Monday, July 19, 2004

Gun crime in the UK

While browsing I came across this article from the BBC which states that since the Dunblane massacre and the subsequent knee-jerk blanket ban on handguns (and semi-auto rifles over .22LR) gun crime in the UK has doubled.
 Looking at the figures here we can see that between 98/99 the crimes resulting in injury rose from 846 to 2,179 in 2002/03. That's a bit more than a doubling. It's only when air weapons are included (and there was a recent spate of injuries involving teenagers last year which caught the media's attention) that we can see a figure which nearly doubles. The same is said when we look at crimes in which firearms were the principal weapon- from 13,874 in '97/'98 to 24,070 in 2002/3.
 Now that Tony Blair is facing a new election in which crime will play a major role he's having to promise to do something about rising violent crime in general. This is the same man who claimed he would be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime". He's been in power for seven years now and crime continues to rise. I can almost guarantee that if handguns were still legal right now, he'd be calling for them to be outlawed.
 The latest anti-crime initiative is the 155th to be announced since the 2001 general election. If you look here you'll see that the crime figures seem good- overall crime stable, domestic burglary down, vandalism down- but this means little when you look at the violent crime figures- they're all up. Right now, Blair says that it's time for an end to the "1960s liberal consensus on law"but part of his plan isn't tougher sentencing, it's to extend electronic tagging for "the 50,000 most prolific repeat offenders who commit one in ten crimes. Shouldn' t these people be behind bars and not at liberty? Blair is right when he says that British citizens want "rules, order and proper behaviour"- he's wrong when he thinks that we don't want seriously repeat offenders to be at large in society. I for one want them locked up securely.
 Unlike America we have no right to defend our property or ourselves- if British citizens do this we are criminals and are prosecuted as such (and when these cases do occur, it often seems like the defender is treated and sentenced more harshly than the criminal).
 In a coastal here in N. Ireland there was a big problem with underage drinkers and crime- vandalism, burglaries, etc. The solution wasn't to have more police patrol the streets after dark, it was to issue "anti-social behaviour orders".  These are basically good behaviour bonds- break them and you could face a stiff jail term, but the problem is, these orders are themselves only issued as a last resort. The youth in question then has more opportunities to break the law and get caught before he faces a severe sentence.  Of course, youth workers don't want the kids to be punished at all- it's contextual you see.
 In my own home town a house was robbed in broad daylight by a gang armed with knives. They beat and threatened a couple, knocking the man's wife to the ground and kicking her, robbed them and then fled. The couple lived quite close to my own parents and the gang had committed enough crimes that the police felt the need to go door to door in the area warning people to be on the look out for anything out of the ordinary. My own parents own three fairly boisterous dogs which act as a noisy deterrent to anyone approaching their property, but if this gang had chosen to rob them- what could they do? My father is an ex-military man, a one time Regimental Sergeant Major who has had years of experience in training soldiers to shoot. He's never broken the law in his life. He not only cannot own a handgun, but in the current climate, couldn't defend himself with it in any case. Not in the UK.
 About a year ago not far from the village where I live, an elderly man made a regular visit to the country home of his equally elderly friend. While he was there a gang broke in to rob the remote home and beat the man to death. They have never been caught.
 I've got to say that I live in a relatively quiet part of the country. For myself and my acquaintances, crime isn't a major factor in our lives. Most of us spend more time complaining about being robbed at the petrol pumps by government fuel taxes (we pay roughly $5.50 a gallon compared to America's $2). Even so, when crimes does hit, it can be violent and sometimes fatal. In the UK, we not only have to worry about the criminal threatening our wellbeing and perhaps our lives- we have to worry about what will happen to us if we defend ourselves.
 When I was a single guy I didn't think much about this- if someone attacked me I would fight right back. Now I have a partner and two small children and I worry constantly about their well-being. I also worry that, being unarmed by the government, I may not be able to protect them against a gang of thugs. I'm in a rural area and the old, small village police stations have virtually all been closed in the past decade- if police help is required it's now about 15 minutes away instead of two.
 So here's a thought for Blair if he wants to sort out the crime problem- change the law to allow people to defend their life, their property and their families- and give us the ability to defend ourselves, repeal the handgun ban. I'm planning on writing to the opposition party with this suggestion and if I ever get a response I'll post it here.

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