June 12, 2007

A Call to Arms

Citing "an increasingly lunatic society that is armed more than ever," The U.K. Daily Express is taking the radical step of calling for British citizens to take up arms.

Did I say citizens?

I meant police:

Michael Winner, founder of the Police Memorial Trust which commemorates officers killed on duty, said the dangers faced by PCs everyday are greater than ever.

He said: "We live in an increasingly lunatic society that is armed more than ever. There are knives, there are guns. There are the sorts of weapons out there which were not there when I was a young person.

"The fact that officers are not armed is shocking. Of our 33 memorials, I think 28 officers would be alive if they had been armed."

Victor Bates, whose jeweller wife Marian was killed by robbers in Nottingham in 2003, said: "It is long past the time to arm all our officers."

They're still a very long way from allowing British citizens to defend themselves, but I suppose this could be seen as progress, if you squint.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at June 12, 2007 07:17 AM

Michael Winner and a shopkeeper may be in favour of routinely arming the police, but the police, when polled, are not. Neither are the general population.

Like it, don't like it, there is virtually no public call for general armament of the population, massive support for restrictive laws on gun ownership and at best a minority support for the armament of police officers. It isn't as if the police force have no guns, they have plenty, and specially trained handlers who get bussed in when needed.

Over here we tend to regard guns as dangerous things that should be kept out of people's hands, no matter who that person is, rather than personal protection. We may be naive, but we've got a pretty low gun crime rate.

(Huge burglary rate, of course, but that's the price you pay)

You probably find it weird, but to us the sight of an armed policeman generally fills us with unease. The sight of an unarmed policeman would probably fill you with the same feeling.

Posted by: Rafar at June 12, 2007 08:09 AM

All that is understandable, Rafar. The unstated difference in your entire comparison, which shows in the tone of your comment, is that, on your side of the pond, it is collectivist mindset whereas it is individualist on this side. There are no calls here for the general armament of the people and the departmentalization of police here is such that, if a similar condition existed with the police as yours, a proposal for general armament would receive a quizzical look if not downright derisive comment. Each decision on that subject is up to the individual towns and cities, the counties, the 50 states and the federal government for their respective jurisdictions.

Here, the value to the Republic of a person's life is set, at its core, by that individual, not by the state. The nation from which we drew our principle that "your home is your castle" has reverted to the principle that 'your home is the state's castle'. The monarchy hasn't been neutered, it's only been replaced by a nondescript entity that still enjoys its little tyrannies. That may, in part, be why an armed constable fills you with unease. We pay no mind to whether a policeman here is armed or not because we do not fear them.

CY, its British subjects, not British citizens, but "allowing" is an apt description of where rights are derived from in Britain.

Posted by: dusty at June 12, 2007 12:35 PM

Rafar, I'd like to associate myself with Dusty's remarks. I was a cop in Vermont, one of our quite rural states. Virtually every house contained at least one firearm, and people who knew how to use them. As a result, gun crime, and person on person crime was quite low.

It was -- probably still is -- utterly normal common to see pickups with two high powered rifles hanging against the rear window. This attracts zero alarm, or attention -- unless it's a particularly nice weapon. Once, while on patrol I saw a 12 year old boy trudging down a dirt road with a rifle in the rain. I gave him a lift home.

What you will NEVER read in our traditional media is that in jurisdictions where carrying a concealed pistol is legal, andwhere a permit to do so is easy for responsible citizens to get, all crime is much lower, especially gun crime, than in "enlightened" jurisdictions that forbid almost everyone to own, never mind carry where, of course, criminals have unarmed victims provided to them by law. That is sheer insanity.

I'll tell you something else. Our female soldiers who have come home from the war are arming themselves in record numbers. Once they have had the experience of having decisive means to defend themselves, and others, they DO not want to give that up. No one in their right mind would.

Posted by: Bill Smith at June 12, 2007 05:21 PM

"The monarchy hasn't been neutered, it's only been replaced by a nondescript entity that still enjoys its little tyrannies. "

Painfully true. Daily we allow the state to encroach more and more into our lives. It does allow one moments of low humour (recent calls to put warnings on wine bottles to the effect of "May cause intoxication" for example) but it generally makes me want to throw my hands up. I don't think that it is quite the Stalinist state that you might imagine though ;)

There are a few areas of life where I support strong regulation. Gun control is one of them. While the few cases that do occur are big news, it is almost unheard of for people to be involved with gun crime, the gun murder rate is very low and generally restricted to gang related turf battles (even these are a bit pathetic in comparison to the states).

BTW, the unease over armed police is mainly because guns are such rare and, frankly, distrusted things over here. Not many of us are afraid of the police.

"CY, its British subjects, not British citizens, but "allowing" is an apt description of where rights are derived from in Britain."

Well, we say citizens these days, only pedantic duffers (like Mr Winner, for example) would insist on subjects.


I think that the main difference here (and why I don't advocate any particular stance in the US regarding firearms (as if I had the right)) is that the UK is a largely gun-free society. The US is a generally gun saturated society. What works for one would not necessarily work for the other.

A while ago I was reading an article from the states about the handgun ban in the UK and how violent crime had increased, drawing a link between the two and basically saying "See, ban handguns and see what happens". The cultural gap was at fault here because the ban on handguns could not have had any effect on violent crime because no-one walked around with pistols for protection, almost all of them were kept in gun clubs and those that weren't were in big lockers in people's houses, hardly where you need them for personal protection. They were never useful for self defence, but the writer wouldn't know that because he laid his assumpitions about US behaviour onto the UK population. Crime has gone up but the handgun ban didn't have anything to do with it.

I'm just content to know that the only likely weapon I am going to have to face is a knife. I can deal with knives :)

"Once they have had the experience of having decisive means to defend themselves, and others, they DO not want to give that up. No one in their right mind would."

See, that's where you're right in that we think collectively at times, but you mistake collective thinking for a lack of self-interest. You think "Why would I give it up?" I think "I'll happily give it up if it means that my idiot neighbour doesn't have one either".

Posted by: Rafar at June 13, 2007 04:30 AM