Monday, June 7, 2010

The Cumbria gun massacre is no excuse for knee-jerk legislation

Well, dear reader, last week there was a gun massacre which claimed the lives of twelve people. This did not happen in the U.S., however. This carnage took place in Cumbria, a quiet and picturesque district in northwest England.
Derrick Bird, a previously popular and well-liked 52-year-old, was a gun permit holder for twenty years prior to last week's rampage. Details on why Bird flipped out are still sketchy, but it had something to do with a family squabble. Bird was disputing his mother's will, and frustratingly told a group of associates the night before the shooting spree, "there's going to be a rampage in this town tomorrow and it's going to start with my mother." No-one took him seriously.
Bird was as good as his word, and the result was the worst gun massacre in Britain since the 1996 Dunblane school shooting in Scotland.
Yes, it's a terrible tragedy. And, yes, it's absolutely natural to think, if not for that rifle, twelve people would not have died from bullets lodged in their bodies.
But Prime Minister David Cameron was absolutely correct in resisting knee-jerk reactions to the massacre. Mr. Cameron said that gun control laws in Britain were already among the toughest in the world and that he would see to it that tragedies such as the one in Cumbria "cannot happen again."
The Prime Minister stated, "You can't legislate to stop a switch flicking in someone's head and this sort of dreadful action taking place." My thoughts exactly.
Britain has a serious knife culture at the moment. And while legislation exists to severely punish those caught carrying a knife, we haven't banned knives. We realize that knives are tools first, weapons second. Same thing with guns. We cannot ban guns on the premise that somebody will suddenly lose his mind and abuse that tool.
Compare the PM's level-headed assertion with that of MP John Pugh who questioned how a "simple taxi driver could possibly justify the apparently lawful possession of such a formidable and devastating arsenal." Excuse me, but how exactly does a shotgun and a .22 rifle constitute a "devastating" arsenal? Hyperbole, much?
Inner-city gangs may possess an arsenal, but the demented Mr. Bird certainly didn't. Britain's gun control laws are fairly strict. Futhermore, strict gun control laws in Finland didn't prevent two massacres in that country last year.
Mr. Cameron is correct. You cannot legislate against what people will do without crushing certain civil liberties in the process. As unfortunate as it is, you can only review existing laws, close loopholes where they may exist, punish killers with the death penalty (assuming they haven't already killed themselves), and help pick up the pieces after the fact.
People's reasons for owning a gun are not always nefarious. Lots of gun owners don't hunt nor look for people to pick off when they're pissed off. Guns, like furniture, can be a family artifact. Some people enjoy target shooting; in fact, the social activity inherent in shooting clays or "cowboy action" shooting can be very enjoyable. Some people like having a collection; they enjoy their guns' historical value and they're an investment. And, though I realize this assertion opens up a veritable Pandora's box of arguments, guns are kept for self-defence, something I fervently believe in.
And as much as I abhore hunting, let's face it: Hunting is never going to be declared illegal in any country, so, given that fact, how can you deny gun permits for it? The flannel-shirted redneck who likes nothing better than to stalk deer in the woods isn't going to be armed with a scythe, is he?
That doesn't make me a slavish devotee of the NRA or their "I shoot anything that moves on four feet" defenders. I am liberal enough to feel a palpable measure of disgust at just how much Republican/conservative politics are controlled by this militant lobby. I also have no problem with reasonable gun control laws. I don't think anyone can walk into a Walmart, pick up a rifle and proceed through check-out with it along with their groceries, sofa cushions and six-pack of beer. That's too insane for words.
Yet I remain conservative enough to recognize the fallacy of the "let's ban guns" argument. A nation that bans guns or makes them just short of impossible to attain is every bit as loopy and short-sighted as one that has very lax gun control legislation. There has got to be a balance.
What happened in Cumbria last week was an outrage. However, the killer was Derrick Bird, not his guns. I know that sounds clich├ęd. But it's true.


rocslinger said...

Please forgive me in advance for my American way of thinking. Some years back their was a rash of car-jackings in Florida. Florida loosened their conceal carry laws. The opponents of this action said this was going to make Florida a wild west shooting gallery. What actually happened was an immediate drop in crime rates. Anywhere that people have been allowed to arm themselves (allowed is a loose term since we have the 2nd amendment) crime rates drop. In Israel after a terrible terrorist attack on a school they armed their teachers, result, no more attacks on schools.
As you mentioned Knives work great for killing as well. Heck, the 911 terrorists used box cutters and a bat to the back of the head can do some dammage. Maybe we can pass legislation to encase everything in rubber. Come to think of it that might be fun, unless your a butcher.

ButterSnatch said...

Oh shit! Someone drowned in the lake!!! Better make lakes off-limits to everyone just to be on the safe side.

Oh no! A child put their finger in an electrical socket!!! Better change construction & building codes and regulate the height of all power outlets.

Holy cow! There's a huge oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico due to an oil rig explosion!!! Better impose a moratorium on all offshore drilling for the foreseeable future.

Stupid is as stupid does...

Not sure I have a point.

Nightdragon said...


Your point was made very clearly, and I think it's a great point!

Nightdragon said...

Roc: Of course I forgive your American way of thinking. You seem to conveniently forget that I'm an American too. I may live in Britain, but that doesn't mean I've turned British!

I don't doubt statistics that show the crime rate going down in crime-plagued areas once the residents have armed themselves. It's pure common sense.

I kinda like the idea of being encased in rubber -- but that's just me being kinky! ;-)

rocslinger said...

Dragon I wasn't addressing you in particular, just your readers in general. The last thing I would want to do is create an international incident. With our president acting stupid when it comes to our allies, I don't want to be the final straw.

PS. The only reason I don't own a gun is because my wife, who lovingly calls me psycho-boy, wont let me.