Friday, January 06, 2017

Keeping Britain Gun Free: Protecting the Public

Today I'm on my soapbox about a recent item of news, so if you don't want to know my opinion you might want to surf elsewhere.

What anyone who wants to live in Britain needs to understand is that we are a gun-free society. The United Kingdom has some of the strictest and most rigidly enforced firearms laws on the planet. Consequently, gun crime is very rare.

It is illegal to own or be in possession of a handgun in the United Kingdom. Anyone who wants to own a rifle must apply for a license from the police and must answer some detailed questions about the requirement and need for a rifle. A separate license is required for a shotgun. Each of these potentially lethal weapons must be stored in locked cabinets in accordance with strict regulations. The bottom line is that we do not want hand guns made accessible to members of the public in the United Kingdom. So anyone who flaunts the law must expect that he or she will be dealt with severely.

The rigorous application of British gun law is demonstrated by a case some years ago that involved a resident of the town where I live. He and a partner in crime attempted to burgle the isolated farm house of a farmer who lived alone and who had been targeted by burglars on previous occasions. The farmer legally owned a shotgun and he used it to defend his property, shooting the man who had entered his home in the leg. The law handed down a prison sentence to both him and the burglar. On this occasion, many people felt some sympathy for the victim of the burglary but the law of the land was applied, on the grounds that he had used unreasonable force to defend himself.

Anyone with a past history of criminality, who has personal property that far exceeds his or her stated source of income, is likely to come under the scrutiny of the law enforcement agencies. Anyone who intelligence sources have discovered owns and carries a gun illegally must expect consequences.

Police officers do not routinely carry guns in this country. They are issued only in exceptional circumstances to specially trained firearms officers. Clearly, circumstances arose last week that warranted the issue of guns to some officers. Our world is marginally safer today than it was a week ago.

It's understandable that those who lose a family member or a close friend mourn the loss. It must be painful to face the evidence (in the case that I have in mind, a handgun in the footwell of a car) that a loved one was a flawed character. But generally speaking, we each eventually reap what we sow. Anybody who tries to defend the actions of a person who carries an illegal weapon is, in my opinion, and in the opinion of all with whom I have discussed this issue, frankly, irresponsible and at odds with British culture. Or possibly somehow complicit in the criminal world which as a society we aim to bring to justice.

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