Why lax gun laws are a very bad idea

by Suw on November 1, 2003

Watching Fox News this morning (yes, I know… but my parents seem to like Fox News and I’ve yet to be able to persuade them that Fox is about as fair and balanced as Saddam is kindly and caring) I was really stunned to see footage of a lawyer, Gerald Curry, being shot six times at close range by a man involved in the court case that the lawyer was handling, one William Strier. (Registration might be required for the LA Times links.)

It’s gruesome to watch Strier and Curry dancing around the trunk of a tree as Curry tries to keep the tree between him and Strier and Strier tries to reach around the tree to shoot Curry at point blank range. Luckily for Curry, Strier never manages to get a good shot in. When he runs out of bullets he just calmly pockets the gun and walks away as if nothing had happened.

Strier then gets floored by a Traffic Court judge who happened to be nearby and as soon as he’s down other bystanders bundle on top of him and disarm him. Curry walks off seemingly ok, but then collapses and is now in a serious but stable condition in hospital.

To me, this is just one example of why the ‘right to bear arms’ is so ludicrous and why America really should tighten up its gun laws until they squeak.

Of course, the gun lobby in the States would be bound to disagree. After all, “guns don’t kill people – people kill people” they say, but, as Eddie Izzard replies, guns don’t kill people – bullets kill people, but guns certainly help. You’re not going to do much damage pinging a bullet at someone using an elastic band, (although admittedly being hit in the neck by a crimp fired thusly does hurt rather a lot, but it’s still not fatal).

Allowing a mentally unstable person, as Strier appears to be, to own and thence be able wander round with loaded firearms is nothing short of lunacy. Whether Strier’s actions were premeditated or not, he would have had a much harder time trying to carry them out here in the UK.

I’m sure getting hold of guns and ammunition here isn’t all that difficult if you know where to look, but that’s the thing. Most people don’t. Even your average criminal is unlikely to be carrying a gun here. Although there has been an increase in gun crime here, which is worrying, personally I’d be much more concerned about being hit by a bus than being shot by a criminal as I suspect it’s much more likely to happen.

(I have just spent some time trying to find out what your chances actually are of being hit by a bus, but that does seem to be a rather elusive statistic.)

Still, it’s very unusual for anyone to get shot here, particularly in small towns in Dorset which are usually the scene of nothing more than the occasional punch up. Corfe Mullen, the scene of a recent shooting where in a man was shot in the shoulder, is not so far from here and not a place I’d consider to be at all dangerous. And I still don’t, because I think that was an isolated incident unlikely to be repeated.

And that is, I think, the key difference. Gun crime here is rare. You don’t have to worry about getting randomly shot by snipers, accosted by a gunman in a road rage incident, or being gunned down in a drive-by.

According to the Home Office, there were 10,250 firearms offences occurring in the year 2002-03 in England and Wales – an ‘offence’ is any crime where a gun was present, even if it wasn’t fired. Eighty of those where homicides, (compared to 95 for the previous year).

In America, for 2002 the official FBI stats indicate that there were 370,022 gun crimes in that period and either 11,504 or 9,369 firearms deaths, depending on which page of the report you believe.

In 1999, gun deaths per 100,000 of the population were 0.12 in the UK, 4.08 in the USA – for every one death per 100,000 in the UK, the USA suffers 34. But, in absolute terms, for every one death in the UK, the USA sees between 117 and 143.

Now, you can tout cultural differences and all that, but I really don’t think you can pin the blame on Tarantino. If there were fewer guns there would be less gun crime. Simple.

Which is pretty much the same word I’d used to describe the American gun lobby and legislators who believe that guns don’t kill people.

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