Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sign off with Salmond

As I sign off from this ever more surreal debate about firearms legislation, I think I'll leave the last word to our current First Minister, or more specifically his contributions to the post-Dunblane parliamentary debates way back in 1996 -

"People were, rightly, touched by the Dunblane tragedy and that feeling has hardened into a determination to try to prevent that sort of tragedy from happening again. Everyone who argues that case realises that there can be no absolute guarantees, but we can move the boundary somewhat and make it less likely that such a tragedy will happen again. That makes the case for a complete ban on handguns."

"No system of checking, however rigorous, can prevent every unsuitable person from gaining access to guns. It has been said in the debate that the police made mistakes, as if that were an argument against a complete ban on the civilian use of handguns. The fact that the police make mistakes is one of the arguments for such a ban. No system of checking is foolproof and any system that depends on people is essentially flawed in that human beings, including the police, make mistakes."

"We should start from the principle that no one should own a handgun and only then should we discuss the exceptions. The position adopted by the Japanese in this respect is enlightening. In that whole country, there are 58 handgun licences. Hon. Members will be aware of the Home Office statistics, which point to some correlation between the number of legal firearms in circulation and the incidence of firearm homicide."

"The hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith), in an interesting speech, made the reasonable point that one cannot prove anything absolutely through international comparisons. One comparison should, however, be introduced into the debate. In the United States, which has some of the most lax gun legislation, there are 27 times as many firearm killings per million than in the United Kingdom. In Japan, where the basic principle is no handguns, the killings number one eighth of the UK total. For all the differences in culture and experience in the international comparisons, those figures are very compelling."

"If any lesson is to be learnt from Thomas Hamilton's actions, it is surely that rapid-fire weapons are the most deadly. Hamilton fired a hail of 106 bullets in a matter of seconds--that damage from a handgun should surely never be allowed again. Of course hon. Members have a point when they say that a madman could take a machete or another weapon and try to inflict damage, but few other weapons can inflict the carnage of a rapid-fire handgun."

Not for the first (or last) time, Alex Salmond says just about everything I would ever want to say - and he says it far, far better.


  1. Here's a quote for you, James:

    "The ban on the private possession of handguns in Great Britain came into effect in two stages. A Conservative Government banned all large-calibre handguns from July 1, 1997, with a period up to the end of September, in which all such guns had to be handed in to the police. Following a general election in May 1997, the Labour Government extended the ban to all small-calibre [.22 rimfire] handguns, which had to be handed in before the end of February 1998. More than 162,000 handguns and 700 tonnes of ammunition was handed in. More than 80million UK pounds was paid in compensation and the cost of the confiscation scheme to police and government cost tens of millions more.

    "Both governments promised that Britain would thereafter be a safer place. A few handguns remained for people such as slaughter men, those who could prove a special need for a pistol for the humane dispatch of quarry animals and a few people who had pistols of special historical interest, but in general, handguns could not legally be possessed. The hand-in was complete for all practical purposes because of the system of individual authorization.

    "Ten years have now passed and it is right to ask if Britain really is now a safer place and whether the ban has prevented criminals from obtaining and using pistols. Using the data, were I a politician, I would simply say that in 1997 pistols were used in 2648 crimes and in 2006/7 [the Home Office has changed the statistical recording figure from calendar to financial year], they were involved in 4175 crimes. Thus, the ban on pistols in the hands of law-abiding citizens has resulted in a doubling of their use by criminals.


    "If we average out the total homicide figures for the six years before 1997 and the six years after [ignoring the Dr Shipman case], (Note, a Medical Doctor that was poisoning his patients) we see that homicide has increased from an average of 706 to 825 and despite yearly fluctuations, the figure is steadily upwards. This is also so with homicide involving firearms, where the six-year average has grown from 61 to 72 and again with a steady upward trend. The use of shotguns, however, has fallen from an average of 20 down to 11 and sawn-off shotguns from 9 down to 5, but the use of pistols has increased from an average of 29 to 42. But in none of these cases does 1997 mark a watershed. Trends that began long before 1997 have continued entirely unchanged.

    Former Chief Inspector Colin Greenwood of the West Yorkshire Constabulary in his report Evaluating Britain's Handgun Ban.

  2. Hello yet again, Kevin. I'm pleased you managed to find your way to this post because Alex Salmond's remarks in 1996 pretty comprehensively (and eloquently) deal with most of the main points you made towards the end of the other thread.

    One question about this Colin Greenwood quote - why did you put in bold type "thus, the ban on pistols in the hands of law-abiding citizens has resulted in a doubling of their use by criminals"? I appreciate they're not your words, but to highlight them implies you think they're significant. But didn't you specifically concede yesterday that correlation is not causation? Are you now changing your tune again and arguing (rather absurdly) that the handgun ban has actually CAUSED the increase in the use of guns by criminals?

    If you really think you're going to go one better than Karl Marx by literally 'proving' the rightness of this 'philosophy' of yours, a little consistency would be a start.

  3. James:

    I hope your Easter weekend was pleasant.

    I should have emphasized this part of that quote, too: "were I a politician" - politicians being notable for ignoring the correlation/causation relationship.

    I have another quote from the Chief Inspector that addresses your question:

    "At first glance, it may seem odd or even perverse to suggest that statutory controls on the private ownership of firearms are irrelevant to the problem of armed crime, yet that is precisely what the evidence shows. Armed crime and violent crime generally are products of ethnic and social factors unrelated to the availability of a particular type of weapon. The number of firearms required to satisfy the 'crime' market is minute, and these are supplied no matter what controls are instituted. Controls have had serious effects on legitimate users of firearms, but there is no case, either in the history of this country or in the experience of other countries in which controls can be shown to have restricted the flow of weapons to criminals or in any way reduced crime."

    I take exception to the good Inspector on one point, he understates the "serious effects" on the legitimate users. "Statutory controls on the private ownership of firearms" are damned relevant to those disarmed by those controls, left to the tender mercies of those armed criminals left unaffected by said laws.

    Just a note: You're failing miserably at not further debating the topic. And I'm failing miserably by continuing to debate you in your comments.

  4. James, while true that correlation is not causation no, or inverse, correlation does prove no causation. Hence the numbers prove that gun availability does not cause increased crime. Hence, you have zero justification for advocating the banning of firearms. Which explains why you have yet to answer Just One Question with anything other than bogus and/or irrelevant numbers.

  5. "James, while true that correlation is not causation no, or inverse, correlation does prove no causation."

    No, it doesn't. One hypothesis (which I think is quite plausible) is that both the murder rate and the number of illegal guns in circulation was going to increase significantly anyway, and that the ban on handguns has prevented both those increases from being greater than they otherwise would have been. In your own example, the crime rate in the areas you are cherry-picking might have been going down for other reasons, and the greater gun availability merely slowed the rate of the fall. No or negative correlation quite clearly does not prove either of those hypotheses wrong. So, to turn your conclusion on its head (as I live in Britain not America) you have zero justification for advocating the legalisation of firearms.

    Small observation - 'Just One Question' doesn't strike me as being the greatest of catchphrases, and I've only been subjected to it for a few days. Have you really been flogging it for five long years?

  6. Comments on this thread are now closed - see the end of the 'only freedom I'll ever understand' thread for explanation.