Gunning for easy targets
spiked editor Mick Hume in The Times (London).
How exactly would banning replica handguns and censoring gangsta rap CDs have prevented those four Birmingham girls being shot with sub-machineguns?
Two of the black teenagers were killed and two wounded in the shooting at a party. Police described the tragedy as ‘unprecedented’, which is why it so shocked us all. Yet no sooner was the picture of those smiling girls splashed across the front pages than the Home Office announced a top-level summit to plan an emergency crackdown on ‘Britain’s gun culture’, as if such murder of innocents was an everyday event. This looks like a grim snapshot of Britain’s culture of government by knee-jerk.
Of course, the Home Office spokesman denied that Mr Blunkett’s five-year minimum sentence for gun possession and other proposed measures were knee-jerk reactions to the murders, ‘though clearly we need to learn the lessons of what happened in Birmingham’. Exactly how the Government might learn those lessons before this week’s summit on guns in society remains unclear, however, given one senior officer’s summation that: ‘There has clearly been some sort of dispute which has resulted in people coming to the premises with guns, discharging their weapons and causing this incident.’ The spirit of Sherlock Holmes lives.
The Government might do better to look back and learn the lessons of Dunblane; that gun control laws can extend the State’s control over society, but they do nothing to control gun crime. Despite the ban on handguns imposed in 1997 after the massacre of Scottish schoolchildren by a madman (another non-knee jerk Government measure, we were assured), it is now reported that firearm offences have since doubled.
It may come as a shock to new Labour policymakers, but criminals do not obey their rules. Gangsters can always get guns, and the proposed restrictions on replica weapons and airguns (which can be adapted to fire live rounds) will simply give them more laws to ignore. The people affected by Britain’s ever-tighter gun controls are the citizenry, denied access to firearms for leisure or self-protection. Talk of a ‘gun culture’ in Britain is wildly exaggerated. Insofar as there is an increased use of guns connected to the inner-city trade in drugs such as crack cocaine, it is a complicated problem with deep social and economic roots. An opportunity, perhaps, to make good Mr Blair’s promise and get ‘tough on the causes of crime’.
However, the authorities seem to have one thing in common with the Birmingham murderers: they are tough enough only to shoot at easy targets. The supposed ‘causes of crime’ that politicians and police chiefs appear keen to crack down on include gangsta rap music, violent video games, and other aspects of ‘teen culture’. There are also proposals to tighten controls on visitors from the Caribbean and the Balkans.
If we could just stop those Albanians coming over here, listening to our So Solid Crew CDs and playing shoot-em-up Playstation games, no doubt all would be well in inner-city areas such as Aston. Alongside political stunts, the usual response to panics about gun crime is to arm the police force. This has long concerned those who aspire to live in a free society. Today, however, we are faced with the bizarre prospect of a police force, armed to the teeth, yet seemingly reluctant to risk using its weapons. Many armed officers claim to be too stressed to draw guns.
Now it is reported that, this week, ‘the Prime Minister is to take personal control of a crusade to drive the killers from the streets’. Presumably his other personal crusades to save the NHS, defeat global terrorism and heal the world will have to wait until next week.
This article is republished from The Times (London)
To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.