Imagine a Britain in which we were all free to carry licensed firearms.
Most of us can’t because, thanks to the pervasive cultural influence of organisations like the BBC, we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that this is the sort of thing only crazy Americans do; that it’s a matter of national pride that not even our policemen routinely carry guns; that there’s really nothing illiberal or embarrassing about the fact that since the handgun ban rushed through in the wake of the Dunblane massacre, even our once-world-beating Olympic pistol shooting team can only train abroad.
For this reason, I think we can be sure that the post by Kate Andrews of the libertarian think tank the Adam Smith Institute – Make Britain Safer: Bring Back Handguns – will be ignored by all right thinking people. Or rather, by the kind of glib bien-pensant types who think of themselves as right thinking people, such as this lovely character “James” from the comments below.
Wow. If there was ever any debate about whether the ASI’s views should be taken seriously, it is now over.
Have you diversified from the tobacco industry and now added a gun manufacturer to your list of donors?
Yes, that’ll be it James. The only possible reason anyone could have for advancing the case for liberalising our ridiculous gun laws is that they must have been paid to do so by Big Gun. (Which the ASI aren’t, by the way).
Well I’m not sponsored by Big Gun, either – more’s the pity, though if Purdey are interested in courting my good opinion I’m definitely open to offers – but I too find the ASI’s arguments for firearms liberalisation very persuasive.
Drawing from a recent paper by Carlisle E Moody, Andrews notes in her article that contrary to liberal received wisdom widespread gun ownership by law abiding citizens tends to make people safer.
This is true historically:
Homicide was increasing before the invention of concealable firearms and decreasing after. While there may be many other theories, the sudden and spectacular decline in violence around 1505 and again around 1610-1621 is consistent with the theory that the invention and proliferation of concealable firearms was responsible, at least in part, for the decline in homicide. The landscape of personal violence was suddenly and permanently altered by the introduction of a new technology. The handgun was the ultimate equalizer. The physically strong could no longer feel confident of domination over the weak.
It reflects the experience of the US:
Even in the United States today, criminals are reluctant to encounter armed victims. In 1981 Wright and Rossi interviewed 1874 incarcerated felons in ten states. Eighty-one percent agreed with the statement, “A smart criminal always tries to find out if his potential victim is armed.” Thirty-four percent report being, “scared off, shot at, wounded or captured by an armed victim. (Wright and Rossi 1986, pp. 132-155) Using the same data, Kleck found that, among criminals who had committed violent crimes or burglaries, 42 percent had been deterred during an attack by an armed victim and 56 percent agreed that, “most criminals are more worried about meeting an armed victim than they are about running into the police.”(Kleck 1997, p. 180)
And it doesn’t say much for British gun law policy which, over the years, has made us all demonstrably less safe and more likely to get shot – like the unfortunate chap who was out for a walk one day a few hundred yards from where I used to live in South London and made the mistake of nodding one of those embarrassed friendly greetings you give to scary local yoof types in a bid to discourage them from mugging you. For his troubles he was shot in the testicles.
The government in England has been placing increasingly stringent controls on guns especially handguns, since 1920, reducing both the actual and the effective supply of firearms. (Malcolm 2002) The homicide rate in England in 1920 was 0.84 and the assault rate was 2.39. In 1999, the corresponding rates were 1.44 and 419.29. Thus both the homicide and assault rates increased as the effective supply of handguns declined.
Andrews calculates that this represents a 17,544 per cent increase in England’s assault crime over the last 100 years.
Now perhaps, to the Jameses of this world (see pillock quoted above), a 17,544 per cent increase in assault crime is a mere bagatelle and certainly a price well worth paying for the privilege of living in an enlightened society where if someone points a gun at you you know he’s a criminal because only criminals are actually allowed to carry guns.
Personally speaking, though, I find the current situation deeply troubling. Though I’m not generally a fan of government one of the areas where I most definitely think it has a role to play in our lives is in trying to ensure we don’t get shot by criminals, terrorists and such like.
My concern is that, increasingly, it is proving itself quite incapable of living up to this responsibility. I remember an appalling incident a few years back when some women being held hostage by a gunmen ended up being shot dead because of rules forbidding the police from jeopardising their (ie the police’s) health and safety.
Then we have the elephant in the room, the new breed of Islamist terrorism. Yes, it’s probably true that a handgun isn’t going to stop a terrorist in a flak jacket armed with an automatic rifle who is happy to die for his cause: one of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre was an armed protection officer.
But I do suspect, nonetheless, that when – as is almost inevitable – Britain experiences its own version of the Mumbai or Nairobi shopping mall massacres and we read horrifying accounts of how the terrorists were able to wander round with impunity picking off innocent people one by one in the hour or so it takes before the specialist armed police or the SAS arrive it will act as a great concentrator of the general mind.
Not our James’s, though, obviously.