from the Congress Action newsletter
by: Kim Weissman
September 2, 2001
[To read Part 1 first, click here]
The Violence Policy Center report, "Shot Full of Holes, Deconstructing John Ashcroft's Second Amendment", concludes with the following sentence, "Attorney General Ashcroft's efforts to change the Department [of Justice]'s position on the Second Amendment will have dangerous real-world implications that will be measured in increased death and injury from firearms." It would be hard to find a more blatant case of "deconstructing" reality, of ignoring the facts in favor of wishful thinking. If the Violence Policy Center is interested in "real-world implications", they have to look no further than across the Atlantic to Britain, where the fondest whims of the gun banners have actually been implemented and tested. By every rational measure those gun control laws, including a virtually total ban on handguns, have failed miserably.
The Centre for Defence Studies, King's College, London, recently issued a study titled Illegal Firearms in the UK, examining the effect of gun control measures in the United Kingdom. In the years since the ban was enacted, the criminal use of firearms has increased by 40%. The study found that in "the 20 police areas with the fewest legally-held firearms, half had an above average level of gun crime. Of the 20 police areas with the highest level of legally-held guns, only two had armed crime above the average." Yet U.K. gun banners insist that their "cure" is working: "the last thing we should do is relax our gun laws." Like the doctor who proudly trumpets his cure for a deadly disease — and tells you not to be concerned that more patients died with the cure than without it. Of course the pro gun control American media simply isn't interested, and hopes that you'll never find out about the deadly failure of gun control. Search the propaganda mills that insultingly call themselves the American free press for any mention of this study. Our media wants to keep you ignorant of how dangerous their scheme for total civilian disarmament really is to your safety.
Since 1997 the United Kingdom has been serving as a real-world laboratory for the schemes of gun controllers. Following a shooting at the Dunblane Primary School in March 1996 in which 16 children and a teacher were killed, the British Parliament passed the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997. The certification process for the holders of a "Firearm Certificate" under the Firearms Act 1968, the principal Act governing the possession of firearms by private individuals was also tightened. In March, 2000, the Home Affairs Committee of the British Parliament issued a report titled Controls Over Firearms, explaining the current firearms licensing structure in the U.K. Under the Firearms Act 1968, many handguns and automatic weapons fell under "Section 5 controls", which were weapons prohibited for private possession unless held under the express authority of the Secretary of State. "Section 1 controls" covered most other firearm in general use, such as rifles and high-powered air weapons, and certain types of multi-shot shotguns. "Section 2 controls" governed specific types of shotguns (long-barreled shotguns with no magazine or a non-detachable magazine capable of holding no more than two cartridges). The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, following Dunblane, subjected virtually all handguns to "Section 5 controls" — that is, their possession and use is flatly prohibited except by express authority of the Secretary of State. What are considered less dangerous firearms — shotguns and low-powered air weapons — are subject to lesser controls, governed by the Firearm Certificate process.
Granting of a Firearm Certificate requires that the issuing authority determine that the applicant: (a) is fit to be entrusted with a firearm, and is not a person prohibited from possessing a section 1 firearm; (b) has good reason for possessing, purchasing, or acquiring the specific firearm and ammunition for which the application is made; and (c) can be permitted to have the firearm or ammunition in his possession without danger to the public safety or to the peace. The Firearm Certificate can be revoked if the issuing authority has reason to believe either: (a) that the certificate holder "is of intemperate habits or unsound mind or otherwise unfitted to be entrusted with a firearm"; or (b) that the certificate holder can no longer be permitted to hold the firearms or ammunition to which the certificate relates without danger to public safety or the peace; or (c) that the certificate holder is prohibited from possessing a firearm; or (d) that the certificate holder no longer has good reason to possess the firearm or ammunition.
The system, obviously, is highly subjective. And it has been a spectacular — and dangerous — failure. Here are some of the submissions to the Home Affairs Committee for their Controls Over Firearms report:
Imagine that! Law abiding Britons are disarmed, but criminals have no trouble getting weapons "whenever they want". Are we supposed to be surprised by that? Thomas Jefferson would not have been surprised:
And recall the International Crime Victims Survey, released by the Dutch Ministry of Justice in February, 2001 (discussed in the May 20 issue of this newsletter), that found the three countries with the most draconian handgun bans recently enacted — the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada — to be among the top five countries in the world with the most frequent incidents of criminal violence (the U.S. ranked ninth). And while violent crime showed a declining trend in America, the trend was found to be increasing in the U.K. and Australia.
Yet the British Gun Control Network, like its American counterparts, is not interested: "All our activities and objectives are predicated on the belief that the interests of public safety demand a reduction in the availability and attractiveness of firearms of all kinds." Belief is fine, but should belief overcome facts? Their response to the Centre for Defence Studies report: "The distinction between legal and illegal weapons is not clear cut. It should not be forgotten that virtually all guns start out as legal weapons, and that victims are unable to discriminate between a bullet fired from a legal or an illegal gun. Policy must be based on the strict control of availability of all weapons."
Arguments are made by gun control groups that there hasn't been any real increase in violent crime in the United Kingdom following the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, because statisticians have changed the way that criminal events are reported and recorded. It is true that the methodology has changed, but the Minister of State of the Home Office addressed that specific issue in a submission to the Parliament during its examination of the 1997 Act: "In order to be able to make some comparisons on recorded crime before and after the change in counting rules, a linking exercise was undertaken. This showed that there was an overall increase of 14 per cent in recorded crime figures due to the change in counting rules." Recall that the Centre for Defence Studies found that the criminal use of firearms has increased by 40%, only 14 percentage points of which are attributable to changes in the reporting methodology.
An organization called Justice for Shooters contends that the United Kingdom, as a consequence of its regulation of firearms, is presently in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights because "…the 1997 Firearms Amendment Acts only succeeded in depriving a significant minority of innocent people of their Human Rights, sport, property and livelihoods." And as the reports from the Centre for Defence Studies and the Home Affairs Committee show, honest people have also been rendered defenseless against criminal depredations. There is no doubt that gun control is a violation of human rights — the age-old human right of self defense. "…a man's house is his Castle, and a person's own house is his ultimate refuge; for where shall a man be safe, if it be not in his house. And in this sense it truly said, and the laws permit the taking up of arms against armed persons." — Sir Edward Coke, "Institutes of the Laws Of England", 1628. "Self defense is justly called the primary law of nature, so it is not, neither can it be in fact, taken away by the laws of society." — Sir William Blackstone, "Commentaries on the Laws of England", 1765.
Increasingly around the world, that "primary law of nature" — the inherent human right to defend yourself, your family, and your home against criminal attack — is being subverted by the "laws of society". We in this country argue the finer points of Constitutional interpretation to decide whether individuals have the right to keep and bear arms, but in so doing we ignore the larger issue — that when honest people are disarmed, criminals find it easier to ply their trade. This is undeniable. That criminals will always be able to obtain weapons is also not arguable. Simply passing laws will not prevent that, as the billion-dollar annual trade in illegal drugs makes painfully clear. But that criminals will remain armed while honest people are disarmed, while true, is almost beside the point. The fact remains that the most effective means for people to defend themselves against criminal attack (armed or unarmed) are firearms, and those who disarm honest and law-abiding people have the suffering of tens of thousands of needless victims on their hands.
FOR MORE INFORMATION…
Countryside Alliance’s Campaign for Shooting
(commissioned the report Illegal Firearms in the UK, and the site contains
Home Affairs Committee Report: Controls Over Firearms:
2 sep 2001