We need guns to make us safer

The War Against Armed Crime:
We Need Guns to Make Us Safer
Sean Gabb
(Published in The Birmingham Post, 7th June 2006)

The current debate on armed crime is depressingly predictable. Everyone agrees something must be done. Just about everyone agrees this something must include laws against the sale or carrying or simple possession of weapons. More controls on weapons, the argument goes, the fewer weapons on the street: therefore lower levels of armed crime.

Now, this whole line of thinking is nonsense. We already have some of the strictest controls in the developed world on the carrying of weapons. We also have some of the highest levels of armed crime. Indeed, we are reaching the point where we shall need to show proof of identity before buying knives and forks. There is no reason to suppose yet tougher laws will succeed where all the others have plainly failed.

If we want to do something about armed crime that has any chance of working, we need to rethink our entire approach. I would suggest that, instead of trying to remove weapons from society, the authorities should allow us to keep weapons for defence, to carry weapons for defence, and where needed to use them for defence.

And let me be clear. I am not talking about the right to carry baseball bats or pepper sprays, or even various kinds of knife. These have their uses for defence – but not against a determined criminal who may be younger and faster and more experienced in close fighting. I am talking about the right to arm ourselves with guns – and to use these where necessary to protect our lives and property.

This is not a new approach to armed crime. It is, rather, a return to the old policy of our country. Until the end of the 19th century, anyone in Britain could walk into a gun shop and, without showing any licence or any form of identification, buy as many guns and as much ammunition as he wanted, and could carry loaded guns in public, and could use these for self-defence. The law not only allowed this, but even expected it. We were encouraged to take primary responsibility for our own protection. The function of the Police was simply to assist.

We should go back to this old approach. We should go back because it is a question of fundamental human rights. The right to keep and bear arms for defence is as fundamental as the rights to freedom of speech and association. Anyone who is denied this right – to keep and bear arms – is to some extent enslaved. That person has lost control over his life. He is dependent on the State for protection.

The default reaction to this argument is to cry out in horror and ask if I want a society where every criminal has a gun, and where every domestic argument ends in a gun battle?

The short answer is no. The longer answer is to say that more guns do not inevitably mean more killings. There is no evidence that they do. What passes for evidence is little more than an excuse for not trusting ordinary people with control over their own lives.

Take armed crime, both professional and domestic. Britain had no gun controls before 1920, and very low rates of armed crime. Today, Switzerland has few controls, and little armed crime. Those parts of the US where guns are most common are generally the least dangerous. There is no necessary correlation between guns and armed crime.

Focussing on professional crime, gun control is plainly a waste of effort. Criminals will always get hold of guns if they want them. At most, it needs a knowledge of the right pubs to visit. Plainly, the maniacs who carried out the recent drive-by shooting in Manchester do not seem to have read the Firearms Acts 1920-97. They do not seem to have noticed that most guns are forbidden, and that the few that are allowed must be licensed. All control really does is to disarm the honest public, and let the armed criminals roam through them like a fox through chickens.

Indeed, free ownership of guns may often reduce armed crime. The current round of official gun-grabbing began after the Hungerford Massacre back in August 1987. But the wrong lesson was learned then. Just consider what might have happened had someone else beside Michael Ryan been carrying a gun in Hungerford High Street. He might have been cut down before firing more than a few shots. As it is, he killed nearly 20 people before armed police could be brought in to stop the shootings.

Think of the burglaries, rapes and other crimes that might never happen if the victims were armed, and therefore able to deal with their aggressors on equal terms. Anyone can learn to fire a gun. And nothing beats a bullet. As the old saying goes: “God made men equal, and Smith and Wesson make damn sure it stays that way”.

But let us move away from armed burglars and rapists and the occasional lone psychopath. We need guns to protect us from the State. So far from protecting us, the State is the main aggressor. A low estimate puts the number of civilians murdered by states this century at 56 million – and millions of these were children. In all cases, genocide was preceded by gun control. How far would the Holocaust have got if the Jews in Nazi Germany had been able to shoot back? How about the Armenians? The Kulaks? The Chinese bourgeoisie? The Bosnians? In all previous societies, guns and freedom have gone together. I doubt if our own is any different.

I conclude with our own society. Our authorities have so far done nothing to disarm violent criminals. There is nothing they can do in the future to disarm them. This being so, can you seriously agree with the argument that YOU should be disarmed, and therefore powerless to defend yourself and your loved ones against the armed street trash who are beginning to turn this country upside down?

Laugh at me. Call me mad. Call me evil. But just remember me when you or your loved ones are being raped, or mugged, or dragged off never to be seen again – and you are an obedient, disarmed little citizen who can do nothing about it.

Dr Sean Gabb is the Director of the Libertarian Alliance. Formed in 1968, the LA exists to put the radical case for freedom in social, economic and political matters. Its web address is www.libertarian.co.uk

15 responses to “We need guns to make us safer

  1. Another wonderfully obvious case of prohibition of something not working. This one should be of particular importance to libertarians considering the ramifications for not having the ability to properly defend yourself should the need arise.

  2. I agree with every word, apart from this phrase which I find rather jarring; “…the authorities should allow us to keep weapons for defence…”, which is probably because I am writing this from the Deep South of the United States, where the country belongs to ‘We the people’, rather than ‘the authorities’, and gun ownership is taken for granted and indeed encouraged by law enforcement, on the grounds that the more ‘good guys’ there are on the streets with guns, the safer it will be for everybody, for reasons which you set out above. If someone breaks into my house, the law presumes that he means to harm me, and I am lawfully entitled to shoot him. Again, law enforcement will thank me for my efforts if I do so. Burglary is a high-risk occupation over here.
    My wife’s family is from Switzerland; when her brother did his national service (which all eligible males must complete) he was required to keep a gun at home, in order to defend his country if need be. I need hardly state that Switzerland, or indeed the United States, don’t get invaded that often.

  3. The citizens of the Roman Empire were not allowed to be armed. When the armies of Islam swept out of the Arabian desert, it was the most civilised areas, the great cities, that fell most easily, as the people had neither the weapons nor the martial ability to mount a defence, once the legions were defeated in a battle. All that remains now are ruins, the “bleached bones of civilisation”. Only when the Islamic armies got far enough north that they ran into barbarians who knew how to use a sword as a matter of everyday practicality were they halted.

    Just saying :)

  4. This subject is not a laughing matter and I don’t think you’re mad; not even for a second. We do now seem to be living in the most dangerous times ever and we should take it seriously.

    Killing people on an absolute industrial scale is now glorified like never before. It can be done these days by 18 year olds sitting in armchairs. Also, the profits that come to those who invent, build and provide killing machines have never been so high. The US economy relies upon it to a large extent.

    I’ve become, sadly, far too distrusting of our current political system (let alone other systems) to trust the motives of government. I’ll not be changing my mind until they pull this country out of the EU; get back to showing real respect for the rights of voters; cease creating further unworkable laws. Disarm the police and encourage the public to engage in shooting sports. That way they’ll come to realise that a gun can be a work of art and, sometimes, a friend too.

    Every time we see a cop working our streets, shouldn’t we be supporting him, or her, and not secretly having to worry about their gun training or how keen some of them might be to see how quickly a man might die should they decide to shoot him?

    It’s a crazy and needless situation in my view. But I agree that a balance in gun ownership should be maintained. After all, it’s getting harder to tell the black hats from the white.

  5. Thanks Sean. Well argued as always.

    By chance Mr Farage has just had something to say on this topic:


    I think that the way that the Telegraph has handled this story may be taken as representative of the official line on such ideas.


    1) The way in which an “expert” and Mr Vaz were swiftly marshalled to counter this unwelcome viewpoint (they have also been similarly quoted by other papers).
    2) No comments were allowed by the editors (while you are often offered the chance to comment on celebrity stories etc).

  6. Ian B – you mentioned Rome – it was the Romans who said “If you desire peace, prepare for war”. No doubt Sean will remind me of the original Latin.

  7. Please don’t mention Sean, Hugo. I’ve been forced to reassess my opinion of the Eastern Roman Empire and at some point am going to be compelled to offer the man the most grovelling apology. It really doesn’t bear thinking about.

    • A shame I can’t find a logo that indicates gloating.

      However, you can skip the apology – just say what brought on this change of mind.

      • I inadvertently exposed myself to information that refuted my prejudices. This will not do.

        To be more serious, as part of my amateur researches underpinning my cranky and tedious theory of Western Civilisation, said reading led to one of those moments where a lot of elements that weren’t right at all suddenly rearranged and fell into place, and when I’ve thought a bit more I may bore you with an email or two. The necesary admission of competence on the part of the Byzantines is something I’m just going to have to learn to live with, somehow.

        • Then I look forward to reading your e-mails.

          In general, however, there is nothing whatever shameful about changing your mind. It’s a question of evidence and perspective. I’ve had unusually fixed opinions for most of my life. Even so, I’ve changed my mind more than once about the European Union. I’m also uncertain about whether the ancient constitution of this county can be recovered, and, if not, how to move forward.

          The moment you regard uncertainty, or the periodic crumbling of certainties, as shameful, you abandon half the case for freedom of speech.

          • I still can’t think about 1204 and 1453 without wanting to cry.

            • I think I said here before, if I were a movie mogul I’d love to make an epic about the fall of Constantinople. Emperor Constantine Popadopoulopoulos’s last charge, casting off the imperial purple, is a moment just made for the big screen. “The city has fallen, yet I still live!”. Made of awesome.

              Unfortunately it would have to have the Muzzies as the bad guys destroying western civilisation, so nobody would dare make it these days.

            • 1453, I presume you mean the Battle of Formigny, at which point we lost all of our France except for Calais…or did you mean Constantinople? (The bastards used better Dutch gunners than we did…)

              As to 1204, is that the Crusade where the buggers went on a looting rampage in Christendom instead of pursuing their objectives?

  8. Good post (and good article) by Dr Gabb.

    Hugo – yes the Ninth Amendment (as well as the Second) assumes pre existing rights (not granted by government), but although much of the American Bill of Rights is taken from the British Bill of Rights almost all British people no longer have any knowledge of the British Bill of Rights (it is a dead letter – treated as a Act of Parliament trumped by later Acts by the courts – not as something that stands above Acts of Parliament).

    The KKK were the first large scale “gun control” movement in the United States – although only “gun control” for non whites. The National Rifle Association was formed (in part) to oppose this effort and members of the two organisations used to kill each other. That the two organisations were associated with opposing political parties has also gone down the “Memory Hole” (partly because the education system and media love the political party the KKK was associated with – as late as the 1960s it was normal for members of this party to be high ranking officers of the KKK in the South).

    The left rather distort this history by saying “the KKK and NRA were founded about the same time” (nudge, nudge, hint, hint – give the opposite impression to the truth).

    Even as late as the 1960s Rev. (he should not really be called “Dr”) King was denied a pistol license (in spite of threats on his life). And the father of Condi Rice drove away a KKK attack on his home with a rifle (the local KKK also blew up a church killing children).


    Yes indeed – the doctrine that everybody-fights (and should be armed to fight) was of great benefit to the forces of Islam against both the Persians and Byzantines.

    It does not matter if a population is vast – if they are slaves. (*and have been for centuries).

    Ditto in the West – where the incoming Germanic barbarians were armed, and the populations of Gaul, Italy, Hispania and so on were not.

    The picture is slightly more complex in Britain – where some northern and western populations were armed (due to the nearness of Pictland and Hibernia – and the ever present threat of raids).

  9. I should have said Caledonia, not Pictland,, but I was thinking of the Picts.

    The Scots being an Irish tribe of course – although they moved into parts of what is now Scotland.

    There is a distinct difference in culture between the Scots in Scotland and what Americans call the “Scots Irish”, even in religion – since the revolution in Church organisation in Scotland (taking the choice of minister away from local church members) under Queen Anne in 1712. It is also forgotten that the “Penal Laws” in Ireland applied not just to Roman Catholics – but to dissenting Protestants also.

    The difference between most (not all) “Scots Scots” and “Scots Irish” in America became obvious in the run up to 1776. Including in such things as “gun control” efforts. And, during the war, in such things as the Battle of King’s Mountain in North Carolina.

    The refusal to accept human “authority” (over basic beliefs – they will accept human authority in the sense of war commanders, although only to a certain point….) – the insistence on reading texts directly and acting upon them (whether it be the Bible or the Constitution of the United States) is a mark of Scots Irish (not Scots-Scots or Irish-Irish) culture in the United States.

    It is also a reason why they do not tend to go to university (the idea that it is due to lack of intelligence is simply not true), as doing well at university (even doing well at school) depends, in part, on accepting human authority over BELIEFS – and this they will not do.

    The people of the big island – English, Welsh and Scots tend to have a more pragmatic attitude.

    Basically, in the end. we tend to believe what we are told to believe. At least to some extent.