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UK police use of force (Part 1 - Firearms)

Following the reaction to my Tweet about UK policing , I thought I'd spend a little time over the next couple of days talking about the differences between our application of law and order. Let me begin by saying that we have had our fair share of inquiries into racism within our police force, as well as misogyny. It appears all organisations struggle with racial bias and nowhere is it more prevalent than in professions where power can be exerted over others. It comes back once again to our tribal instincts methinks.

Law enforcement in any country can only operate with the consent of the public. You can't police a community that will not submit to being policed. The major difference between the US and the UK, is the availability of firearms. In the UK, guns are not prevalent in everyday society. Gun clubs exist and whilst hunting is an activity enjoyed by some, it's largely a niche sport. We too have to control wild animal populations, so culling is a thing here too, albeit tightly controlled. All firearms have to be licensed and there are limitations on holding a firearm license if you have served a prison sentence.

Section 21 of the Firearms Act 1968 prohibits a person from possession of any type of firearm if you have been given a custodial sentence when convicted of a criminal offence.

  • If you have received a custodial sentence (including a suspended sentence) of between 3 months and 3 years then you are prohibited for a period of 5 years from the date you are released.

  • If you have received a custodial sentence of 3 years or more then you are prohibited for life, from the date of release.

A firearms certificate lasts for a period of 5 years and must be renewed if you wish to continue to own a gun. Every person issued with a firearms certificate is visited in person by police who explain face to face, the responsibilities that accompany certification. As part of the original and renewal application process, you MUST disclose any physical or mental health condition that may affect your ability to safely possess and use a firearm (including a shotgun). Examples of relevant medical conditions include:-

  • Acute stress reaction or an acute reaction to the stress caused by a trauma.

  • Suicidal thoughts or self harm.

  • Depression or anxiety.

  • Dementia.

  • Mania, bipolar disorder or a psychotic illness.

  • A personality disorder.

  • A neurological condition, for example, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s or Huntington’s diseases.

  • Alcohol or drug related abuse.

Storage of firearms is also tightly regulated. Guns MUST by law be stored in a secure approved gun cabinet and inspection of this, is part of the in person visit by police when a firearms certificate is issued. Unannounced random checks are also carried out by some police forces. This is the official government guidance on the storage and safety of firearms.

So really folks, you can see that US gun controls compared to legislation here, are non existent. Whilst the use of guns in crime here is rare, it is more prevalent than it has been. To wrap some context around illegal firearms, this is an overview from the UK National Crime Agency. In addition, to give you a more general view of the carrying of a weapon, this is an extract from UK legislation:

England and Wales. Under England and Wales' Prevention of Crime Act 1953, Section 1(1) states it is an offence to carry an offensive weapon on or about the person while in a public place without a lawful authority or reasonable excuse. Prohibited weapons may include a knuckleduster, baton, hammer or knife.

Can you imagine MTG and Lauren Boebert's reaction to these regulations? Their heads would explode and for sure we would be declared a communist country. The reality is, that as a result of these laws, the chances of a mass shooting or being caught up in an armed robbery are remote. Now that is not to say they don't happen, but let's take a look at the stats. The UK has one of the lowest rates of firearm homicide in the world, with a rate of approximately 0.05 gun homicide per 100,000 of the population. If you would like to dig a little further into the stats, take a look at these ONS datasets.

The point I really want to make is, that it's a fantasy in the US, to think that someone's going to come and kill you. It's simply not likely to happen. Can it happen? Yes of course, but the reason you are more likely to be shot in a home invasion or a social altercation, is because of the wide availability of firearms and absence of regulation. You live in a country where the bizarre notion is, that the only way to stop people with guns is to have more guns yourself. It's a self fulfilling prophecy. As for police use of force with a firearm, since 2004 you can count the fatalities each year with the fingers on one hand. The exception being 2016/17 when the figure was 6. Compare that to the US law enforcement who shoot and kill around 1000 people each year. Even adjusting for population size, there is no comparison.

Call me old fashioned, but that would indicate to me we have it right and the US is getting it dreadfully wrong. The lack of guns in the UK is NOT an impediment to lifestyle. We don't feel less free because we can't shoot our neighbour if they are annoying us. We send our kids to school in the knowledge that they will come home without some lunatic having shot them. We can go supermarket shopping or to the cinema, without having to wear body armour. This is a GOOD thing, not a deprivation of our civil liberties. Most of us, like most Americans, want to live our life without the constant threat of gun violence. So stop with this crap that you're not a real American unless you own an AR-15. Your children deserve better and good people have the right to ask lawmakers to represent families and not the gun lobby.

The sad reality is that gun crime in the US is completely out of control and there is no political will on the right to do a thing about it. This 2nd Amendment bullshit is just that, it's bullshit. Daily life is not enriched by the presence of firearms, it is blighted by them. with 40,000 gun deaths each year in the US, there is absolutely no case to be made for things to continue as they are. All polls indicate that most Americans do not want weapons of war on their streets and that they support universal background checks at the very minimum. The only thing standing in the way of the will of the people is the Republican Party, a wholly owned subsidiary of the NRA.

Every time you explore societal blight, from gun crime, to poverty, to environmental destruction, you find yourself walking back down the same road towards GOP lawmakers, as they put their fingers in their ears and shout, 'La la la la la la" It really is time to wake up to the fact that the threat to life as you know it, is not coming from guns, poverty, crime and global warming, it's coming from Republican lawmakers that are complicit in supporting societal chaos, by their unwillingness to act. Racism and division is now the lifeblood of a political party that is effectively a domestic terrorist organisation. I know this has become a fashionable thing to say in liberal ranks, but I come from the outside without a horse in this race and take it from me, it is the truth. I say this not to be controversial, but simply as a statement of fact. I can think of no policy they are offering or political platform that suggests they are working to develop policies for the good of the American people. All I see is the promotion of chaos and division and those are the hallmark tactics of terrorists.


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