Thursday, 10 June 2010

Would the Cumbria massacre have happened without the Firearms Acts?

Following on from the horrific events in Cumbria, it was completely predictable that statist politicians such as John Pugh and Chris Williamson would come out of the woodwork to advocate yet more bans on lawful firearms ownership. Naturally they fail to provide any evidence that any further gun bans will reduce the likelihood of the next massacre, because there is no such evidence. People who want to commit murder will do so, whatever the law says. Certainly Derrick Bird's actions appear at this point to have been premeditated. If he hadn't used legally owned guns to do what he did, he'd have used firearms bought on the black market – and black market guns are easier to acquire than legal ones these days, especially if you want something that's currently prohibited.

The 1988 and 1997 Firearms Acts were sold as being intended to prevent future atrocities such as happened in Hungerford and Dunblane. They have clearly not had that effect, so what makes anyone think that further bans will improve the situation? The only obvious effect current legislation had on the outcome of the Cumbria massacre was to ensure that Bird's victims were all unarmed and therefore easy targets. If only one of the random people who crossed Bird's path on that day had been armed, they would have been in with a chance of stopping him, or at least slowing him down. A few decades ago this would have been more likely, as the gun laws were more laid back then.

But there's one more thing about this event that I've been wondering about – did Bird just suddenly snap or did he feel himself deteriorating over time, as his problems gradually started to get on top of him? There is a story that he tried to get himself admitted to a mental hospital just a day or two before the massacre, but was turned away – I don't know if that's true or not. But if it was a gradual process, did he seek help earlier? If not, why not? Could he have been deterred from seeking professional help by the 1997 Firearms (Amendment) Act? To see what I mean by this, pop along to the Merseyside Police website and download either a Form 101 (application for a Firearm Certificate) or a Form 103 (application for a Shotgun Certificate) and read Section 16. It reads “I hereby give permission for the police to approach my GP to obtain factual details of my medical history.” It's something that was added to the form as a result of the 1997 Act. That on it's own is enough to deter any licensed gun owner from seeing his doctor if he starts suffering from any emotional or psychological problems – he'd be scared that the fact that he's being treated for depression or whatever would get back to the police and that they'd use it as an excuse to revoke his FAC or SGC. Did this fact deter Bird from seeking help before it was too late? I don't know, we'll probably never know. Would a councelling or therapy have helped to prevent him going off the rails? Again, I don't know and we'll probably never know. It's not like psychology is an exact science.

But what does seem obvious to me is that clause in our draconian gun laws actually increases the risk of licensed gun owners developing problems in the future – probably not by very much but the possibility's there. Something to think about.

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