Recently the US Dept. of Justice came out with a study comparing crime in England & Wales with crime in the United States, and to the surprise of the uninitiated the results were pretty alarming – violent crime in most categories occurs more frequently in England & Wales than it does in the US. The only categories where the US outdoes E&W is in homicide and rape – but the gap is closing and E&W is not that far behind when it comes to rape.
The first thing that came to my mind was anger – Britons have been subjected in the last 15 years or so to laws which can only be described as the tactics of a police state. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 was probably the watershed, followed by other galling laws such as the Criminal Justice Act 1988, and the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988. All of these laws had elements which attacked the civil liberties of the people in the hope that by restricting our freedoms crime would be prevented – wrong!
So now we are living in an Orwellian police state, surrounded by CCTV, upon which I suppose we can be recorded when a mugger decides to rob us.
The problem with laws is that criminals are entirely unimpressed by them. I have yet to hear of a case in which waving a piece of paper in front of a criminal deterred him from committing a criminal act. Laws only work when backed up by the police and prison resources to enforce them, and it is that aspect which has been sadly lacking, especially the prisons part.
Certainly, crime can be reduced when police resources are focused upon it – the efforts of the Metropolitan police in 1994 led to a reduction in recorded armed robberies from nearly 6,000 in 1993 to only 4,104 a year later – but police resources can only go so far and can only focus in so many places at any one time. The crime statistics also show that at the same time as armed robbery is declining, offences of attempted murder and assault with firearms are going up.
It is all particularly sad because the police are surrounded by all the resources that one could ever need for stopping crime – it’s called the public, but woe betide the copper who suggests allowing private individuals to take an active part in crime fighting. Why? Because it’s effectively illegal! Guns are illegal, stun guns are illegal, CS spray is illegal, hell, even dogs are illegal!
What are we to make of the comments which emanate from time to time from the police and their masters, the Home Office? In 1993, I received a letter from Home Office minister Robin Ferrers in which he states: “…it is the responsibility of the police to protect the individual in society.” Indeed, so next time I get attacked I will take the police to court for failing to protect me, I cannot wait to see the look on the face of the judge!
The Northern Ireland Office of course has a completely different approach, because of the terrorists running about with Kalashnikovs. In Northern Ireland, there are about 9,500 firearm certificates on issue for handguns for personal protection. In addition, the MoD issues another 2,000 or so to it’s personnel for their protection.
But can someone please tell me why someone who lives in Northern Ireland is allowed to own a gun for self-defence, but a person who lives in Great Britain is not? After all, I am sure there are plenty of scientists who have been fire-bombed by the Animal Liberation Front who would love to be able to have a gun! Salman Rushdie is even on record as saying he would like to have one.
But according to the Home Office no-one in Great Britain may have one. Although I am not 100% sure, it would appear that not everyone in high places agrees with the Home Office, because I hear stories repeatedly that the Home Secretary has given prohibited weapons authority to current and former members of the Met anti-terrorist squad to keep handguns for self-defence (via the Met Police Authority which he heads). Indeed, there is even a gunshop in London which caters to ambassadors and their staff who are able to hide behind diplomatic immunity if they get caught packing a gun in public.
Our supposed “gun lobby”
What is perhaps more galling than the comments of the bureaucratic nitwits in Whitewall is the limp-wristed approach our supposed “gun lobby” takes to the issue of self-defence. None of the national organisations is willing to go on record stating that people should be able to have guns for self-defence, even in limited circumstances. No organisation that I am aware of represents the 9,500 certificate holders in Northern Ireland in this regard either.
Instead we have talking heads who wax on about how a firearm may be designed to kill people, but it is really only used to shoot bits of paper nowadays. Rubbish. Guns are designed to kill, and until our supposed shooting lobby representatives take that bit of information fully on board instead of trying to talk around it, we will never make any progress towards getting the various gun bans in this country overturned in any meaningful way.
What makes it all the more laughable is that the National Rifle Association is a registered charity because of it’s contribution to the “defence of the realm”, by teaching the military how to shoot more accurately, which by inference means how to destroy the enemy more effectively. Yet walking around the club houses on Bisley Camp introducing the concept of using a gun to shoot in self-defence into a conversation is likely to get you some peculiar looks.
Now, do we actually need guns for self-defence? Well, I personally don’t and you may not either, but take a drive into Hockley one of the days through Handsworth, and tell me that the jewellers who work there who are prayed upon by armed robbers don’t need them. Or ask someone who works at a security company in London transporting cash or valuables whether he doesn’t need one.
Guns are without question the best deterrent to criminal attack, every criminological study on the subject points that out, so for God’s sake why won’t the Government allow us to use them?
The Keystone cops
That of course is the $64,000 question, and one could write a book on the subject. The answer lies in Govt. distrust of the people, and also of the ingrained mood of the civil service, and probably also the myth that we will “turn into the United States” and other such claptrap which has built up due to the rubbish we see in the media nowadays. I wish we would turn into the United States, where fighting crime is taken seriously and violent crime levels are falling. One only hopes that criminological studies into European gun controls to be released this year will finally explode the myth that gun-related crime rates are lower because of our massively bureaucratic gun control laws. (Just for the record, armed robbery increased by 900% from 1969 to 1994 in E&W and firearm-related homicide nearly tripled over the same period, while legal gun ownership fell by about a quarter).
But perhaps the best example of the Government’s entrenched mind-numbing stupidity on this issue can be seen in the way that guns are used and kept by the police.
Most experienced shooters who have practised with armed police are astonished by their lack of skill. There are some who are good shots because they practice on their own time, but most are pretty mediocre.
There are about 7,200 Approved Firearms Officers (AFOs) in GB. Training normally consists of two weeks on the handgun, and one week on the carbine (invariably the H&K MP5SF). This is topped up by firing off a hundred rounds (often less) or so every quarter.
Now, how long did it take you to learn to shoot well? Now, I suppose it is possible that someone who knows how to shoot could stay reasonably safe and competent with 400 rounds of practice in a year, but 400 rounds a year after only three weeks of training? The only word to use is “Yikes!”
The police in Washington DC have a training regime not that dissimilar, and have recently been raked over the coals by the Washington Post because of the staggering numbers of accidental shootings that have occurred.
Because of the nature of the armed police in this country (i.e. they are called to the scene after a report of an armed criminal and usually arrive too late to be of any use), shootings by the police are pretty rare. But when they do occur, there have been some major corkers. One of the first that was memorable was the shooting of a mental patient who was armed with a broken air pistol. He was stupid enough to point it at a police officer, who shot him, but the officer was behind cover and some distance away. The threat to the officer was slim and predictably the public outcry was loud. As a result, the police force in question spent a very large sum of money on a new training centre, and have had less gaffs since.
Up in Yorkshire if I recall correctly, a pensioner was shot dead by the police as he waved his walking stick at them from his bedroom window – the police mistook it for a rifle.
In London, armed police were called to the scene after two motorists saw a man through a window on the first floor of a pub with something in his hands – the police spread-eagled him at gunpoint on the road only to discover he had been fixing the toilet, and had a toilet handle in his hands.
In Kent, armed police surrounded the house of a pensioner who had scared some birds out of a tree in her backgarden with a cap pistol – unimpressed by the sudden appearance of MP5 toting police, she opened her front door and told them: “Go away.”
Near Brighton, an unarmed drug dealer was shot dead after being awoken by armed officers. The officer who did the shooting stated that he thought the man was going for a gun – nothing was found near the body.
In Manchester, another hapless individual found himself acquainted with the pavement outside his home after bursting a balloon in his home as a practical joke – the noise was reported as a gunshot, and along came the keystone cops with their MP5s.
At Ascot, a member of the Met assigned to protect the Queen negligently discharged his pistol.
The list is becoming endless, and in fact one gets the impression that some people are cottoning on to the idea that if you want to cause someone hassle, just phone up the cops and say they have a gun.
We should perhaps be thankful that a 1994 report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary found that a large proportion of guns owned by the police for operational use were so badly maintained as to be unusable!
In this climate, can you imagine what would happen if people actually could own guns to defend themselves? Every time a shop keeper pulled his gun to defend himself, he would risk having a passer-by calling the police and being shot by them!
But frankly, the argument that the police are more capable of defending us than we are of defending ourselves is obviously hogwash. Empirical evidence has now clearly borne that out.
Personally, I think it’s time to go on the offensive and reclaim our rights. We have nothing to lose do we? Sharpen your pencils…
“God created the big people, and God created the little people, so Sam Colt invented the .45 to even things out.” – Trad.
“All the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence, suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law.” – Bill of Rights, 1689