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Echoes of "Fahrenheit 451" Haunt England

by Dr. Michael S. Brown

August 3, 2002

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's famous novel of a totalitarian future where books are burned is being acted out in England. But instead of destroying books, authorities seek out and destroy guns owned by citizens in defiance of the national ban. 

Those who remember Bradbury's book know the way that subtle alterations of terminology and a slow erosion of common sense can pervert an entire society to the point that it destroys itself in the quest for perfection. In this case, the perfection they seek is a society without violence, but like all utopian experiments this one too is doomed to failure.

A chilling article appeared recently in the Sun describing how several ordinary, middle-class men were arrested for keeping guns hidden in their homes in defiance of the ban. The article was loaded with propaganda terms reminiscent of Bradbury's imagination. Two retired teachers were called "gun-mad", "gun obsessives", and "gun nuts." Other arrestees were an engineer and fireman. The caption under one man's smiling photo labeled him a "monster." It is tempting to conclude that the article was a parody even though it seemed deadly serious.

It is fascinating to read the growing flood of news reports in the British press about the exploding rate of violent crime in the UK, especially gun crime. Many stories about gun crimes mention the harsh gun laws enacted after the "Dunblane Massacre" in 1996. The reporters seem perplexed at the failure of these laws to reduce crime, but never seem to make the connection that would occur to most Americans. 

Scholars Joseph Olsen and David Kopel pointed out a few years ago the uncanny relationship between the enactment of English gun laws and subsequent increases in crime. Even a small child could look at the 100-year graph showing the crime rate vs. gun laws and see the tragic conclusion.

A new book by respected history professor Joyce Lee Malcom explains how twin attacks on gun rights and self-defense rights have made England into the most crime-ridden country in the developed world.

The strictest gun laws on the planet have effectively disarmed law abiding citizens, allowing criminals to run amok with illegally owned guns, knives and even fake guns. Instead of a gun-free society, they have created a situation where guns are more useful and valuable to criminals than ever before. A thriving black market imports guns from Eastern Europe and distributes makeshift guns produced by local craftsmen out to make a quick pound.

"In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."

Criminals are now certain that citizens have no effective means to resist an armed attack. The gun-armed criminal is thus a king free to rape and plunder at will. 

At least Britain deserves credit for thoroughness. In contrast with American practice, where the rich and famous are effectively exempt from gun laws, English gun controls are so tight that even celebrities are unarmed, leading to many reports of celebrity mansion burglaries and street assaults.

Attempts to counter this avalanche of crime with more police are hampered by limited budgets and a liberal criminal justice system. Thousands of video surveillance cameras have sprouted everywhere, reducing privacy, but failing to provide the desired protection.

Laws against self-defense have sent Englishmen to jail who would have been hailed as crime-fighting heroes in America. Years of expenditures and sacrifice have simply created the world's safest working conditions for criminals. Instead of repealing the counterproductive laws, English politicians prefer to pile on more laws outlawing knives, air guns and toys. Their utter faith in government and their complete ignorance of human nature is stunning.

Americans have good reason to point at our English cousins and laugh as they laughed at us during the era of alcohol prohibition, but I suggest we thank them for conducting one of the great social experiments of our time. By showing the counterproductive nature of gun control, they are teaching us a powerful lesson. We can only hope they see the light before their society is too badly damaged.

Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist and member of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws - Email the author at:


Gun-Mad Teachers Arrested,,2-2002260304,00.html 

All the way down the slippery slope… Olsen and Kopel 

Guns and Violence, The English Experience, Joyce Lee Malcom
Harvard University Press 

Gun crime stories from the UK


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They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.— Benjamin Franklin Historical Review of Pennsylvania. [Note: This sentence was often quoted in the Revolutionary period. It occurs even so early as November, 1755, in an answer by the Assembly of Pennsylvania to the Governor, and forms the motto of Franklin's "Historical Review," 1759, appearing also in the body of the work. — Frothingham: Rise of the Republic of the United States, p. 413. ]

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