Friday, June 4, 2010

No knee-jerk changes, absolutely - but the Tories' instincts are in the wrong place on gun control

So now we know - extraordinarily, this was yet another massacre perpetrated with legally-owned weapons. So, for all the protestations from the usual suspects about how it's the illegal guns that are the problem - nope, gun control laws really do make a difference. If Derrick Bird had not been licensed to own a shotgun it seems perfectly reasonable to assume that many of his victims would still be alive.

There was remarkable consensus tonight on Question Time on the issue of possible further tightening of the law, with Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru making the point that shotguns are in a different category to handguns as they are a legitimate tool for people who work in rural areas. However, I was mildly encouraged to hear the coalition's (as I suppose we must now call him) David Willetts hint that the door had not been completely closed on further legislation, if after a period of reflection it is deemed necessary. David Cameron had earlier given a very different impression when he suggested that the problem here was not the weapon, but the fact that someone had just 'snapped' - a factor that cannot possibly be legislated for. Now, where have I heard that counsel of despair before? From a purely practical point of view, the idea that Bird's 'snap' would have had such lethal consequences - and on such a scale - had he not been a licensed gun owner is simply not credible.

Quite honestly, it should be no surprise to anyone to discover where the Tories' instincts are on this subject - although the post-Hungerford and post-Dunblane legislation was passed on their watch, it was overwhelming public opinion that had left them with little choice. Not that London Labour were any quicker to act on the scourge of airguns, of course. Let's hope that the Calman recommendations on devolving control of airguns to the Scottish Parliament are included in the legislation to be tabled in the autumn - and it wouldn't be a bad idea if responsibility for all gun control was transferred at the same time.


  1. In that football forum you linked to in your last piece, a guy mentioned that he'd found it very easy to obtain a shotgun.

    Says it all about our "strictest gun laws in the world".

  2. Well, what legislation other than complete ban for anyone would have prevented this? You somehow have a way to determine when and where normal law-abiding people will snap, if at all? He was law-abiding...until this incident. So is your answer, a complete ban?

    In a separate example, what would you be debating as a 'solution' if this taxi driver rammed his car through a pub entrance and killed/injured scores? How about a rundown at a festival? There is your credible example of scale. Mandatory concrete blast barriers in front of every event and business? Tell me, you legislation-prone weenies, what is your solution for legislating and controlling humans from snapping and finding ways to hurt people?

  3. You're missing the point I'm making - there is no legislation that can stop someone like Bird snapping, but there is conceivable legislation that can make it less likely that when he does snap he'll have a deadly weapon handy. If he'd been armed with a kitchen knife, for instance, he might well have killed, but the chances of him succeeding in killing twelve people would have been pretty slim. Your examples of what he could have done with a car are pretty implausible, and in this case he seemed to be targetting specific individuals anyway.

    Strictly speaking, Bird did not have a clean slate - as I understand it, he had a previous criminal conviction. So even if the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government shies away from a fresh ban, I hope they'll at least consider tightening up the rules on who can be granted a license.