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The guns are in Britain despite gun control
National Post ^ | 28 January 2003 | Theodore Dalrymple

Posted on 01/28/2003 9:24:37 AM PST by 45Auto

It is an article of our modern faith that for every social problem there must be appropriate and curative legislation waiting to be enacted. If only the laws were right, all problems would go away, and we should henceforth live in perfect peace and harmony.

When, therefore, a crazed gunman in Scotland massacred 15 children and their teacher at the junior school in Dunblane in 1996, the British government enacted gun control legislation in response to the natural public emotion and revulsion against this terrible act.

Well, the evidence concerning gun control is unequivocal and conclusive: It hasn't worked, just as its critics always said it wouldn't. The reason for this is obvious: law-abiding people don't use guns to commit crimes, while criminals are not likely to take any notice of licensing restrictions and regulations.

Crimes involving the use of firearms rose in Britain last year alone by 35%. In the year 2002, 9,974 crimes were committed with the use of a gun; the year before, there were 7,362 such crimes. In 1954, by contrast, a princely total of four crimes were committed with the use of a gun. Something has changed, to put it mildly.

Britain has been horrified by the gunning down of two young girls recently in the crossfire between two rival gangs, the Johnson Crew and the Burger Bar Boys, at a New Year's party in a hairdressing salon. Although there were large numbers of witnesses, the police have had difficulty in finding people to come forward, for gun law now rules in inner-city Britain and criminals believe in the death penalty. It is applied for such heinous crimes as giving statements to the police.

The law has done nothing to curb the surge in gun crime. A few years ago the surgeons in the hospital in which I work had virtually no experience of gunshot wounds: now they are quite adept at their medical management. Indeed, training courses are now available for surgeons in Britain on how to treat gunshot wounds, for the treatment of such wounds is clearly a growth area in British surgery. In our hospital, the policemen routinely wear bullet-proof jackets, a police guard round a shot patient becoming a not uncommon sight.

My young patients from the slums know where and how to get a gun, and they know the current prices too (not high). It is merely a matter of going down to such-and-such a pub and asking such-and-such a person. You can afford a gun even on social security.

There are said now to be three million guns illegally held in Britain, the majority of them coming into possession since the passing of the law after the Dunblane massacre. The police estimate that up to a third of criminals possess firearms, though, as yet, death by shooting is uncommon.

One particularly (and characteristically) stupid measure that the British government is contemplating in response to the killing of the two girls in Birmingham is the proscription of imitation firearms. Quite a number of British criminals have until now contented themselves with the possession of imitation weapons with which to frighten shopkeepers into parting with the contents of their tills, but since it will henceforth be easier to obtain real firearms than imitation ones, there are no prizes for guessing what will happen next. But the government would rather that shopkeepers were shot dead than that it was accused of doing nothing.

The sudden influx of guns into Britain from Eastern Europe is one unforeseen consequence of the end of the Cold War and the war on Serbia, though, as yet, it has been spared the trade in heavy weaponry (for example anti-tank weapons) that French criminals now possess and use. We have been saved from this by the fact that our cars are right-hand drive, and so an exchange system of stolen BMWs for liberated bazookas has not developed. However, it is only a matter of time before heavier weaponry makes its presence felt. As it is, our police -- who had long prided themselves on being unarmed -- are already easily outgunned by the childish thugs of the slums.

The great majority of shootings in Britain are still connected to the trade in illegal drugs, though occasionally innocents get caught in the crossfire. The trade in drugs allows people who would otherwise be unlikely to prosper to make substantial sums very quickly (though they rarely hang on to them). Some people have used this undoubted fact as an argument for decriminalizing the sale and distribution of currently illegal drugs, thus destroying the profits to be made from them; but of course, a counter-argument applies just as well. The guns are here in Britain now, and it is unlikely that those who use them will beat their Uzis and Kalashnikovs into ploughshares once no more money is to be made out of drugs. They will turn them in other directions, on to people about whom we care rather more. The plain fact is that the average person in Britain is rather glad when he hears that a drug dealer has been shot dead by another drug dealer. I have overheard the police rejoice.

However, illegal drugs or not, it is unlikely that the effect of de facto gun law can be confined forever to the slums. Perhaps capital punishment will come back into fashion. Last week I had a patient who had just witnessed a murder by shooting (she was too frightened to go to the police), whose brother had been shot dead by robbers who were trying to take his gold chain.

"What do you think should happen to people who shoot people dead?" I asked.

"They should hang," she replied without a moment's hesitation. She was black, incidentally.

Theodore Dalrymple is a British physician and contributing editor to City Journal.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: banglist; britain; control; folly; guns
Socialism is a disease; Utopian political philosophy is delusional. An armed society is a free and safer society.
1 posted on 01/28/2003 9:24:37 AM PST by 45Auto
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To: *bang_list

2 posted on 01/28/2003 9:25:39 AM PST by Joe Brower (
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To: 45Auto
What you said.
3 posted on 01/28/2003 9:26:36 AM PST by RKV
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To: 45Auto
Ya beat me to this one! I was this close to posting this story. : )
It's obviously never occurred to Dr. Dalrymple that the solution to the problem is to re-arm the British people. He gets close to the idea when he mentions the relative dearth of gun crimes in 1954. Though not as liberal as America's, British gun laws in 1954 were certainly more lax and gun ownership more widespread than today.  He mentions the idea of de-criminalizing the drug trade (a good idea in and of itself), but what about starting with something a little less controversial: De-criminalizing gun ownership.
4 posted on 01/28/2003 9:29:38 AM PST by Redcloak (Tag, you're it!)
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An armed society is a polite society.
5 posted on 01/28/2003 9:31:37 AM PST by corkoman
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To: 45Auto
Do you have any info on how many British coppers are now armed?
6 posted on 01/28/2003 9:33:34 AM PST by ken5050
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To: 45Auto
A prohibition against the common people possessing, carrying and, if necessary, using weapons for their own defense and the defense of the community is the mark of an oppressive government. Recalling that America remains free only so long as true policing is a cooperative effort between the government and the people, we need to restrain ourselves from the childish urge to give the problem of crime over to our police and government. Yes, it absolves us from the responsibility and the burden, but it also deprives us of our freedom.

England began to go wrong when its people turned to their police as the sole solution to a criminal problem. When citizens are involved in their own policing, then the chances of oppressive acts by the police (military) are much less as the public's willingness to participate limits the reach of the government.

To apply that dictum here in our county means that we as citizens must testify, we must report and we must act when crime occurs in our presence or ken. We must encourage those police practices which make us a part of the police process. To do anything less is to invite the government to take action to make policing effective without cooperation of the body politic. A situation which only works when the power of the police approaches that of a police state.

7 posted on 01/28/2003 9:42:22 AM PST by Dogrobber
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To: 45Auto
A Dalrymple bump. He's been a foot soldier in the class wars in Britain ever since he first volunteered to be a prison doctor, and is worth any dozen theory-spouting bureaucrats and social engineers.

His mention of hanging is interesting. The notion that capital punishment is uncivilized and street murder is somehow not probably needs a little reexamination.

8 posted on 01/28/2003 9:53:56 AM PST by Billthedrill
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To: corkoman
LOL and fences make good neighbors.
9 posted on 01/28/2003 9:59:46 AM PST by ffusco (sempre ragione)
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To: 45Auto
10 posted on 01/28/2003 10:01:50 AM PST by MoralSense
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To: ken5050
If I've interpreted these sites right, there were about 6200 armed officers in 1999-2000:

There were about 126000 police officers in 2001:

So I guese the proportion of armed officers is a bit under 5%. I think the bulk of this will consist of armed response units, rather than routine patrols. I've never seen an armed officer on UK streets, except for in Manchester over Christmas (carrying some kind of combat rifle (?) rather than handguns) and that was only to keep a visible presence after an IRA bomb took out the city centre a few years before. To my knowledge, the only constabulary that routinely arms police officers is Nottingham and this is only for some of it's worst Beirut-styled sink estates.
11 posted on 01/28/2003 10:55:50 AM PST by orbital
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To: 45Auto
One definition of insanity is to keep trying the same thing and expecting a different result. Gun control is tried as a mesure to reduce crime more crime results so more gun control laws are passed. The gun grabbers do not understand they are insane they want to repeal the laws of nature and have the world to confirm to the way they think. Clearly they are delusional and will continue foisting their delusion on the general public until society disintergrates to the point where the populace takes matters into their own hands. When the populace revolts then the usual result is tyranny, however, occaisionally liberty is the result. That occaisional result is that which drives revolutions.

The actual start of a revolution is usually not determined until after the fact. Did the farmers on the Concord bridge realize that thier action would result in the US Constitution? That is quite doubtful. They might not even have thought that they would actually trade shots with the British Army let alone be in the first real battle of a revolution. They knew they had had enough and they were not going to take it any more. They knew they could not be disarmed. To this day no one knows who fired the first shot of that battle.

Likewise the French who marched to the Bastille that fatefull day in July had no idea the officer sent to disperse them would join them and later become Emporor of France and almost conquerer of Europe.

These are the forces that are being toyed with by the gun grabbers and they do not for the most part realize it.

12 posted on 01/28/2003 1:28:58 PM PST by harpseal (Stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown)
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