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?