388.2 Gun Control | Scoins.net | DJS

388.2 Gun Control


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The US persistence with the Second Amendment, the Right to Bear Arms, continues. The issue here is what is acceptable short of repealing the Amendment. Two things could easily change; the level of background checks and the range of guns allowable. The general response from a gun-lover is that more guns is the answer to any threat. At a state level, there is a strong correlation between Republican and (more) guns. Specific changes that would give a good effect would be to ban assault weapons, to ban large capacity magazines, to have universal background checks and to prevent people with a history of violence from possession.

Banning assault weapons seems easy and obvious. As Biden said, when the 2nd was first passed there were weapons that you couldn't own (like a cannon). Being clear what it is that is allowed (and sensible) is one issue; making sure that the existing assault weapons are returned to safe environments (e.g., the military) is quite another. Reducing magazine size (to ten or less) seems even simpler from over here and, significantly, is seen as a significant affector of mass shooting occurrences. The need for universal checking requires changes at a state level which produces ridiculous situations where any nearby state requires no checking (buy a gun with the same ease as alcohol), which is not quite the same as requiring a permit to own a gun. Permits and checks are recognised as effective reduction factors in firearm homicide generally, not just mass shootings. Generally, the process of obtaining a permit includes a background check. How thorough or effective these are varies from state to state. The fourth suggestion above is that anyone who has committed a violent crime is denied a gun; the significance of this lies in the distinction between federal and misdemeanour in the US; this proposal includes misdemeanours and therefore domestic violence, threats to kill and so on would become included as reasons to be denied a permit. Fifth (and no doubt to be widely disputed in the US) is a 'red flag' law, which means that where there has been warning sign, there should be investigation and there should be a risk protection order – which amounts to taking weapons away from someone seen as posing a threat.

The linked article points tot indicators that firearm homicide would come down by 35% if all five laws were passed in every state. That is 10,000 deaths a year, amazingly. The one of these five that could be forgotten is the ban on assault weapons. That is counter-intuitive but the research indicates that  it's not the what, or the type of weapon; it's the who. What is important then is keeping weapons away from those who pose risk, who present instability. The small magazine size, on the other hand, would have significant effect on mass shootings.

So what is odd here is that three of the four suggested rules would, in general, have support from gun-owners, who, in general, see ownership as a responsibility. In turn that means that the problem lies with the NRA.

I see this as having strong parallels with campaigns to reduce smoking, or use of fossil fuel. The economy has encouraged growth of the business—in this case, supply of weapons—and that makes for Big Business. The same economic drive gives significant power to that business so that it works to protect itself and therefore its future. So, whatever the consensus is among the people as a whole, it would appear that democracy is a failure as the power seems to lie with impersonal, inanimate bodies who work counter to the needs of society.

That calls for a significant change to the way we run our societies. 

I've written before about the so-called Business Vote. What is wrong here is that The People have a say once every four or five years, while lobbyists seems to have a say any day they feel like it. I've also written that politicians should be listening but they seem to have little control to whom they lend an ear. Thus the lobbyist will always win (while we allow the situation 'as is' to continue). We require our representatives to show to themselves that they have indeed collected a representative range of views. That's much too vague to have currency with the image of a politician.

Yet, the records in the US show that the NRA spent less on lobbying in 2021 than the National Realtors Association. [Steven Carr, comments to 60, no link found in support of that.]


Guns per 100 people, USA about 700, but gun owners per 100, only 42, Finland 38, Switzerland 29, Norway 26,.. UK 6. If we listed instead handguns, the UK would be near zero. In Jan 1997 there was a UK law change (a ban on handguns) and it would seem that this has had an effect since, rather delayed. This is a recording issue, since about half were not 'real' firearms. A further change (the ASBo Act, 2003) took that half out of the gun recording. Mass shootings in the UK; Dunblane '96, Cumbria '10 and Plymouth in '21. One issue to be wary of here is what sort of weapon is allowed and owned. Scandinavia licences almost exclusively hunting rifles. It seems to me that the issue (humans killing their near neighbours) is handguns. Reading the comments to [65], there are correlations with poverty, but also with ethnicity (black but not Latin) and with mental health, especially when coupled with access to ways of making damage at scale. The UK is not at all free of guns or gun crime, but most of the gun crime is with illegally held weapons and it is access/supply/denial that seems to be the problem.

[62] says According to the most recent figures [2021] for England and Wales, there are 156,033 people certificated to hold firearms and they own 617,171 weapons. Including shotguns, that's 565,929 certificates. Again it is easy to be misled by badly presented figures. There are 1.3 million licensed shotguns in the UK and 535 thousand other firearms. This suggests that people who have a licence tend to have several guns. This applies in the US, where a useful statistic is that  3 per cent of the population own half of the country’s 265 million guns. Trying to parallel such a statement, in the UK less than 1% owns all the guns. People who would like to have guns for protection in the UK (outside Northern Ireland) and on a losing wicket while 30% are in favour of no civilian guns at all and a supermajority (37%+39%=76%) want tighter restrictions than we already have. [66 and 67, which provided the table below]


I have read quite a lot about this topic. I have formed the opinion that the more incidents of this type we allow to occur, so we steadily lower the bar, the threshold at which such events are able to occur. The UK has had literally one or two in each of the last three decades, while in the US they are commonplace, daily events, 246 in the first half of 2022. These are identified as occasions where the victims are unknown to the assailant. There is a long-term correlation with political unrest, with a divided population, with a lack of political consensus, with social change; the US fits such descriptions very well. I wonder if those descriptions fit the UK too, in which case we should expect to see violence to erupt here too. Visible action towards 'levelling up' would help avoid this, while visible actions to protect advantage will have the opposite effect.


DJS 20220606


[60] https://theconversation.com/us-shootings-norway-and-finland-have-similar-levels-of-gun-ownership-but-far-less-gun-crime-183933?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%20Weekend%20Conversation%20-%202305722951&utm_content=The%20Weekend%20Conversation%20-%202305722951+Version+A+CID_f6b5bd9874a616855176f51eca64cf20&utm_source=campaign_monitor_uk&utm_term=US%20shootings%20Norway%20and%20Finland%20have%20similar%20levels%20of%20gun%20ownership%20but%20far%20less%20gun%20crime

[61] https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN01940/SN01940.pdf  Lots of detail sensibly collated. weapons = guns and divides into: air weapons; handguns; shotguns; other (rifles?). 

[62]    https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/statistics-on-firearm-and-shotgun-certificates-england-and-wales-april-2020-to-march-2021/statistics-on-firearm-and-shotgun-certificates-england-and-wales-april-2020-to-march-2021 

[63] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-58198857

This includes a comparison of gun-related killings as a percentage of all homicides in that nation. England and Wales, 4%, Austrailia 22%, Canada 39%, USA 73%. Handguns are not banned in Northern Ireland, where one is allowed ownership for 'personal protection', unlike the rest of the UK.

[64] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/firearms-law-guidance-to-the-police-2012/guide-on-firearms-licensing-law-accessible-version     Replica weapons are relatively common in crime. It is an offence to possess one with resulting cause to fear violence, or in ordinary English, wave around in a threatening manner, as it is indistinguishable from the real thing (until one tries to fire it). While one does not automatically need a firearms licence for one of these, its owner and, in effect, location must be filed with the national regulator (the Home Office). Some imitation firearms are readily convertible to operation and so do need a firearms certificate. Basically if it looks like a real gun it needs a licence. It is also an offence to create or import these. The rules are carefully written to make paintball, flare pistols, water pistols etc okay. Air rifles may or may not need a firearms licence, depending on the power available (in the archaic unit, foot-pounds of kinetic energy). Imitation weapons occur in about 6% of firearm offences.

[65]  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-05-25/to-curb-mass-shootings-require-gun-permits-and-set-magazine-limits?cmpid=BBD052522_CITYLAB&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_term=220525&utm_campaign=citylabdaily

[66] https://www.bsbsolicitors.co.uk/blog/imitation-firearms-and-the-law-a-case-study/

[66] https://www.ecnmy.org/engage/the-uk-has-more-licensed-gun-owners-than-you-might-think/

[67] https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2021/08/20/gun-ownership-three-quarters-britons-want-stricter

2021 Plymouth Killed 5+self,   Injured 2.

2018 Mosside      Kill 0,            Inj 12.

2010 Cumbria      Kill 12+self,  Inj 11.

1996 Dunblane     K 17+1;        Inj 15.

1989 Monkseaton K 1;              Inj 14.

1987 Hungerford   K 16+1;        Inj 15.

I've left Northern Ireland incidents out, since these were political not mental health issues and because access to weapons is quite different. For the same reason I have omitted embassy sieges and terrorist attacks, which leaves no events in the 70s.   I see this as evidence that the UK too has a problem with unstable people having access to weapons but that the general paucity of weapons works to keep this at a low level



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