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Posted: 1/6/2003 1:50:46 PM EDT

This is what happens when governments try to ban guns
By Mark Steyn

You would think if "gun control" was going to work anywhere it would be on a small island. Particularly a small island at whose ports of entry the zealots of HM Customs like nothing better than performing intimate cavity searches on the off-chance you've got an extra bottle of duty-free Beaujolais tucked away up there. Surely, if you also had a Walther PPK parked out of sight, these exhaustive inspectors would be the first to notice.

But apparently not. Since the Government's "total ban" five years ago, there are more and more guns being used by more and more criminals in more and more crimes. Now, in the wake of Birmingham's New Year bloodbath, there are calls for the total ban to be made even more total: if the gangs refuse to obey the existing laws, we'll just pass more laws for them not to obey. According to a UN survey from last month, England and Wales now have the highest crime rate of the world's 20 leading nations. One can query the methodology of the survey while still recognising the peculiar genius by which British crime policy has wound up with every indicator going haywire - draconian gun control plus vastly increased gun violence plus stratospheric property crime.

What happened at that party in Aston? I don't mean "what happened?" in the sense of the piercing analysis of Chief Superintendent Dave Shaw, who concluded: "There has clearly been some sort of dispute which has resulted in people coming to the premises with guns, discharging their weapons and causing this incident." You can't put anything over on these coppers, can you? But my question is directed at the broader meaning of the event. Chief Supt Shaw went on: "We have never had to deal with anything like this. In terms of the nature of the incident, it's almost unprecedented in Birmingham." He didn't quite say Birmingham is one of those bucolic tightly-knit communities where everyone in the village knows everyone else and no one locks their doors, but you get the drift: this is some sort of bizarre aberration.

I think not. When those young men decided to open fire in Birchfield Road, they were making an entirely rational decision. One reason why Chief Supt Shaw has "never had to deal with anything like this" is because Aston was long ago ceded to the gangs. And, if you can deal drugs with impunity and burgle with impunity and assault with impunity and use guns with impunity, who's to say you can't murder with impunity? The West Midlands Police have offered a reward of £1,000 for information leading to the arrest of those involved. Think about that: would you name a known gang member for a thousand quid? Once the funerals have been held and the media's moved on, the constabulary will go back to forgetting about Aston. But you'll still have to live there.

When Dunblane occurred, all of us - even, if they're honest with themselves, the shrieking hysterics baying for pointless legislation - understood it was a freak event: a nut went nuts. It happens, and, when it does, the event has no broader implications. But what happened in Birchfield Road is of wider relevance: it's a glimpse of the day after tomorrow - not just in Aston, but in Edgbaston and Solihull and Leamington Spa.

After Dunblane, the police and politicians lapsed into their default position: it's your fault. We couldn't do anything about him, so we'll do something about you. You had your mobile nicked? You must be mad taking it out. Why not just keep it inside nice and safe on the telephone table? Had your car radio pinched? You shouldn't have left it in the car. House burgled? You should have had laser alarms and window bars installed. You did have laser alarms and window bars but they waited till you were home, kicked the door in and beat you up? You should have an armour-plated door and digital retinal-scan technology. It's your fault, always. The monumentally useless British police, with greater manpower per capita on higher rates of pay and with far more lavish resources than the Americans, haven't had an original idea in decades, so they cling ever more fiercely to their core ideology: the best way to deal with criminals is to impose ever greater restrictions and inconveniences on the law-abiding.

The gangs on Birmingham's streets instinctively understand this. They know, even if the Government doesn't, that the Blairite "total" ban, which sounds so butch and macho when you do your soundbite on the telly, is a cop-out: it makes the general population the target, not the criminals. And once that happens it's always easier to hassle the cranky farmer with the unlicensed shotgun than the Yardies with the Uzis. When you disarm the citizenry, when you prosecute them for being so foolish as to believe they have a right to self-defence, when you issue warnings that they should "walk on by" if they happen to see a burglary or rape in progress, the main beneficiaries will obviously be the criminals. Aston is the logical reductio of British policing: rival bad guys with state-of-the-art hardware, a cowed populace, and a remote constabulary tucked up in bed with the answering machine on.

I see I haven't yet mentioned the touchy social factor which even squeamish British Lefties have been forced to confront: Aston is yet more "black-on-black" violence. The reason I haven't mentioned it is because there hardly seems any point. What's new? Canada also had a Dunblane-like massacre, followed by Dunblane-like legislation, and, like Birmingham, boring, bland Toronto has lately been riven by gun violence from - wait for it - Jamaican gangs. But in neither Britain nor Canada is it politically feasible to suggest that perhaps Jamaicans should be subjected to special immigration scrutiny. As it happens, that Canadian massacre, of Montreal female students 12 years ago, was committed by the son of an Algerian Muslim wife-beater, but, although we all claim to be interested in the "root causes" of crime, they tend to involve awkward cultural judgments. It's easier, like Mr Blair, just to go "total": blame everyone, ban everything.

This basic approach of addressing any cultural factors apart from the ones that correlate was pioneered by American progressives. The corpulent provocateur Michael Moore, in his film Bowling for Columbine, currently delighting British audiences, spends an entire feature-length documentary investigating the "culture" of American gun violence without mentioning that blacks, who make up 13 per cent of the population, account for over half the murders (and murder victims, too). Once you factor them out, Americans kill at about the same rate as nancy-boy Canadians.

But, as I said, it's hardly worth mentioning in relation to Britain. In my part of New Hampshire, we're all armed to the hilt and any gangster who fancied holding up a gas station would be quickly ventilated by guys whose pick-ups are better equipped than most EU armies. The right of individual self-defence deters crime, constrains it, prevents it from spreading out of the drug-infested failed jurisdictions. In post-Dunblane, post-Tony Martin Britain, that constraint doesn't exist: that's why the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea now has a higher crime rate than Harlem.

Meanwhile, America's traditionally high and England and Wales's traditionally low murder rates are remorselessly converging. In 1981, the US rate was nine times higher than the English. By 1995, it was six times. Last year, it was down to 3.5. Given that US statistics, unlike the British ones, include manslaughter and other lesser charges, the real rate is much closer. New York has just recorded the lowest murder rate since the 19th century. I'll bet that in the next two years London's murder rate
Link Posted: 1/6/2003 2:18:28 PM EDT
Michael Moore, in his film Bowling for Columbine, currently delighting British audiences, spends an entire feature-length documentary investigating the "culture" of American gun violence without mentioning that blacks, who make up 13 per cent of the population, account for over half the murders (and murder victims, too). Once you factor them out, Americans kill at about the same rate as nancy-boy Canadians.

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you'll never see this in an American newspaper
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