The United Kingdom has some of the toughest gun control laws in the world. The Land of Hope and Glory also has some of the toughest gun control enforcement in the world. For example, on March 15, a judge sentenced a 17-year-old teenage girl without a criminal record to three years in prison sentence for simple firearms possession. Yesterday, a taxi driver with 20 years of legal shotgun ownership behind him used two of his firearms to murder 13 people and injure 25 (three critically). The Lake District massacre instantly triggered calls for even more Draconian guns laws. It’s hard to see how that’s possible, what with the UK’s total handgun ban (save Northern Ireland) and a vetting procedure for long gun ownership that makes Canada’s long gun registry look like a Kindergarten signup sheet. But as sure as eggs is eggs, that’s the direction the UK’s post-event reaction will take . . .
This excerpt from yesterday’s Times—the voice of the island nation’s “right wing”—shows that the British bias against guns is more like an ongoing jihad.
In spite of the tough gun laws, nearly 600,000 people legally own shotguns, which fire pellets only, and more than 100,000 own a firearm, usually a rifle or high-powered airgun.
The anti-gun tone is unmistakable, and the stats are staggering. But not necessarily in the way the Times intended. According to official UK government data, 60 million people live in the UK. The total number of legal shotguns in the country: 1.3 million. That’s one long gun (including non-lethal air guns) for every 46 people.
In 2006, the country counted 167,174 police officers. That’s a lot of cops: one for every 389 residents. Only as many as half of these po-po are engaged in administrative or other non-criminal enforcement activities. Which lowers the stat to one front line cop per 778 head of population. At best.
Exact stats are not available to the public, but less than 10 percent (as best/worst) of UK police are armed. So that’s one armed officer per 8,359 people. Again, that’s at best/worst.
Although the there are MP5 carrying cops wandering the streets in The CIty, Heathrow Airport and other high risk areas, the UK police restrict firearms to “armed response units.” Obviously, these are deployed as needed (they don’t cruise the country like B-52 bombers). In certain places—The City, Royal palaces, major airports, etc.—the response time is lightning quick.
In others, like the Lakes District, the relatively limited number of armed response officers and their distance from any one geographic area limits both their response time and effectiveness.
Details are still emerging from the Lake District spree killing, but this much we know: Derrick Bird left 30 crime scenes and two shotguns behind. His attack lasted four hours. Clearly, the police response was inadequate. Lest we forget, The Old Bill didn’t end the spree. Bird did.
Equally clearly, the police will ask for more firearms resources—continuing a largely undiscussed trend towards arming the constabulary. There will also be calls for even more surveillance cameras (the UK is the most surveilled country on Earth) and stricter gun control, so that psychopathic taxi drivers can’t wreak havoc on the general populace.
In other words, the British will not even pause to reconsider their less guns, less crime formula– despite the huge increase in violent crime since the crackdown on private firearms ownership began. Consider the evidence, via a Telegraph article from last July:
The total number of violent offences recorded compared to population is higher than any other country in Europe, as well as America, Canada, Australia and South Africa . . .
The UK had a greater number of murders in 2007 than any other EU country – 927 – and at a relative rate higher than most western European neighbours, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
It also recorded the fifth highest robbery rate in the EU, and the highest absolute number of burglaries, with double the number of offences recorded in Germany and France.
Overall, 5.4 million crimes were recorded in the UK in 2007 – more than 10 a minute – second only to Sweden.
Remember: this is the most right wing of right wing newspapers. The idea that the stats have anything to do with a virtual ban on gun ownership doesn’t even rate a mention. Not by the papers or the politicians. To wit:
Chris Grayling, shadow home secretary, said: “This is a real damning indictment of this government’s comprehensive failure over more than a decade to tackle the deep rooted social problems in our society, and the knock-on effect on crime and anti-social behaviour.
“We’re now on our fourth Home Secretary in this parliament, and all we are getting is a rehash of old initiatives that didn’t work the first time round. More than ever Britain needs a change of direction.”
The Conservatives see violent crime as a manifestation of social ills, rather than a fact of life requiring sound management, like rubbish collection. All of which brings us to the question that must be asked, but will not on the other side of the pond: would it be better for the UK to allow its populace to arm itself in self-defense?
I think I’ve made the point that this is a purely academic exercise. The UK is less likely to roll back its handgun ban than remove the monarchy. But the one possibility that occurs to every American gun owner when they read of this type of tragedy: what if I’d been there? More specifically, would I have shot Derrick Bird and ended his bloody rampage? Well, duh. More generally, shouldn’t there have been someone—some UK civilian—who could have shot Bird?
It’s a thought that doesn’t even occur to the Powers That Be and their media minions. The Nanny State can’t have their wards going off half—or fully—cocked.
As TTAG writer and commentator Donal Fagan remarked yesterday, the UK press quickly compared the Lake District massacre to previous UK mass shootings and . . . the U.S. Did they mention the LACK of spree killings in Texas since the state changed its gun laws to allow personal firearms after the Luby’s diner slaughter? Or the number of incidents where a gun-toting civilian stopped a massacre? Did they heck.
When it comes to violent crime, prevention is not a cure. The simple truth about violent crime: there is no cure. There is only amelioration. And that can only be accomplished through prevention (including armed deterrence) AND response AND containment (e.g. incarceration).
Not to put too fine a point on it, UK’s gun control policy is an abject failure, both in terms of reacting to acts of terror and mayhem and keeping a lid on violent crime in general. As is the way of such things, the country will see the Lake District massacre as a reason to continue their anti-gun policies, rather than question them.
At the risk of antagonizing our friends across the pond, but God bless America. We are not the “Wild West.” We are a nation where the majority of citizens understand that personal protection is an individual responsibility. That’s why our Founding Fathers gave us the right to bear arms. Which we exercise in our own defense. And, on occasion, the defense of others.