now banned. Note that in the Lords, our supposed shooting representatives actually pushed for a complete ban with hand-in of air-cartridge guns (calling them “evil little guns”), but the Government refused to change a word of it.
It’s not surprising therefore that gun owners view the Government with cynicism when they take not the blindest bit of notice of us, especially when the police (or rather ACPO) can write documentation that is adopted, word for word, into statutory instruments (and I’ve got the proof of that).
In reality the only result of this new ban will be the instant transformation of innocent people into criminals. There will be a grace period for people to get firearm certificates for their banned guns, and if they don’t get one, they will be faced with the mandatory sentences contained in the new Criminal Justice Act. As in 1920, how many people will be aware that they now need a firearm certificate for their guns? Will the Home Office embark on a nationwide advertising campaign to inform people? Not bloody likely. Look, I’m being cynical, what a shock!
The Northern Ireland Office takes an entirely different tack to these sorts of things – they simply do nothing, or at least as close to nothing as they can get away with. Back at the start of 1996 they announced a review of firearm controls in Northern Ireland. Nearly eight years later, and the new Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order has yet to be implemented. Most likely it will not be implemented until 2005, so that they can “learn lessons” from the latest Whitehall whitewash that will be undertaken by the Home Office next year. The review in Northern Ireland, bear in mind, officially ended in 1998. Then last year there was a consultation paper. Then the Northern Ireland Committee decided to chip in too. I didn’t even bother making a submission to that committee, I was so brassed off with the whole thing by that point. And at the moment, after all this time, the actual proposed Order itself is appalling, it contains so many stupid and unworkable provisions. Perhaps they ought to get ACPO to write it (or maybe they did).
So anyway, I will dust off, for I think the fourth or fifth time, the same submission I have made before with a few minor alterations, and submit it again to the relevant bit of Government, only for it to be ignored again. I’ve had more success convincing foreign governments than I have my own.
Bear in mind I never wanted to be an expert on firearm laws. I only wanted to be an expert on firearms. But there seems little chance of the Government ever letting that happen. Instead they will continue on writing endlessly stupid laws, not listening to anyone but various over-bearing police organisations (whose only real interest seems to be that we should all live in a police state), and emotional knee-jerk reactionaries who have been victims of some awful crime because the Government failed to listen to anyone sensible the last time around. Or, shock, horror, until the Government actually has the guts to say that evil people do evil things regardless of the law, which is why we have courts and police in order to enforce them.
Do I sound cynical? Yes I do, and so do thousands of other people like me, and that cannot be healthy for a country. And we will continue to get more and more cynical (and the nutters on the fringes will continue to get more and more paranoid) until the Government actually does it’s job properly and listens closely to the people it is supposed to represent.
And that ladies and gentlemen, is why gun laws stink!
Oh, and have a Merry Christmas…
“I tell you, men, they could not hit an elephant at this distance.” – last words of General John Sedgewick of the US Army at the Battle of Fredericksburg, during the Civil War (learning the hard way that rifles are more accurate than muskets).