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The Great Gun Debate


There’s been a lot in the news recently about the increased use of guns by criminals in the UK and as usual it’s stirred up the hornet’s nest of controversy. A couple of teenage girls were shot dead with an Uzi machine gun for no apparent reason on a Birmingham street and the great gun debate has returned front and centre to the news.

As far as I can remember, the Hungerford massacre in 1987 started it all. An unemployed labourer, Michael Ryan, went on a killing rampage with a collection of semi-automatic weapons resulting in 17 deaths (18 if you include himself) and 15 injuries. The 1988 Firearms (Amendment) Act was passed and that banned the ownership of semi-automatics and the general consensus at the time was that it was a good thing that we didn’t have a gun culture like in the USA as this sort of thing could happen much more frequently. Don’t fly off on the handle just yet, I’ll come back to that statement later.

Then in 1996 a disgraced Scout master killed or injured all but one of a class of 5 and 6 year olds in Dunblane primary school in Scotland. This tragedy sent shockwaves around the country and many questions were asked as to why a man capable of this atrocity should have firearms in his possession. And just a couple of weeks ago these two teenagers were gunned down after a party and suddenly the statistics started to pour out.

Apparently gun crime in the UK has risen by 35% in the last year with an average of 27 firearms offences being committed every day. Throughout all this there have been some well publicised shootings in the States, particularly kids gunning their classmates down at school (such as the Columbine killings). However, while crime rates and particularly gun crimes are rising at an alarming rate in the UK, the converse is true across the pond. You are several times more likely to be mugged in London than New York and the percentage of burglaries in the UK are higher than in the USA.

In the UK, it’s illegal to carry concealed weapons. If somebody breaks into my house and attempts to rob it and I catch and then kill them (maybe he tries to cut my throat, I wrestle the knife off him and stab him) then I’ll be the one charged with manslaughter. I know a man who caught a couple of guys trying to steal his car, he chased them down, beat them up and he was charged with assault. You rob me at gunpoint and I take the gun off you and shoot you with it (which I probably would, given the chance) and I’d be the one facing the jail term. Where’s the sense in that?

Compare that with the USA, where it is legal to carry a concealed firearm in 33 states and it’s a part of the constitution that you are allowed to bear arms. Could burglaries perhaps be so low in the States because you are allowed to shoot any intruders on site? And could muggings be lower because the potential mugger doesn’t know if his target is carrying a gun or not? Who knows, but all I can say is that it can’t just be a coincidence.

The UK has always relied upon a system of total protection for all. This means that the government manages the safety of the people by means of the police force. So you shouldn’t take the law into your own hands, you should let the police deal with any muggers or burglars for you. Anyone who lives in the real world knows that this is a pathetically unrealistic idea. The middle classes who have very little contact with crime will tend to claim that the police are doing a great job, but you ask any cop working in Birmingham, London or Bradford and they’ll give you a better view of what it’s really like out there. It’s a war. And the kids out there carrying guns doing drive-by shootings don’t give a damn about the laws of the land.

Do I trust the police to protect me from the ills of the world? Do I feel like I live in a safe, cotton-wool wrapped world? No I don’t – I’m under no illusions. Do I think that guns should be legalised in Britain as in America? Probably not. Do I think that the current system is working? Hell no. Crime rates are accelerating, end of story. Will our government’s ban on replica guns make any difference to the crime rates? Not a chance.

The people who commit these crimes aren’t concerned by the consequences of their actions, and that means that the deterrents aren’t working. Prison terms don’t matter to some kid who knows that with a gun he can get whatever he wants; drugs, respect or whatever makes him tick. But if his potential victim was carrying a gun of his own? I wonder if that might make him think twice. In an ideal world the kid would have had a better upbringing that would mean he lived a decent life and loved his mother and never committed a crime. But come on, what planet do you think we live on?

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

15 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. I don’t know that there is any right answer here John. Yes the laws are different here in the United States. There is a different attitude here as opposed to the UK and Europe regarding the ownership of firearms. We still have a tremendous amount of crime. And we have senseless tragedies as you described. And many others when children find their parents firearms and then accidently (or not) fire them. The reality here in the States is that bad guys can get guns and will use them. So our law enforcement personel carry weapons. And home owners have weapons to protect themselves and their possessions. It’s a deadly spiral. Maybe we’d all be better off if no one had weapons?


  2. The ability to bear arms is very different from the legal carrying of concealed weapons.

    I am absolutely positive that the reason the burglary rate in the US is so much lower than the UK is entirely down to gun ownership. I am not, however, convinced that concealed weapons reduce any crimes.

    The UK is slowly spiralling into chaos – I’m glad I left when I did. You only need to read my description of being beaten to unconsciousness while the police watched to realize that.

    I could rant for a long time on this one but won’t. Suffice to say, while in the UK, I was burgled every 6 months for 3 years whereas in the US, I have left my keys in the car with the garage door open and nothing has happened.

    Put it this way; I feel far more safe here than I ever did in the UK. There’s a reason for that and I think you’re hitting on it here.


  3. Hmmm, I have a feeling you’re talking bollocks. The biggest cause of deaths in America for young males is shootings. Statistically, if you own a gun you’re more likely to shoot a member of your own family than an attacker. And crime rates in this country aren’t accelerating – quite the opposite – there are less crimes being committed now than 5 years ago.


  4. Methinks jon is drinking his own bathwater. Reported crime may be down but I don’t think for a moment that anyone would believe that crime is on the decrease.


  5. Quoting from the same article:

    “The British Crime Survey shows crime has been falling since 1997 and the risk of being a victim is very low – around the same as 1981”

    And I doubt very much that if reported crime is falling, actual crime isn’t also falling.

    If you kill someone who breaks into your home, that’s murder and you deserve everything you get.


  6. So let me get this straight… A guy breaks into your house, rapes your wife, smashes all your expensive Ming vases, cuts the throat of your dog, and if you catch him in the act and accidentally kill him while attempting to knock him down then you’re the one in the wrong? Or should you make him a nice hot cup of tea instead? Not in my book.

    I’ve been the victim of crimes a couple of times and if I ever caught them I’d tear their arms out. Simple. You can’t reason with people like that. They get caught and they get a suspended sentence or a 6 month term. Then they get out and how do you think they’ll get money next time? Join the Salvation Army?


  7. No, if someone breaks into your house they’re guilty of a crime, just as you’re guilty of a crime if you kill them. We don’t have vigilante justice here, for a very good reason. An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind, as a rather well known Indian gentleman once said.


  8. You’re probably right. I think the problem stems from my distrust of the justice system. It’s the knowledge that most burglars or muggers are persistent and repeat offenders that bothers me most of all (can’t be arsed to dig up the stats). And have you ever been burgled? Nasty business.


  9. Ah but isn’t the threat of vigilante justice the best deterent? I don’t know what percentage of US homes have guns, but as a burglar, would you risk breaking into a house?

    I don’t own a gun and wouldn’t own one just for the kids’ safety however I do have two rather largish and protective dogs who have pinned down people who have entered the house without our express consent (poor cable guy). I also have a remarkably small and wimpy dog who licks anyone who enters.


  10. Ah ha,

    the Ade returns-breifly on a SLOW 56K modem.

    In the UK the majority of gun crime is between gun touting gangs bickering over teratory or drug sales. The average punter has to be pretty unlucky to get in a crossfire – as was the case on new year with the 2 Birmingham girls.

    There was an article about this on Radio 4 the other day. Some youths are prone to be volatile – we all agree with that. Many end up grabbing the thing nearest to them to gain “silverback” or “alpha male” status.

    In the countryside where I am it’s usually a fist or 2, some more stupid people reach for a bottle or a glass and use that as a weapon, the more serious amngst them pull knives (I’ve had on pushed in my direction recently – I know!!!!) but most of these result in either a bruised ego or a trip to hospital for stitches.

    The Radio 4 article was an interview with some young black lad from south london, he was at a club and his mate stood on another blokes foot. Annoyed by this, the bloke decides to broach the subjet of a hurt foot – an argument ensues and rather than punching grabbing a bottle, the man with the sore foot drew a gun and killed the youth…..

    We emotional and agressive creatures – we make rash decisions – we should never have the right to carry things that have the sole purpose of killing people as we can never be sure of our mental state at ALL times.

    Is standing on a foot a capital offence after all?


  11. I, like most of my countrymen,have a small priviate arsenel. mostly sporting goods, and a couple of assault rifles for the novelty value. I do have a permit to carry, but dont on a regular basis. if you are in a area whre you need to carry a gun, you shouldent be there.houses are sometimes robbed, and intruders occasionaly shot, charges are almost never pressed on some one defending there home,(even, sadly, when the perp got it in the back) statistics show that there is a greater liklyhood of a fire are taking the life of a family member in a accedent or suicide,
    yet, there is a (false?) feeling of safty and control of your life with a loaded uzi under your bed.


  12. private ownership of firearms sure helped us in the revolution.if it wasn,t for private ownership of firearms,americans would not be here.we would be slaves for england.also if the jews had firearms in the thirtes,maybe it would not have been so easy to put them in ovens.


  13. If private fire arms get easily in the hands of the general public it would be catatsrofic. Think about it, a over testoseroned teenaged school child eather gets jelous of someone or trys to prove his manlyness, if he could get his hands on a fire arm he would go from over aggressive school boy to murderer.


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