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England, I Told You So

by Larry Pratt
Executive Director,
Gun Owners of America

The British Home Office, in its "Practical Guide To Crime Prevention," offers what are referred to -- presumably with a straight face -- as some "sensible precautions."

Regarding how to stay safe at home, it is said: "If you wake to hear the sound of an intruder, only you can decide how best to handle the situation. You may want to lie quietly to avoid attracting attention to yourself, in the hope that they will leave. Or you may feel more confident if you switch on the lights and make a lot of noise by moving about. Even if you're on your own, call out loudly to an imaginary companion -- most burglars will flee empty-handed rather than risking a confrontation.

"Ring the police as soon as it's safe for you to do so. A telephone extension in your bedroom will make you feel more secure as it allows you to call the police immediately, without alerting the intruder."

This same "Guide" suggests the following, "if the worst happens," and one is actually attacked: "You have every right to defend yourself, with reasonable force with items you have with you... an umbrella, hairspray or keys can be used against the attacker. The law however doesn't allow carrying anything that can be described as an offensive weapon."

But, of course, in England, individuals are not legally allowed to decide how best to deal with those who break into their respective homes. For example, private persons cannot legally own handguns for protection -- which in the case of repelling a home intruder would be a defensive weapon.

What is suggested in this "Guide" is neither "practical" nor "sensible." An umbrella? Hairspray? Keys? Please. This is dangerously absurd. In America, several studies have estimated that from 1,000,000 (the Clinton Justice Department number) to 2.5 million individuals (a Florida State University scholar's number) every year use firearms successfully in self-defense. Proportionately, based on your population, there is no reason to believe that this would not also be true if firearms were as easily available in England as (thank God) they are in my country due to the Second Amendment of our Constitution.

And there appears to be a stronger need than ever for your government to allow law-abiding citizens to arm themselves for self-defense if they so desire. In a recent letter-to-the-editor in the American newspaper "USA Today" (February 7, 2000), Jennifer Arney of Shere, Surrey, England, writes, in part: "After living in England for more than two years, I know there are no tragic results that come from the confiscation of guns. I've never felt safer strolling through London, where the only arms bearers are selected Bobbies."

But, to put it charitably, Ms. Arney seems not to have the slightest idea what's happening in her part of the world. The BBC's "News Online" (January 18, 2000) reported that Home Office statistics reveal "a huge surge in muggings, amid a worrying rise in violent crime." The number of robberies (most of them muggings) increased by 19 percent in the year to September. And the biggest rise in crime was in London which saw a 22 percent increase -- more than one million offenses.

Overall, the violent crime rate in England now exceeds that of the U.S. rate according to a joint Oxford University/U.S. Department of Justice study.

And the "only arms bearers" in London are "selected Bobbies"? Not exactly. In London last year, there were more than 20 fatal shootings allegedly linked to the "Yardies," gangsters who have their roots in Jamaica.

Indeed, according to the January 16 issue of The Times criminals have an estimated 3,000,000 illegal guns in the country. Once again we see that gun control works -- against the law abiding only, not the criminals.

Last July, Tim Westwood, a BBC hip-hop disk jockey, was shot by a man who opened fire on the car in which he was traveling in South London. And Amnesty International reports that London is a base for another gang, the "Tamil Tigers" of Sri Lanka, who extort money from London's Tamil community and then buy guns and explosives which they give to terrorists. On the night of August 30, 1999, at the Warren Farm Sports Center in Southall, UK, two gangs said to work for the "Tigers" attacked each other with guns and machetes.

In addition, the "Manchester Guardian" has lamented the fact that their city is now called "Gunchester" with police sources quoted as saying that guns had become "almost a fashion accessory" among young criminals on the street. Shootings in the area totaled 41 last year with three people being shot dead during a 10-day period last summer.

One of these victims was Patrick Logan who was murdered by a hooded intruder who broke into his home. I guess he forgot to lie still and/or turn on his lights, yell to a non-existent companion, or call the police immediately. Or, maybe, he didn't have handy an umbrella, hairspray or keys.

Your suicidal anti-self-defense lobby is wrong. So-called "gun control" has not and will not make your country safer. And you're seeing the truth of this assertion with a vengeance. According to a U.S. Justice Department victim survey, in 1995 -- the last year for which complete data was available for both countries -- an individual in your country is nearly twice as likely to be robbed, assaulted or have a vehicle stolen, as in America.  There were 20 assaults per 1,000 households in England and Wales but only 8.8 in the U.S. One article in a major British newspaper (London Sunday Times, Jan. 11, 1998), calling Britain "the crime capital of the West," has noted that more than one in three British men has a criminal record by the age of 40. The question is asked: "Where have we gone wrong?"

One place you've gone wrong is by denying your citizens the right to defend themselves, their family and friends and their property with firearms. This is immoral and stupid. As Colin Greenwood, the Chief Inspector of the West Yorkshire Constabulary, has correctly observed: "There is no case... in which [gun] controls can be shown to have restricted the flow of weapons to criminals, or in any way reduced crime."

Shortly before your government's last assault on lawful gun owners I debated a member of Parliament on CNN International. I predicted to him that your crime rate would increase if the gun confiscation bill were to pass.

It gives me no pleasure to say: "I told you so." Those of us who favor the God-given right of self-defense, and the right of private individuals to keep and bear arms, have argued all along, as the old saying goes: "That when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." England has proven that with a vengeance.


Larry Pratt, Executive Director, Gun Owners of America (315,000 membership, June 2000), has held elective office in the state legislature of Virginia and is an elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. Gun Owners of America can be found on the web at http://www.gunowners.org.

 

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