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When Guns Are Banned By: Tanya Metaksa
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, March 20, 2002

JOLLY OLD ENGLAND IS NOW EXPERIENCING THE TRUTH in the saying, "when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." Law abiding citizens were forced to give up all their handguns after the British government passed one of the most stringent gun bans in the world in 1997. Pistols that had been in families for generations -- I know of one that that had been in the battle of Trafalgar -- as well as single shot Olympic pistols, were confiscated by the government for pennies on the dollar, all in the cause of public safety.

Since that draconian gun law was passed as a response to the Dunblane schoolyard massacre, the crime rate has skyrocketed and according to the London Sunday Times of March 10, 2002, it is very easy to buy an illegal gun on the streets of London if you have a few hundred pounds. The journalist, Adam Nathan, reports, "an Albanian gang in north London wanted ₤200 for the Italian made .22 gun with six rounds of ammunition. One of its six chambers had been drilled through to enable it to hold a full-size round." Nathan avoided purchasing the modified starter pistol because it was "seriously defective," but the gang operating from a car wash offered him other handguns from their selection of converted replicas and fully automatic machine guns.

As a result of the burgeoning black market in illegal firearms, the British Association of Chief Police Officers estimates that there will be a 20 percent rise in gun crime this year, making it the third straight year of steep increases. The British Home Office reports that handgun crime is at its highest since 1993, while overall gun crimes have never been higher.

Although much of the gun violence is related to gang warfare and the illicit drug trade, petty criminals are now using guns during common street crime. On New Year’s Day a 19-year-old girl was shot in the head even though she had relinquished the mobile phone the robber was after. The report of this incident in the Daily Express read, "Is anyone safe in Britain in 2002?'' Carrying a mobile phone in England appears to be a magnet for robbers; there were more than 700,000 mobile phones stolen last year alone. The robbers target everyone, even children. Prior to the New Year’s Day tragedy a 10-year-old London boy was robbed at gunpoint – the thieves took his phone and ₤25 ($36.00).

Criminal use of handguns since the 1997 ban has jumped by 40 percent. According to Associated Press, "Dave Rodgers, vice chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said the ban made little difference to the number of guns in the hands of criminals." He acknowledged, "The underground supply of guns does not seem to have dried up at all."

With its burgeoning crime rate London has surpassed the crime rate of New York City. During this same 5-year period, New York City’s crime rate dripped while London’s rose – in London crime pays. With fewer cops per 100,000 inhabitants than New York, those famous London Bobbies only solve one out of every five crimes while robberies in which criminals use violence or threaten violence have gone up by 35 percent in the past year. As for muggings Londoners are 25 percent more likely to be mugged than New Yorkers.

Although the police acknowledge that they are helpless in "drying up" the flow of illegal arms, the government handgun ban has disenfranchised British athletes who participate in competitive handgun shooting disciplines. After the handgun ban was passed British handgun competitors, who wished to continue their sport, were forced to send their expensive equipment abroad.

Muggers, robbers, drug addicts, and gang members carry firearms with impunity, while British pistol shooters are forced to travel great distances to train for such events as the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. It’s ironic that when the Commonwealth Games open at Bisley this summer, the Queen will welcome all the competitors including the pistol shooters; but when it’s time to go home, the only ones who will not be able to take their equipment home with them will be those athletes that live closest to Bisley.

The politicians and the gun banners won’t acknowledge that banning guns doesn’t stop criminals from misusing guns. So when their ban doesn’t work, they lobby for more of the same impotent solution. Tony Blair’s government is now calling for a ban on replica firearms, gun shaped cigarette lighters, and air pistols. When will they learn that the only people who will obey are law-abiding citizens, who don’t misuse real firearms, let alone replicas, air pistols, or cigarette lighters?

Tanya K. Metaksa is the former executive director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action. She is the author of Safe, Not Sorry a self-protection manual, published in 1997. She has appeared on numerous talk and interview shows such as "Crossfire," the "Today" show, "Nightline," "This Week with David Brinkley" and the "McNeil-Lehrer Hour," among others.

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