Monday, December 08, 2008

Protecting ourselves

'Edwardian London was a place better-adapted to the threats we see today than today’s London is. '

I blogged exactly that after the 7/7 bombings on the London underground. My suggestion was an auxilliary Police force of a sixth of the population. We had a similar force in Rhodesia called the Police Reserve, who tended to be men above the age of the regular armed forces and police, and men who could not spare the time for full-time army or police duties.

They were trained in firearms use, carried their weapons with them, and could be called upon at a moments notice to hurry to an incident.

The disarming of the general populace has happened in the last seventy five years, a fact that few Britons seem to know. There is this ahistorical myth that we have never been armed and gunned up. Even talking to my peer group about guns evokes choruses of loathing and misunderstanding about them. Also, there is total ignorance about the fact that our policemen used to be armed. It is a constant frustration of mine that Britons seem to be completely phlegmatic that the only guns in their neighborhoods are utilised by the worst people- murderous gang kids, criminals, hoodies and drug dealers.

The air of absurd gentility which says that guns are dirty and American and vulgar and therefore must never be in the hands of your ordinary householder holds complete sway. Despite the obvious evidence from around the world that those who can defend themselves rarely have to do so, and that being your own defense force is often necessary and would save many women from rape doesn't seem to matter to the British.

The Bombay attacks are simply the latest example of what happens when you outsource your protection to people who are slow, incompetent and in the wrong place when you need them desperately.


Adrian said...

"The disarming of the general populace has happened in the last seventy five years, a fact that few Britons seem to know"

"Early in 1605 a Commission of ten (five English, five Scots) was appointed for the whole borders, with headquarters in Carlisle...their rule was ruthless...all iron gates on towers should be removed... that the riding families should be dispersed, ARMS FORBIDDEN...on the whole the borders submitted more quietly than might be expected, but not on that account were they spared"

"The Steel Bonnets", George Macdonald Fraser, 1971.

Edmund Ironside said...

Ok, that was the borders. That was not an 'armed populace' situation but a 'private, unregulated armies' situation, surely? And what about the article quoted? How come those passersby had guns on them, if everybody in the country was disarmed in 1605?

Adrian said...

"How come those passersby had guns on them, if everybody in the country was disarmed in 1605"

It's not clear that everyone was disarmed - maybe just the riding families. This inequality before the law continued in 1689 when prostestants were granted the right to bare arms. What is interesting, however, is that I can't find any evidence of popular rebellion when a uniform and extensive restriction was introduced in 1920 . Compare this the disarming of the Borders in the 1600's - it was a brutal repression, you were buggered for example if your surname was "Graham"; and, more recently the brinksmanship of the IRA decommissioning of weapons. Anecdotably - and back to the Borders - I remember my uncles discussing the handing over of my grandfather's service revolver (officer in the homeguard) in the 1960's; "It's a bit dangerous having this lying around, isn't it?" and the revolver was duly handed in to the local police station. So when the British population was disarmed in the 1920's how many weapons were involved? And how much resistance was offered?

Edmund Ironside said...
'The events of early 1919 seemed to confirm these fears of Communist revolution. A general strike in Glasgow led to the raising of the red flag over city hall. The Glasgow Herald called it a first step toward Bolshevism, and the Secretary of State for Scotland called it a Bolshevik rising. The army was mobilized, but the police restored order without the military's assistance. In retrospect, the general strike in Glasgow was not the first step of revolution, but it is certainly understandable that the intelligence service, the Cabinet, and the king, misread it as such.'
According to this article, guns were taken away from the populace to keep them from armed revolution.
There was no widespread reaction against the Act of 1920 because it introduced licensing of firearms, it didn't ban them or remove them from the populace. Slowly slowly catchee monkey.

Adrian said...

"Slowly slowly catchee monkey."

Seems like you're right:

"The Firearms Act set the scene for civilian acceptance of further restrictions—not only on gun possession—but on almost any act of self-defense. [11] Malcolm describes a series of confidential memos, the first of which was written in 1937, from the Home Office to local police in charge of the issuance of licenses. [12] The memos were designed to reduce the number of lawfully possessed rifles and handguns as, coincidentally, crime rates began to increase. By 1969, the police were advised to deny all rifle and handgun licenses for self-defense purposes"

Which explains why there was no popular opposition. This also seems to suggest that the disarming of those keeping weapons for self-defense started much later - in the late 60's/early 70's: did the then fashion for love and peace facilitate this process? My uncles were in their early twenties when they handed in their father's revolver.