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.