Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Mass shooting and gun control

The BBC reports:
Taxi driver Derrick Bird was the subject of a massive police manhunt following a shooting spree through several areas of west Cumbria.
He went on to kill at least 12 people and injured another 25 in the county, before his body was found in woods. Police say they believe he took his own life.
They also have a piece on the history of mass shootings in the UK, and the relationship to gun control:
Multiple shootings are extremely rare in the UK and most incidents involving two or more deaths have been related to organised crime, such as feuds between drug dealers or gangs.

The Cumbria incident is the third mass-shooting incident in the UK in which a lone gunman has roamed around seeking out victims. Each of the previous incidents led to greater restrictions on firearms.
Sean Gabb provides the radical libertarian perspective:
The Libertarian Alliance, the radical free market and civil liberties institute, today calls for the relegalisation of civilian gun ownership in the United Kingdom as the only way for ordinary people to protect themselves against gun massacres. [This news release is prompted by the killings of at least five people on the 2nd June 2010 in and around the Cumberland town of Whitehaven.]

Speaking today in London, Dr Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance, comments:

"This outrage will certainly bring calls from the police and other victim disarmament advocacy groups for further gun control. However, bearing in mind that civilian ownership of handguns was outlawed in the two Firearms Acts of 1997, we fail to see, unless the murder weapon was a shotgun, what there is left to be outlawed.

"The Libertarian Alliance notes that these shootings would have been extremely difficult in a country where the people were allowed to arm themselves. We understand that the killer, Derrick Bird, was able to drive in perfect safety around Whitehaven, shooting people at random. None of his victims was in any position to return fire. Only when armed police could eventually be brought in did he feel it necessary to run away.

"In the United States, at least one campus shooting was brought to a premature end by armed civilians. The same is true in Israel, where many members of the public go about armed. Only in a country like England, where the people have been systematically disarmed, can a killer go about like a fox among chickens.

"The Libertarian Alliance believes that all the Firearms Acts from 1920 onwards should be repealed. The largely ineffective laws of 1870 and 1902 should also be repealed. It should once again be possible for adults to walk into a gun shop and, without showing any permit or proof of identity, buy as many guns and as much ammunition as they can afford. They should also be able to use lethal force, at home and in public, for the defence of life, liberty and property.

"Only then will ordinary people be safe from evil men like Derrick Bird."

While I'm sympathetic to Gabb's view, and especially to the injustice of innocent people left defenceless, I'm not certain that society would be better off if adults could "walk into a gun shop and, without showing any permit or proof of identity, buy as many guns and as much ammunition as they can afford".

Switzerland is an interesting case, though, as a BBC article from 27 September 2001 explains:
Guns are deeply rooted within Swiss culture - but the gun crime rate is so low that statistics are not even kept.

The country has a population of six million, but there are estimated to be at least two million publicly-owned firearms, including about 600,000 automatic rifles and 500,000 pistols.
Some pro-gun groups argue that Switzerland proves their contention that there is not necessarily a link between the availability of guns and violent crime in society.
I would tend to agree that there is "not necessarily a link". The BBC article goes on to note that
Switzerland is one of the world's richest countries, but has remained relatively isolated.

It has none of the social problems associated with gun crime seen in other industrialised countries like drugs or urban deprivation.
Of course, the association between gun crime and drugs is a result of prohibition. Legalise drugs, and the connection will be broken.

No comments:

Post a Comment