OPINIONOpinion: British Gun Laws should be Relaxed
The United Kingdom is known to have some of the strictest gun laws in Europe, and some would say even the world. It takes a great deal of hassle to actually obtain a firearm legally, and even then the variety available is limited, despite superficial appearances. The same cannot be said for criminals, however; for the average criminal living in a city like London, obtaining a firearm is trivially easy, and almost always are of a type that are supposed to be restricted, such as non-lengthened pistols.
Our gun laws were passed mostly as knee-jerk reactions to mass shootings. The handgun ban, for example, came as a result of the Dunblane Massacre in 1996, in which Thomas Hamilton used legally owned handguns to kill sixteen schoolchildren and one teacher, before killing himself. It was a tragedy, of course—to argue otherwise would be reprehensible—but in truth, the ban on handguns did nothing to stem the rise of violent crime. In fact, according to studies published by the Home Office in 2011, violent crime rose significantly in the following years, and continues to remain high despite stringent regulations regarding weaponry.
All that has been achieved is the removal of weapons from good, law-abiding citizens. It is not uncommon for people, particularly those who worked in law enforcement at the time of the bans, to be critical of them, with some going so far as to claim quite definitively that not a single life was saved as a result of the stricter gun laws. Others even claim that people have died as a result, though I’m not sure I would go quite that far. Of course, this is virtually impossible to actually quantify, but my reasons for including it are to illustrate attitudes, that the UK isn’t nearly as anti-gun than many—particularly those in the US—make us out to be.
That’s not to say that the majority are pro-gun either; to the average British citizen, the issue barely registers in their minds, as they instead focus on more direct and pressing matters. That is not a bad thing, of course, I simply wish to point out that gauging national attitudes towards a specific issue that most of us think of as an American matter anyway is nebulous at best. The truth is simply that most of us don’t really think nor care about gun issues, unless it’s in the news or we have a specific interest in the matter.
Despite banning most guns, as well as public possession of things like kitchen knives, violent crime in the UK has risen sharply over the last two decades. According to statistics published by the Home Office in 2011, violent crimes per 100,000 people have risen to a staggering level in the wake of the handgun ban. Indeed, just last year it has been reported that violent crime rose by a shocking 19%, and the “knife crime epidemic” is a constant national topic of discussion, debate, and criticism.
Of course, this meteoric rise cannot be entirely blamed upon ineffectual legislation; a large part of it can be attributed to our steadily decaying culture, increase in societal fragmentation, and general poor state of affairs for the minds of the nation. Violent crime has always been a problem, of course, but it is practically undeniable that we are now seeing some of the highest levels in our recent history. So what is being done about it?
Our police forces are in a sorry state, and have been for quite some time. They have been burdened with intense scrutiny, outright hatred, crippling budget cuts and forced downsizing, generally poor morale, and simply are not able to do the job we expect of them. They do the best they can under the circumstances, and to point these issues out is not a criticism of the average officer. However, they are fundamentally ill-equipped to deal with the disastrous state of affairs that we find ourselves burdened with.
The culture that made our iconic, unarmed police viable no longer exists. For those who are unaware, British police are quite famous worldwide for, amongst other things, their policy to not carry firearms as standard when on duty. There are specialist armed response units, of course, but the vast majority of policemen and woman do not carry a sidearm or anything of the sort. In the past, this worked well, as our culture permitted it, but things have changed since the 30s. British national culture is in ruins, and unarmed police simply are no longer viable, especially under the handicaps forced on them.
Again, why am I pointing this out? It is to illustrate our failure to adapt to our changing state of affairs. Until we can get things back on track, something I doubt is even possible at this point, we must simply deal with our issues the best we can.
What good is pointing any of this out, however, if I don’t at least suggest an alternative? Well, for one thing, laws regarding firearms and firearm ownership must be relaxed significantly. Personally, I favour the Swiss and “America-lite” approaches, but ultimately the nuances of that sort of thing are best left to those with a greater understanding than I. Another step I consider crucial is the arming of our police forces, to better equip them against the criminal element. Many would find this unsavoury, and even I am not entirely comfortable with it myself. However, I genuinely believe it is necessary to allow our police to actually do their jobs in our modern world.
These measures would not fix everything, nor do I expect them to. In the world we once had the potential to achieve, they would not be necessary either. However, the past is done, and we can only do our best to better the future.