Once again our quiet English backwater of West Cumbria is in the news for the wrong reasons, this time after hitherto mild mannered taxi driver Derrick Bird went on the rampage with a sniper rifle killing 12 people and injuring 11 others – many apparently for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time – before killing himself. This kind of event is traumatic at the best of times, but in a sparsely populated area there are few people who don’t know, or know someone who knows, someone who witnessed or has been affected by the atrocity.
Britain has very strict gun control rules. Gun owners have to give good reason why they need to own a weapon and confidential enquiries are made as to their soundness of mind before granting permission. Derrick Bird had apparently legally owned his weapons for 20 years. But understandably questions are now being asked as to why people who have no professional need to own weapons capable of such carnage should be allowed to keep them in their house.
The sporting guns lobby has reacted with, it seems to me, rather disrespectful haste, to stem cries for even tighter controls, using arguments such as banning guns would make it impossible for Britain to host the Olympics. I doubt if the relatives of the 12 innocent people who were killed could give a damn about the Olympics at this moment.
There are many other silly arguments being raised against tighter controls. It is argued that much gun crime is carried out with illegally owned weapons, so making it harder to legally own one wouldn’t make a difference. But if Derrick Bird and others who use guns in crimes of rage or passion had to obtain them illegally first they would probably just resort to shouting or using their fists like the rest of us.
Another daft argument is that cars can kill and no-one advocates banning the use of cars. But quite apart from the fact that cars are useful to almost everybody whilst guns aren’t, it is also true that serious road accidents are examined to see if road safety legislation could be improved in order to try to prevent such accidents in the future. So I think that examining the laws regarding gun ownership is entirely appropriate.
If people own guns solely for sporting reasons, do they need to keep these weapons at home? Perhaps they should be securely kept at a licensed gun club or a police station and signed out for a specific period of time and purpose.
If Derrick Bird had not been able to get his hands on his weapons whilst he was thinking murderous thoughts, 13 people would still be alive today and 11 more would not be in hospital. Can anyone seriously argue that their sporting freedom is more important than that?