The 2nd Amendment of the Bill of Rights: "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."
Right to Bear Arms News 3/07/01
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, March 05, 2001 2:32 AM
Subject: Re: Crime in Britain and Australia vs USA
Source: Punch Magazine
Published: May 3-16, 2000
Britain's Tough Gun Control Laws Termed Total Failure
Land Of Hope And Gunrunning
By Peter Woolrich
Four years after the Dunblane massacre, Britain's tighter gun laws have failed completely. Now there is a race against time to stop the UK from becoming as trigger-happy as the US.
[Officers are being confronted by youngsters on mountain bikes with automatic weapons]
Britain's gun control laws, introduced after the Dunblane massacre in 1996, have proven to be a disaster. There are now an estimated three million illegal firearms in the UK, perhaps double the number of four years ago, and the only effect the knee-jerk political reaction that led to the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 has had is to shut down legitimate gun clubs.
Fears that Britain is on the way to adopting a US-style gun culture are now a reality "We look to Los Angeles for the language we use," Morrissey once sang, but it was never envisaged that "drive-by shooting" and "Big Mac" (the Mac-10 sub-machine gun, which fires 20 rounds a second) would become as much a part of the vocabulary of street-wise teenagers in Merseyside, Glasgow and London as hamburger and fries.
Some believe the three million figure, collated by Home Affairs Committee researchers working on a recent parliamentary report into the gun trade. Either way, vast stockpiles of weapons have fuelled a spate of shootings in Britain's cities, including Manchester where a 17-year-old was recently killed.
The new research suggests that in some areas a third of young criminals, classed as those aged 15 to 25 with convictions, own or have access to guns ranging from Beretta sub-machine guns to Luger pistols, which change hands on street corners and in pubs for as little as 150 (pounds).
"There is a move from the pistol and shotgun to automatic weapons," says Detective Superintendent Keith Hudson of the National Crime Squad. "We are recovering weapons that are relatively new - and sometimes still in their boxes from eastern European countries."
In London there were more than 20 fatal shootings last year allegedly linked with the Yardies, gangsters who have their roots in Jamaica, compared with nine killings in 1998. In one, Andy Balfour, 32, was shot eight times with a Mac 10, and last summer BBC hip-hop disc jockey Tim Westwood was shot by a man on a motorbike who opened fire as he drove home from a gig in Kennington, south London.
Last month, Gabriel Egharevba, 17, was also shot by a man on a motorcycle in Longsight, Manchester, the eighth fatal shooting in the city in seven months. The previous year two teenagers aged 14 and 17 were gunned down in the same area by a gang with automatic machine guns.
Police say that modern weapons are fast becoming fashion accessories, along with trainers and jewellery, among young drug dealers protecting themselves and their territory. Unarmed officers now find themselves being confronted by youngsters on mountain bikes brandishing automatic guns.
In Birmingham there have been about 100 crimes a month involving firearms since last March, compared with 88 a month in the year ending April 1998. Two men were shot dead in the city in separate incidents at Christmas.
The government declared an amnesty on guns after Thomas Hamilton shot dead 16 children and a teacher in Dunblane, resulting in 162,000 weapons being handed in, but this has failed to make even a dent in the underworld's supply of pistols and revolvers. A steady flow continues to come in from former Eastern bloc countries, but criminals have now found an even cheaper and safer source of weaponry.
"Factories" up and down the country are churning out decommissioned guns, often stolen from private collectors and sold at trade fairs and through the classified ads of specialist magazines, that have been reactivated by re-boring the barrels and replacing the firing pin.
Another growing source of illegal guns are "cloning" or "off-ticket sale" dealers, who operate in a similar way to car ringers. Stolen firearms disappear by being given the identity of an older decommissioned weapon, details of which don't have to be recorded under present laws. Last year, ex-Special Constable Tony Mitchell was jailed for eight years for supplying criminals with hundreds of guns he specialised in Mac 10's at 1,100 apiece. He used his engineering skills to convert the guns from de-activated products bought via mail order catalogues. One was traced to a 1997 street murder in Brixton and another shooting of a police officer by a youth in Manchester's Moss Side. In all, police linked guns supplied by Mitchell to 130 crime scenes.
As an indication of how Mitchell and other dealers feel they can operate with impunity in Britain, he continued his activities even after a police raid that saw him arrested and released when no guns were found.
Detective Constable Cliff Purvis of the National Crime Squad said: "Some of the weapons which bore Mitchell's 'signature' mark have been used in killings and to fire at police.
"I'm sure he was one of the major contributors to illegal firearms in this country He was a big fish. There's no question of that."
A big fish or not, Mitchell's shoes were very quickly filled in what is thought to be a multi-million pound black market industry Opponents of the handgun ban, introduced after Dunblane, claim it has failed to cut gun crime because of the multiple sources of weapons available to criminals.
Home Office figures soon to be released will show that, overall, armed crime rose 10 per cent in 1998. There were 13,671-armed offences compared with 12,410 the previous year. Firearms experts have long called for more research to assess the accurate flow of illegal weapons and, although attempts are being made by the Home Affairs Committee, it remains to be seen if the government will act upon its recommendations. It is a relatively simple measure to clamp down on identifiable gun clubs and collectors, but another to penetrate the underworld.
Bill Harriman, a member of the Firearms Consultative Committee and a spokesman for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, says that current legislation focuses on law-abiding citizens who belong to gun clubs. "It should," he says, "have been directed at illegally held firearms."
Even though pistols were banned under the Dunblane regulations, they are still the weapon of choice for armed criminals and were used in 1,854 of the 3,029 armed robberies in England and Wales in 1997.
The government had plenty of evidence at its disposal to realise that simply banning certain types of weapons is ineffective. For example, fully-automatics have been prohibited since 1937 but it has not stopped criminals using them. Harriman believes that, far from being discouraged from using guns, criminals, as well as people with no criminal record, are becoming more trigger-happy
"Firearms are now being used to settle minor disputes," he comments. "There's an argument in the pub and it's settled in the car park with a bullet, or someone keeps a pistol in the glove compartment of his car and uses it in a fit of road rage."
"The Dunblane legislation should have been directed at stopping this attitude and taking handguns out of the grasp of criminals. If the 95 million paid in compensation to former pistol owners had been used to target armed robbers, something fundamental could have been done to end gun culture."
Harriman's view is supported by a large number of police officers who privately say that the 1997 legislation IS a nonsense, but are afraid to speak publicly for fear of offending their political masters. One exception is Superintendent Nigel Sutcliffe of West Yorkshire, who says in a submission put before the Home Affairs Committee: "It is clear that the bans introduced in the Firearms (Amendment) Act in respect of handguns have not worked, in that for the first six months of 1999, 59 handguns have been used in West Yorkshire."
"Clearly, these handguns could not be lawfully possessed and, therefore, must have been illegally imported into the country or already be in the unlawful possession of someone."
"These facts tend to support those shooting organisations who were opposing the ban of handguns... in that handguns in the lawful possession of those involved in target shooting were rarely used in criminal activity" However, the gun used at Dunblane was legally held by Hamilton, a gun club member.
As well as eastern Europe, America is also a foreign source of illegal weapons. British security services recently revealed that weapons bought at Florida gun shows and posted to the UK had been intercepted in north London and Manchester.
MI6 has no idea how many packages have already got through, but are aware of larger consignments being brought across the Atlantic by private yachts and dropped into the sea off the Kent coast. The bundles are fitted with remote-controlled flotation tanks and beacons, the signals from which can be picked up by global positioning systems.
One effect the handgun ban does seem to have had is to lead to a shortage of ammunition, which means that the illegal armouries make even more money by supplying that as well.
Perversely, the law actually assists criminals in building their own ammunition because a loophole does not make it an offence to own or even to have the component parts sent through the post. Anyone can buy primers, cases, propellant and bullets (the missile) without any form of certification. The gun only needs to be registered once the pieces are put TOGETHER to form a whole.
In written evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, the Police Federation has pointed out the "laxity" of the Dunblane legislation in not dealing with ammunition, as well as a number of other "inconsistencies".
It says: "The time is now right for parliament to address the entire issue and produce a completely new Firearms Act. Any lesser step will be insufficient."
The Police Federation is demanding that anomalies such as someone being legally permitted to own a shotgun while being deemed unfit to possess a firearm, as happened at Cardiff Crown Court in April last year, must be changed. It's a question of whether the government has the bottle to enact something more effective than the cosmetic exercise it undertook last time.
"If gun laws in fact worked, the sponsors of this type of legislation should have no difficulty drawing upon long lists of examples of crime rates reduced by such legislation. That they cannot do so after a century and a half of trying that they must sweep under the rug the southern attempts at gun control in the 1870-1910 period, the northeastern attempts in the 1920-1939 period, and the attempts at both Federal and State levels in 1965-1976 - establishes the repeated, complete, and inevitable failure of gun laws to control crime." -- Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) quoted from "The Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Report of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, February 1982, p. vii."
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