Tuesday, 27 November 2007

The ideal Christmas gift

Recently in Texas a householder shot dead two burglars who had broken into his neighbours' home. It was covered a fair amount in the news, because there was a tape of the man speaking to the police on the telephone, who tried to dissuade him from leaving his house. 'It's not worth it' he was told, but he wasn't prepared to let his neighbours be robbed in front of him, and he took action.

At this point, people immediately start splitting into two factions: those that say 'how disgraceful that two men died over some paltry material possessions', and the others that say 'the burglars brought it on themselves, and even if we may not have reacted in the same way, the guy did no wrong'. The first group will point at the high number of gun deaths in Texas. The second will say 'yeah, but burglaries are down.'

Few English people will ever face the moral dilemma that this Texan faced, because we have some of the toughest gun control laws in the world, illustrated welll by the ludicrous situation of our multiple medal winning shooting team have to leave the country to train, and the Government having to enact special legislation to allow these events to take place at the 2012 London Olympics. Some would have it that it's a good thing – including a lot of burglars no doubt. Nevertheless many people still do hold firearms, quietly, peacefully and without going on killing sprees.

The anti-gun nuts have the idea that if people had a right to own firearms for self-defence, this would invariably lead to some kind of mass homocidal hysteria, with every minor altercation descending into a Sam Peckenpah style bullet-fest. They can't accept the obvious fact that an ordinary person will treat a gun with the utmost responsibility, in the same way that an ordinary person drives a car and manages to do so without ploughing into the nearest bus stop full of people even though they could.

Of course, to help the anti-gunners there are the rare but terrible occasions when legally-owned guns are used to murder people, and the argument goes that to reduce the chance of this we all must be disarmed, ignoring the counter-charge that a crazy killer could be stopped in their murderous tracks by a gun-owning citizen, before the police have even been called. However, this only looks at what is seen, ignoring what is unseen, namely the crimes that would never happen because, for the criminal, the minor threat of arrest and a judicially-sanctioned slap on the wrist would be superceded by a very real chance of being shot dead in the middle of a crime. What a pleasant change it would be to read in the papers, instead of 'Police hunt vicious rapist', 'Woman shoots attempted rapist.'

None of this touches on the real reason for us being disarmed, the threat an armed populace poses to what the UN calls the state's 'legitimate monopoly on power' (sic) - the very thing the Second Amendment to the US Constitution was written to prevent.

To be continued...


Neil Harding said...

There is a third faction - those who think that life is not so cut and dried.

People make mistakes - will miss the burglars and shoot someone innocent, will mistake innocent people for burglars and kill them, will make it more likely burglars will carry guns, make it more likely a homeowner/policeman will die in the ensuing shootout, will misplace the guns and find their children and neighbours dead, more police will carry guns and shoot more innocent people by mistake.

We don't need to imagine these scenarios, they are reflected in the murder and accident rate in the US which are both more than TEN times our rate.

If you think all these extra deaths are worth it just so the Olympic shooters can win a couple of medals, you are entitled to think that, but don't be surprised when most people think you are mad.

Trooper Thompson said...

I'd have thought you would have had enough of this debate, after being spanked so comprehensively over at your own blog (by others, not me).

It's always easier to label someone as mad than engage in rational debate, and use strawmen, such as pretending my argument is all about Olympic medals.

Still, I don't expect much from Labour bloggers like yourself, you're no more honest in debate than you are with party finances.

Rather than being part of a third group, you are the perfect example of the first, and a supporter of the party that excludes free speech from Westminster and put machinegun-toting coppers on the streets - you're only anti-gun for the ordinary citizen.

You immediately grab for the quick fix of a dubious statistic from the USA. So, by your logic the place with the strictest gun control (Washington DC) will be the safest? Actually it's the most dangerous.

Neil Harding said...

trooper: I refer you to this comment to explain why comparing differing US states is pointless.