Tag Archives: Whitehaven

Protect the Police – abolish gun control


Christopher Houseman

It’s only 5 days since I asked in a post “Are you sure you want to trust the Police to save you?”. The question has a special, unwelcome resonance for my wife and I. We used to live first in Shiremoor and then in Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear – only a short drive from the recent shootings thought to have been perpetrated by Raoul Moat. In fact, I’m pretty sure we often drove past the chip shop in Seaton Delaval which was robbed on Monday. And all this only a little more than a month after Derrick Bird shot 12 people dead and wounded 11 more in and around Whitehaven in Cumbria.

Perhaps most revealing in current news coverage is the complete lack of any appetite for further gun control laws, and the apparently deliberate downplaying of the death of Chris Brown, Samantha Stobbart’s boyfriend. No doubt this is largely because of the ongoing efforts to persuade Mr. Moat to give himself up peaceably, in which context it would make little sense to play up the one death to date in this sorry tale. But I can’t help noticing something else, too. Like Derrick Bird, both Mr. Moat and the late Mr. Brown are a great advertisement for the unwisdom of gun control.

On the one hand, can we doubt any longer that even the most rigorous psychological profiling can’t ensure that lawfully registered gun owners will never pose a threat to the general public? On the other, what good are stringent gun control laws which can’t be consistently enforced? Raoul Moat, a violent felon known to have possessed guns and other weapons in the past, seems to have obtained both an illegal firearm and ammunition within 48 hours of being released from prison.

It’s time to acknowledge that the so-called “war on guns” has been lost. We might also reflect on how much heartache, blood, time and money might have been saved if the late Mr. Chris Brown had been allowed to take a gun to a gunfight instead of an iron bar. True, one could argue with hindsight that he should have taken cover and then dialled 999, but such behaviour might be exceptional in a boyfriend of just one week who was also reportedly a martial arts instructor.

But there is one more tragic twist in the tale: on the same day the withdrawal of British troops from Sangin province in favour of their American counterparts was announced, the BBC mentioned the possibility of bringing a number of armoured cars over from Northern Ireland for deployment in the hunt for Raoul Moat. Never mind looking after us or the Afghans; it would appear the agents of the British state can barely protect themselves. To paraphrase Phil Zimmerman, the creator of the PGP encryption program, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”.

Perhaps it’s time to ask the Police a question: Are you sure you don’t want the general public to be able to protect themselves – or you?

PS. At time of writing, Northumbria Police seems keen to highlight that its officers, rather than the general public, appear to be the primary focus of Mr. Moat’s anger. Maybe so, but I’m glad I’m not an unarmed civilian trying to remind an armed man and myself of that on a face to face basis.

Has someone shot the gun control lobby’s Cumbrian fox?


Christopher Houseman

Recent events in Cumbria have led to an entirely predictable concern among UK libertarians that even more restrictions on gun ownership and usage are on the way. But on this occasion, I don’t share their pessimism.

UK domestic gun legislation is already among the tightest in the world (which is a bit ironic for a country that is one of the world’s largest arms exporters). Furthermore, even the most dyed in the wool statists are currently resigned to having their budgets (and therefore their de facto powers, at least) cut in the short to medium term. These facts, combined with the rarity of shooting sprees in the UK by licensed gun owners using their own weapons, make any attempt to administer further restrictions uneconomic.

So, might a total ban be contemplated? I couldn’t help noticing from the outset that key elements of the Whitehaven episode didn’t play out according to the standard gun control script. Jamie Reed, the local MP for Copeland was interviewed by the national media as the story broke on 2nd June. Although a Labour MP, he didn’t go along with one reporter’s efforts to corral him into calling for tighter gun control laws. Clearly, Mr. Reed knows something of the realities of his rural constituents’ daily lives. Quite simply, the prominent role of shotguns in particular in rural pest control means that a shotgun ban is unlikely to be supported.

Since 2nd June, it’s emerged that Derrick Bird had held shotgun and/or firearms licences for 20 years with no prior incidents, so it’s unlikely his actions could have been foreseen by anything short of continuous human and/or audio-visual surveillance (and then only in the very short term). Furthermore, it’s also emerged that local police officers had sight of Derrick Bird and might have been able to prevent his last 9 killings – except that the officers were unarmed, and therefore backed off when he confronted them directly.

This last snippet of news has clearly been released in an effort to deflect criticism away from Cumbrian officers. It may have the effect of relaunching the debate over the routine arming of police officers (that would be the state-thinkful option). This is unlikely to be deemed acceptable, but combined with the recent attack on 2 baby girls in their London home by a fox, it opens up new public debate opportunities for libertarians.

What’s the point of relaxing or scrapping the “reasonable force” restriction on householders’ defence of life and property against intruders if householders aren’t allowed to own and train with the best technical means available for home and self-defence (including pepper sprays, tasers and guns)? No wonder ministers are getting jittery about changing the law. And as urban foxes get more numerous and bold, isn’t it time to stop thinking of home defence purely in terms of repelling human burglars?

But what, you may ask, if the forthcoming debate does result in the police being routinely armed? In that case, civil libertarians of all stripes will unite to get it reversed. A significant number of police officers will meanwhile complain about the potential damage to their public image, and the extra pressures routine carrying of a gun will put on them. And then we will have to wait and see how well the state’s prefabricated “one rotten apple” justification will stand up to the public outcry when an armed police officer finally goes on the rampage with a Heckler and Koch. What, then, will be the justification for using the law of the land to allow only the police and the criminal classes to carry guns in Britain?

Intellectually speaking, at least, I suggest the gun control lobby is only a few steps away from shooting itself in the foot.