Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Does the UK need a Second Amendment?

The Second Amendment of the US Constitution is well known in the US and much of the world because it takes Thomas Paine's starting point that Government is but a "necessary evil" and as such the citizens of a state must be able to equip themselves in order to ensure the state does not become a tyranny.
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
The result in America is that certain low-level crimes that we have across of a wide area in the UK (not just in cities) are less common in the wider-US.

This stems from the fact that you are fair less likely to be mugged because a mugger cannot be sure if you're packing a concealed weapon (legally). Aggravated burglary too is rarer in many parts because who wants to break into a house if you know the owenr has a Berrata in their bedside table.

We have nothing like this in the UK of course. In fac we've banned pretty much any owenrship of guns for ordinary law-abiding people, which means that now the only people with guns are the criminals. Perhaps it is time for us to realise that a Second Amendment of our own could have positive impacts on some of the more lower level violent crime that has increased?

After all, prison is meant to be a deterrent as much as it is meant to reofrm. If you're average mugger knew that you might be carrying a 9mm semi-automatic weapon they might think twice before beating you up and nicking your wallet? Let's not forget about the Swiss and their love of guns compared to their violent crime rates. Thoughts?

30 comments:

DavidNcl said...

See the Bill of Rights (1689).

IanVisits said...

While we live in a society where a local mob will attack a house because they are too stupid to understand the difference between Paedophile and Paediatrician - the last thing we should do is allow people the right to carry lethal weapons.

Henry Crun said...

I used to live in a country where guns were legal, and yes I did own a firearm. I didn't like owning one and was glad to get rid of it when I left.

If Britain became the sort of society where the carrying of a firearm was considered a sensible option for personal safety, I would pack up and leave.

Anonymous said...

Of course the US also has a much higher rate of homicide, particularly homicide using firearms. And then there are the unfortunate accidents which happen when one mixes unfortunate ingredients such as children and guns.

Given the (historically) very low levels of burglary at present in the UK, do we really need to worry about that? Burglary of households has become largely unprofitable due to the extremely low price of most portable consumer goods. The largest group which still engages in such activities is made up of drug addicts and, frankly, a rational deterrent is not really going to work on them...

And then there is a final problem - if the "law-abiding majority" can obtain firearms legally, so can criminals, provided they are criminals who have not been caught. As conviction rates for crime are so spectacularly low (around 10% or so), presumptively a large number of criminals would have no criminal record when seeking to obtain a legal firearm.

The real point you are making, I think, is not about firearms - they are a means to an end. What you really want is for criminals to fear a response to their crime. That's a good intuitive judgment - research with criminals shows that they are most deterred when there is a high chance of being caught (even if not convicted). Turns out that longer sentences don't make that much difference, because most criminals aren't found or convicted and they know that. In fact, lower sentences would have just as much effect (according to the criminals) - what really scared them was being labelled as a criminal (it's the whole "don't let my mum know" thing).

Now, shooting someone you find in your bedroom is one way of ensuring a response, but that would only work if criminals thought people were likely to use the weapon - given the current perception of the law on self-defence criminals might think they were in the clear (in fact, you probably could shoot someone if you found them in your bedroom at night, at least if they appear threatening). Frankly, having a police service which bothered to turn up (my town of 20,000 people has no police service after 5pm on a Sunday - the nearest is several miles away) would help, as would better detection practice and better preparation for trial (the CPS is chronically short of good lawyers because they don't pay enough).

Now politicians don't generally discuss this because it is much more difficult. Simple legislation increasing sentences is quick and easy to do, and gives the impression of achievement without solving the problem.

JH said...

Aside from whether such an amendment might increase the murder rate, I think it is easier to establish a defence of self defence in the US than it is here. So an awful lot of people, here, would probably find themselves in jail for GBH, murder and manslaughter.

Forlornehope said...

If you pro-rata the data for accidental deaths from firearms in the US, the UK equivalent would be about 300 a year. That is about 10% of road deaths, a third of murders or more than three times the gunshot deaths. Other effects are a higher suicide rate - firearms suicides are very common in the US and are equivalent to the difference in suicide between our two countries - and a higher level of domestic murder - it's too easy to fire a gun in anger. The most likely person to be killed by a gun owner's weapon in the USA is the gun owner themself. Figures come from the UK ONS and the US CDC.

La Bete said...

In Freakonomics, Levitt shows that swimming pools are far, far more lethal to children than legally held handguns. Something the 'think of the children' mob seem not to understand.

It is also important to understand that those who legally carry a concealed handgun in the US (CCW holders) are far less likely to break the law. Assuming that gun ownership leads to criminality is not sensible. Rather criminality plus gun ownership leads to problems. Luckily criminals can't get guns! Oh, wait....

Nick said...

This stems from the fact that you are fair less likely to be mugged because a mugger cannot be sure if you're packing a concealed weapon (legally).

-----------

Why aren't you asking for open carrying of weapons as an advertisment that you are armed?

Anonymous said...

I used to work in South Africa. So many people came to work armed that there was a gun safe in the office. You put your gun in there during the working day to avoid accidents.

I asked one of the other ex-pats if he carried a gun. 'No point.' he replied. 'Over here, the muggers walk up behind you and shoot you in the back of the head before stealing your cell phone.'

The Swiss have relatively low gun crime due to the culture and attitude of Swiss people.

If your average hoodie could buy a gun in exchange for a week's dole money, do you think Britain would end up like Switzerland or South Africa?

Nick said...

The Swiss have relatively low gun crime due to the culture and attitude of Swiss people.
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That's part of it. Its a fraction of the gun crime in the US. It's still multiples of the gun crime in the UK

Bishop Hill said...

The point made above about the most likely victims of US gun owners to be the gun owners themselves is rather misleading. IIRC this is because people use their guns for suicide. Here they take overdoses or jump off Beachy Head. It's not pertinent to the debate.

I wrote a piece on my own site some time ago looking at the implications of gun control on civil liberties in the UK. These are probably even more important than the self-defence arguments.

Anonymous said...

Swizerland's been one of the richest countries in Europe for a long time. I don't think they'd have high violent crime rate if they introduced gun control.

I'm not sure there are many parallels between Brixton and Berne.

Until the aftermath of Hungerford you could buy (semi-automatic) assault rifles in this country, and handguns could still be bought until Dunblane. I don't think many people kept weapons for personal defence then so I'm not sure how many would if gun legislation was repealed.

Sam Duncan said...

I don't know whether this video linked to by Samizdata yesterday is what prompted your post, Dizzy, but it says it all far more eloquently than I ever could. Especially the very last sentence.

Anonymous said...

It's as much of a no-brainer as legalising drugs. And exactly as unlikely.

Z.

Andrew Ian Dodge said...

As if the criminals are already heavily armed? Should the foolish gun bans be over-turned by a sensible Conservative government?

As with the comment above...its a no-brainer and the answer is a clear yes.

I believe gun crime has gone up since the ban on personal weapons.

Cinnamon said...

Dizzy you're funny :)

In one post you wonder if people are responsible and clever enough to should be allowed to borrow small sums of money at exorbitant rates, in the next, you want to restore everyone rights to keep weapons...hmm.

:-D

If people borrow money to buy weapons with which they then shoot the bailiff -- is the loan or the gun at fault?

dizzy said...

I didn't say I wanted to restore the right to bear weapons. I asked a question about it. Don't assume my position.

Anonymous said...

I used to live in a country where it was normal to own firearms - then I moven back here. Now I keep a crossbow in the bedroom.

Cinnamon said...

Wasn't assuming what position you have, just had a giggle over the juxtaposition of the blog posts.

And I think this is a fair comparison, what you're basically asking in both posts is if people can be trusted with responsibility or if we should nanny them before they manage to produce problems, because they are too stupid to be trusted?

Forlornehope said...

On the suicide point, there is some evidence that the availability of firearms increases the rate of suicide. There is also evidence that making access to means of suicide reduces the rate. US suicide rates are higher than in the UK and the difference is approximately equal to the numbers that use firearms, though it would be wrong to conclude that this was the only factor.

On the civil liberties point, much more has been achieved by lots of people out on the streets than by individuals owning guns.

Lord Snooty said...

"I didn't say I wanted to restore the right to bear weapons. I asked a question about it. Don't assume my position."

You pompous prick. You always resort to this sort of schoolboy logic-chopping when you've been made to look a fool. Cinnamon was just making the entirely valid point that your position was a load of bollocks. Why don't you think about things a bit more thoroughly before you put up such a moronic post?

Lord Snooty said...

And another thing. Given the imminent implosion of the right-of-centre political blogosphere, what are you going to do to nurse your over-inflated ego when your blog goes down the pan?

dizzy said...

oh dear me you really don't get it do you and thenb post moronic diatribes. Take a look at the archive of the blog and you might. There is no logic chopping, all Ive done is post about guns following a post about Israel and one about race. If I post about the death penalty tomorrow and ask a question that will kick off talking and debate then I have the full house. you should never assume what I think unless I say 'I think'.

Still I do love your trolling and unlike some would I happily let it througjh and enaghe with it because it is fun. Now in answer to your question abnout implosion, I will carry on with my day job in the real world and carry on posting. After all I am not in the village, never have been and never will be. Did I tell you to fuck off and die yet? Just a question of course rather than what I think.

*cast*

dizzy said...

above post sent from phone hence horrendous typos

Lord Snooty said...

Glad to hear you will let me plough on. You're the only one I bother with now - Dale is tedious and hardly anyone comments there anymore and Guido has spiralled out of control to a point way beyond parody.

Another thing. Don't you think the 'sooty' row today supports my argument on another thread that Harry's racism was likely rooted in a family and class culture of casual racist talk. I'd assumed mainly the generation above Charles(e.g. Phillip) but clearly his dad indulges in it too. No doubt Harry's thick Sloane mum did when she was alive. So a bit more to the 'Paki' comment than army banter, in my view. Symptomatic of upper class racism. And Dizzy's response? The Wenger defence - "I didn't see it, guv". Spineless.

Bishop Hill said...

Forelorn Hope said:

On the civil liberties point, much more has been achieved by lots of people out on the streets than by individuals owning guns.

Tell that to the Jews.

Jabba the Cat said...

"In fac we've banned pretty much any owenrship of guns for ordinary law-abiding people, which means that now the only people with guns are the criminals."

There are two groups with guns in our society, namely the criminals and the police. The unarmed public is in the middle. It is a matter of debate which of the two armed camps is more dangerous.

dizzy said...

"Another thing. Don't you think the 'sooty' row today supports my argument on another thread that Harry's racism was likely rooted in a family and class culture of casual racist talk."

Had the guy called Sooty not told the BBC that it wasn't racist and everyone calls him it then perhaps.

And Dizzy's response? The Wenger defence - "I didn't see it, guv". Spineless.

Isn't it a bit silly to say what my response will be? esepcially when my response to Sooty is that, oh look, a social context analysis and the words of Sooty himself prove my point rather than yours?

Forlornehope said...

Bishop Hill, you make a good point but unfortunately armed civilians cannot stand up against an army for long - the Warsaw ghetto uprising was heroic but ultimately failed. Contrast Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which was awash with private weapons but still subject to a ghastly tyrrany. There are plenty of firearms in private hands in Iran, but it does not preserve freedom. Similarly many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have lots of guns and ghastly government. The last hundred years shows that civil action can bring down tyrannies, eventually.

MrJones said...

In the past I could never imagine a totalitarian British government. Now that I can imagine it I agree with Thomas Paine. Also, in the past I could never imagine my kith and kin in an environment with such a high risk of violent crime involving weapons.

So now I completely agree with the American position on this. The law on self-defense would obviously have to change to be more weighted towards the law-abiding.

I'd also like their freedon of speech thing. In fact I'd quite like their whole constitution. I think it would work better in a smaller country like the UK.