Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pencils aren't the problem either

Every time there is the terrible tragedy of somebody going berserk with a gun and killing a number of people there is a cry for yet more tightening of gun laws. Uniquely, this country does not allow people to practice handgun shooting in clubs, presumably because all those who do are likely to go berserk and start slaughtering people right, left and centre. Nobody asks the obvious question of what would have happened in all those tragic episodes if other people had been armed and could have stopped the gunman with a well-aimed shot at an earlier stage.

Anyway, I was rather pleased and surprised to see that the Derrick Bird case did not produce the usual knee-jerk reaction from the government. Gosh, I thought, maybe there is something, very little to be said for the Boy-King. I suppose, it is possible that he was brought up among people who took shot-guns for granted and knew that they, in themselves, were not good or bad. However, as Philip Johnston says, we were all reckoning without the oleaginous Keith Vaz. (No, he does not say oleaginous as the Telegraph would not allow it, I expect.)
Hundreds of thousands of firearms owners who feared a new crackdown breathed a sigh of relief – but they reckoned without Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee, who felt that another review of the law was in order. His committee's report was published yesterday, and while it shied away from the tough restrictions on ownership that some campaigners would like to see, it managed to recommend yet more controls on law-abiding users that would do nothing to stop a maniac like Bird or reduce the number of illegal guns in the hands of criminals.
Of course, not. That is not the aim of people like Mr Vaz who merely wants to control the law-abiding population. Much he cares about armed criminals. He does not live anywhere near them.

Read the whole article. I understand Philip Johnston was briefed by the Countryside Alliance. I see another campaign brewing.


  1. I remember a TV debate in the UK in the wake of the Dunblane shooting. About only reason put forward against the gun ban was that it would hurt our Olympic shooting team. At the time I had little opinion on the matter, I had done some .22 shooting on the range at school, done weapon safety with the cadet force and plinked some tin cans with air rifles at holiday camps. I didn't think the proposed changes would make any difference to our murder rate, but at the same time I didn't think they really mattered. Roll on a few years and the rise of the internet allowed me to witness a few very interesting debates on the issue between American "gun nut" thickos and various oh-so-superior Brits... and the Brits got their arses handed to them, which did convince me that it is a serious and fundamental issue up there with freedom of speech and the rest of it. The Americans essentially made three main points:

    First, an armed population can defend itself from outlaws. The state may be useful to cleaning up the mess afterwards & hunting down the perpetrators but they are simply not capable to responding quickly enough to defend you when it will do any good. The counter argument that fewer weapons = less violence didn't stand up to analysis of the crime statistics for any given area.

    Second, an armed population can be quickly formed into a militia to assist in the defence of the nation from external military threats. Any foreign aggressor would prefer to deal with a small professional army and an unarmed population than a small professional army and a million armed & angry civilians, as we're finding in southern Afghanistan at the moment.

    Third, an armed population has the ability to resist it's own government if (or when) it becomes tyrannical. As such the presence of an armed population actually reduces the probability that the government will become tyrannical in the first place (or at least slows the process down a bit).

    To that I would add my own opinion that this issue tells us a lot about the relationship between "them" and "us". The Police & Home Office have abandoned Peel's principles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peelian_Principles) and regard an armed populace as a threat rather than an assistance. Quite simply, they don't trust us one little bit. They think that if we're armed that we'll turn on each other or, much more importantly, on them. They don't see themselves as being part of "us" and haven't done so for most of the last century. The Police seem much happier with themselves as the only armed presence on the streets, it doesn't matter to them at all how many civilians are victims of violence (in fact it could be said that they actually benefit with more victims as it gives them more crime to solve and more opportunities to pose as the "heroic defenders" of the people), as long as no one is shooting at the coppers. To me that seems to be the proverbial tail wagging the dog, we shouldn't be making the rules for the benefit the Police.

  2. It actually makes no difference whether Vaz wants to control criminals or ordinary people. Laws, prohibitions, licences and restrictions only ever control law abiding people, none of them control criminals!

  3. Here in the US, the Supreme Court recently held that there is an individual right to own firearms. Chicago, which had outlawed such ownership, responded with a law making it very complicated, difficult and expensive to own any gun. It will go to the Supreme Court and undoubtedly will be overturned. Washington, DC also is too restrictive and will lose.
    As to the other great US gun issue, concealed-carry laws vary considerably. The goal for most who care about it is the shall-issue law. Absent some serious problem (conviction of a serious crime or any violent one, being nuts) the authorities shall issue a permit. I live in such a state and, yes, have a permit. I have routinely (not always) carried a gun but never have fired it (even at a target), pointed it at anybody or even mentioned it. I hate violence.

  4. A good many people who think individuals should have a right to own guns (something that was taken for granted in Britain right up to the end of the First World War) and carry guns hate violence. That is my experience, Bleepless. It's a myth that all people like that want to do is kill everyone in sight. If that were true there would have to be some explanation why crime rates do not go down with gun control. Often, quite the opposite.

  5. Helen, you are absolutely right. Burglars, muggers and the like routinely report that one factor in their choice of venue is the likelihood of getting shot. They find a less threatening jurisdiction or pick a crime such as car prowls with less likelihood of encountering anybody. Also, the research of John Lott shows a strong negative correlation between the prevalence of firearms and the number of many serious crimes (violent ones, burglary and so on). There has been quite a debate on Lott's work; he usually wins.
    By the way, the vile Michael Bellesiles, a master of distortions and lies about firearms, got a job teaching in England after he was fired and got his awards revoked. Sigh.