Many years ago I used to be an enthusiastic member of a gun club and even owned a couple of small handguns, one of which was a genuine WW2 Walther PPK - the gun made famous by James Bond. I wasn't much of a shot with handguns and actually far better with rifles, but the local club was handguns only and to shoot regularly that's what I had to use.
I gave up shooting long ago and sold both guns - to fund a motorcycle tour of Europe - long before the Labour government's knee jerk reaction to Dunblane made owning them illegal. But I had been a member of that club for around 10 years and not once in that time had anyone from that club indulged in any illegal activity involving firearms.
So it's interesting for me, today, to come across a Peter Hitchen's post on his blog supporting gun ownership and opposing gun control.
Like most 'liberal' solutions, they don't work against their intended target, and they attack freedom. It helps a great deal to be liberal about this if you a) don't think about it and b) know no history at all. Until 1920, Britain's gun laws made Texas look effeminate. There was no effective restriction at all on owning a firearm. Yet there was virtually no gun crime. Now we have some of the most restrictive anti-gun laws in the world, and gun crime is a serious and growing problem. Interestingly, the laws came first, the problem afterwards, and the recent ban on handguns was a completely logic-free response to the Dunblane mass-murder which preceded it.
Exactly. What happened at Dunblane was truly tragic, but the government response focused entirely on the fact that Hamilton was a registered gun owner and glossed over the failings of the police and authorities who knew that Hamilton was unfit to hold a licence. As The Times notes ...
On one occasion, police seized a vast collection of photographs of nearly-naked boys. Police urged prosecution but no action was taken and officers were ordered to return the photographs.
Bizarre! Back to Hitchens.
I also think that strict gun laws are wholly ineffective against their targets. The guns used in crime are hardly ever legally obtained. The people who use them almost invariably have criminal convictions, which would disqualify them from legal gun ownership anyway. So you can pass as many laws against gun ownership as you like. It will have precisely no effect on the level of gun crime. In which case, why do it?
Maybe because they want to be seen to be doing something, but they can't actually do what needs to be done because of the nature of their politics which asserts that criminals are really "victims" who need help, love, comfort, pity. Which is why ...
The same 'experts' who have banned guns and knives (with no noticeable effect on their use by criminals, though the harassment of innocents for carrying pen-knives grows year by year) pursue individuals for hitting burglars too hard or, in a notable incident last week, a pensioner who had clouted one of a gang of youths who had pelted his home with snowballs for hours on end.
Yet the one thing that will bring a rapid and powerful police response to a phone call is a claim that guns are being used by private citizens. And the one offence the courts will always punish severely is the one they call 'taking the law into your own hands'. Why? Because they are much more worried about their monopoly of force than they are about protecting us. Is that a good sign?
No it's not - and it was certainly not the idea in Sir Robert Peel's mind when he said the "police are the public and the public are the police". The whole point of the police force is that they were just members of the public who were paid to take on full time what was considered to be the duty - not a "right" or even an expectation, but a duty - for every citizen to uphold the law. I'll leave the last word to Hitchens.
Actually, I object strongly to the expression 'taking the law into your own hands'. The law is ours and we made it for ourselves, to protect us and govern us, as a free people. Our freedom to defend ourselves against criminal violence is part of our general freedom to live our lives lawfully. We hire the police to help us enforce the law, not to tell us that we cannot do so. Sadly, the modern British law is not our law, but an elite law, based on ideas which most of us do not share. And the modern police are the elite's police, not ours, which is one of the reasons why they have vanished from the streets, where we want them to be. The disarming of the people, and the cancellation of all their rights to defend themselves, are bad signs.