Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The British Perspective on Guns / and Why / Part 3

This is Part 3.  I appreciate John’s British perspective.  I found it very informative.  He has recently answered the two questions I put forth in Part 2; which I will now share with all of you.

True’s Question #1:

John, do you think that Americans (reflective of our culture and demographics) are more violent than the British; and, if so, why?

John’s Response:  In terms of assaults against the person there have been studies which show that the UK has a higher statistical rate than the US. Both societies are much the same in terms of the culture of violent TV shows and video games, the fracturing of the traditional family unit, and the assimilation of immigrants from totally differing cultures.  But the UK also has a lower legal drinking age (18) than the US.  The mixture of alcoholic brews and testosterone is a recipe for disorderly behavior at the least, DUII's and violent assaults further up the scale. The main weapon of the UK inner city thug is the knife, as firearms are far harder to obtain.  The bladed weapon is certainly capable of causing death but it is not the efficient killer that the gun is.  One study showed that assaults in the UK involving firearms are 1 in 13, far lower than the US.

Even the most meek and out-of-shape among us is transformed into a lethal force when a gun is in the hand.  So in terms of violence in the US resulting in fatalities the rate is much higher than the UK, simply because the easier to use and more deadly the weapon the higher will be the body count.  And although the US has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, it is not the highest in firearms related deaths.  That dubious distinction is shared by certain Central American and Caribbean countries.  Even so, watching the local TV evening news, I am struck by the notion that the rate of gang-related shootings rivals that of Belfast and Londonderry during the height of the Troubles; minus, of course, the mass casualty bombings.

True's Question #2:

John, do you think our Second Amendment is a good and necessary aspect of our Constitution?

John’s Response:  The Second Amendment.  Absolutely I believe it is good and necessary; although I' m sure the Founding Fathers would scratch their wigs at the dazzling array of battlefield weaponry which is available to the public.

Speaking solely with the perspective of my British background, and as a former unarmed cop, I believe such high capacity military type weapons should be restricted to gun club members and housed on those premises.  But that's me, who is still amazed that when I buy a gun I do not have to provide a reason for doing so to the authorities.  One aspect of gun ownership that I am in favor of is that there should be legal consequences for those gun owners who fail, through negligence or carelessness, to keep their weapons secure and are used by others to kill and maim the innocent. Being a lawful gun owner confers (or should) a tremendous personal responsibility to ensure they do not fall into the wrong hands.

But getting back to the issue, the civilian right to bear arms was essential to safeguard the new republic from its enemies.  The gun was also a critical tool of survival for the pioneers and adventurers who pushed ever deeper into the unknown and often hostile lands, much the same as their opposite numbers in Australia and Canada.  In today's world, the threat is no longer from the Redcoats, the Spanish or the Apaches, but the armed criminals who prey off society and from whom the law abiding citizen is fully entitled to protect themselves. The Second Amendment is perhaps even more relevant in these times.

True’s Postscript:  As a past member of the NRA, I do feel that organization has gone too far in its unwavering defense of weapons that have no hunting, sporting, or reasonable personal protection function.  Although, I do understand that ‘reasonable personal protection’ is like beauty – in the eyes of the beholder.  Nonetheless, I’m referring to strictly anti-personnel weaponry of the worst kind:  such things as ‘Street Sweeper’ shotguns and military grade weapons with high capacity magazines.  Yes, I know, some collectors like to have them – but for what purpose, I’m really not sure.  However, if a person does have such a weapon and allows it to be misused or unsecured, the punishment should be severe.

I’ve often thought that guns should be rated, under law, according to their potential anti-personnel lethalness.  For example:  revolvers, traditional shotguns with three round capacity, and single-shot or bolt action rifles would be a ‘category one.’  On the other end, a ‘Street Sweeper shotgun (depicted above) or a Kalashnikov AK47 (depicted below) should be a ‘category five.’  Law violations and subsequent penalties should consider the weapon’s assigned category.  In my opinion, using a ‘category five’ weapon in commission of a crime should warrant ‘life’ in prison.

True Nelson

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The British Perspective on Guns / and Why / Part 2

This is a continuation of John’s comments regarding British law enforcement and the UK's anti-gun culture:

John:  "During my years as a UK police officer I never carried a gun.  No one I arrested, or my colleagues arrested, was in possession of a gun.  Not to say it did not occur, but it was a rarity.

Possession of a firearm or an imitation firearm could result in a lengthy incarceration.  The prevailing sentiment of the day among the police was that if we were armed then the crooks would pack guns and we would not be safer.  There was, among some, the old cry of 'we don’t want to be like America.'   They could have easily said we don’t want to be like France, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, Australia, etc.  All those forces are armed.  The few other nations which are primarily unarmed are the Irish Republic, New Zealand, and Norway.

A murder investigation in the UK was a big deal with Incident Rooms established, officers drafted in from other divisions, all under the command of an officer not below the rank of a Detective Chief Inspector.

When I was growing up the most popular police show on TV was Dixon of Dock Green which ran for years.  The main character was a middle-aged police sergeant who resolved cases and restored order through mainly avuncular wisdom.  Rarely was there a laying on of hands on an offender and certainly no firearms were brandished.  And today the public is not ready for the friendly area constable, on his foot beat in the High Street, chatting up merchants, seeing school kids across the street, giving directions to tourists, with a gun strapped to his hip.  In a recent incident in Scotland, an armed response group, being the only officers available, responded to a routine disturbance call outside a McDonalds.  They turned up with their Glocks and magazines clearly visible much to the consternation of the stunned onlookers, which was followed by howls of concern by a local member of parliament to the Chief Constable.

That said the public is now conditioned to the sight of London Metropolitan Officers, armed with H & K automatic rifles and handguns, patrolling in pairs, through Heathrow airport.

Times are changing.  In my day the terrorist threat was from the IRA, but the shadowy bombers were already long gone when their devices exploded.   None of them were suicide bombers unless they had screwed up their timing mechanisms.  Recent events in France and Belgium involving Islamic terrorists show a kamikaze mentality who will confront their targets with guns blazing.  Death to them is the martyrdom of the fanatic.

In the recent Belgian incident the police foiled attacks in which they themselves were the intended target.  Automatic weapons and police uniforms were discovered.  But at least, unlike their unarmed British colleagues, the European officers have the means to defend themselves."

True’s Comment (questions for John):

  1. John, do you think that Americans (reflective of our culture and demographics) are more violent than the British; and, if so, why?
  2. Do you think our Second Amendment is a good and necessary aspect of our Constitution?

True Nelson

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The British Perspective on Guns / and Why

I have a good friend, a British chap (formerly British), who, interestingly, was in law enforcement in the United Kingdom.  He has recently become a US citizen; and we’re lucky to have him – a very nice guy.  His name is John; and we’ve had many discussions over the years about law enforcement, crime and the psychology of perpetrators.

John and I have a mutual interest in guns; their functionality as well as their craftsmanship.  John has quite a few opinions on that subject.  And, as a result, he and I have occasionally discussed gun history and gun philosophy as it pertains to the British.  The following is what I recently received from him.  I’m going to relate his comments in two or three posts, because they are rather lengthy.  I hope you will find the comments as interesting as I did.

John:         “To viewers who watch British Police shows on PBS, such as New Tricks, Midsomer Murders, DCI Banks, the most noticeable difference between the UK officers and their US counterparts is the absence of firearms.  It was not always so.
In the Sherlock Holmes movies and TV series, the great detective, essentially a de facto officer who solved cases where Scotland Yard had blundered, would instruct his sidekick, Dr. Watson, to bring along his trusty Webley service revolver as the pair sallied forth to combat the forces of evil.

The London Metropolitan police was first established in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel, a Baronet who served terms as Prime Minister.  He had previously, as Chief Secretary in Dublin, established the Royal Irish Constabulary, in 1814.  His philosophy dictated that the police operated solely by the consent of the civilian population and would not be seen as an armed force of the State. Their uniforms were designed to be distinctly different from that of the red-coated soldiers of the day.  Their only weapon was a wooden truncheon. They became known to the public, somewhat affectionally, as 'Bobbies' after their founder.  In Ireland, they were known somewhat less affectionally as 'Peelers.'  By 1857 all UK cities were required to form their own police forces.  Although Sir Robert is lauded for the establishment of the UK modern police force, not everyone was a fan.  Queen Victoria described him as a 'cold, unfeeling disagreeable man.'  In particular, he did not endear himself to Her Majesty when, as Prime Minister, he opposed the awarding of a yearly sum of 50,000 pounds to her husband, Prince Albert.  Sir Robert died at the age of 62 following a fall from his horse.

Civilian possession of handguns in Britain, with the appropriate certificate, was lawful up until the Dunblane school shooting in Scotland in 1996 when an ex-scout master took two Browning 9mm pistols and two Smith & Wesson 357 revolvers into a school and killed 16 children and a teacher before killing himself.  His fire arms possession were under the category of a collector. Within a matter of days, close to half a million people in Scotland alone signed a petition calling for the total ban on civilian possession of handguns.  An official enquiry by Lord Cullen under the Conservative government of the day recommended tighter restrictions on handgun possession but considered a complete ban 'inappropriate.'  Shooting clubs would be exempt and civilian possession of 22 calibre single shot handguns would be allowed.  However, when the Blair Labour party came to power shortly after they instituted a total ban on all handgun possession.  This did not provoke the outcry that even such an attempt would have done so in the US.  Possession of firearms is not considered a right, but a privilege which the State will strictly regulate. The shooting community is a minority with little to no political clout.  Hunting has been mainly limited to the land-owning gentry.  There are not the wide-open vast public lands that exist in the US and Canada. As an aside, long barreled weapons can be obtained by police certificate and come threaded for a suppressor.

The handgun ban does not apply to Northern Ireland where the long years of sectarian strife present their own unique threats. A resident of that province can legally possess a handgun for personal protection - if the police approve, on a case-by-case basis.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary, renamed with the more pc title of the Northern Ireland Police Service, is the one UK force responsible for policing cities and towns which is permanently armed.  Two others, which are armed but with limited jurisdiction are the Ministry of Defence police (MOD) and the Civilian Nuclear Constabulary.  They have law enforcement powers at nuclear plant sites and within 5 kilometres of those sites.  The MOD serve as an armed security and investigative service for MOD property and personnel.  They are also assigned to overseas territories for certain policing duties.  One somewhat odd example being in 2003/2004, an investigation into communal sex abuse of children on the remote Pitcairn Island where Fletcher Christian and his fellow mutineers of The Bounty, as depicted in three Hollywood movies, eventually ended up on in 1789.  Both the MOD and the Nuclear force can be assigned to assist regular forces upon a request from the Chief Constables of those forces.

In a shooting rampage in Cumbria, the Lake District, in 2010, the nearby Sellafield Nuclear site was closed and the on-site officers called in to assist the local force in tracking down the shooter.  The first responding Cumbria officers were unarmed as no armed force response group was immediately available. The shooter, armed with a double barreled shotgun and a CZ bolt action 22 rifle, killed 12 people   He had firearms certificates for both weapons.  Following the shootings, renewed calls were made for further restrictions on firearm possession, but Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron said that Britain already had some of the most stringent requirements in the world and further restrictions would not be adopted.”

To be continued…

True Nelson

Monday, January 19, 2015

Martin Luther King Day - a National Holiday / Why?

I shouldn’t write this.  Some things we are just supposed to keep to ourselves.  We can think them, but best not express them.  That said, I’m not a racist.  But…  Didn't Eric Holder (US Attorney General) say that we should have a national dialogue on 'race' - and that we (the public) are cowards who are not willing to discuss the issues? 

Yes, OK Eric, well here goes. 

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday – or close to it – he was actually born on the 15th; but Americans like their three day holidays.

However, have you noticed that every news program has to have their obligatory tribute to Dr. King?  All of them!  No one, in the entire history of this country, has apparently (at least they would like us to believe) played a more meaningful, courageous roll than Dr. King.  He has become unique in his historical significance.  Americans simply can’t praise him enough.

I looked over my calendar.  Do you realize that Dr. King is the only individual that has a national holiday dedicated to him?  Well, unless you count Saint Patrick’s Day (whoever that was, but the Irish seem to enjoy the day), Columbus Day (this is a stretch), Valentine’s Day (I guess he was a saint also); and Christmas (not generally acknowledged or understood to be Jesus Christ’s birthday; although, I might add, I believe he played a significant role in history also).

Some might say that Dr. King was special in the sense that he fought for African-American civil-rights and against outrageous discrimination.  OK, I agree he was basically a good man and did some good things; and, I suppose, the rest of us have some serious, moral compensation due Blacks for slavery and the subsequent discrimination – even though, much of that, most of us had absolutely nothing to do with.

Regarding slavery (yes, I know, horrible to even contemplate), I do recall that thousands of White men and boys died to free the slaves.  That should mean something, shouldn’t it?  What about the Emancipation Proclamation?  What about Abraham Lincoln?  When is his birthday celebrated?  Oh, I realize, he gets to be included in Presidents’ Day.  But, that’s not quite the same as having your own day, is it?

I also know that Dr. King was assassinated because of his politics.  But, so was Lincoln – who I happen to believe did far more for African-Americans – just me.  We used to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday.  Sounds kind of old-fashioned now, doesn’t it?

However, how about some sort of compromise?  I propose a national holiday called Lincoln - King Day.

I think Dr. King would be happy and proud to share a special day with Mr. Lincoln.  

What do you think Eric?

Oh, Eric, one other thing.  I said above that I'm not a 'racist,'; but why do I have this feeling that you are?

True Nelson

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Paris Massacre / Charlie Hebdo Newspaper / Who are the heroes?

I feel compelled to comment on the recent massacre in Paris.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to defend ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘freedom of expression,’ which are, in my opinion, largely clich├ęs; and freely thrown around, misused, by the news media (vested interest) and the uninformed.

Charlie Hebdo is a French, for profit, ‘satirical’ weekly newspaper.  The cartoons and articles criticize and lampoon everyone who is anyone of societal importance, including religious leaders; and one of their favorite targets is Mohammed and Muslims.  I looked at some of their cartoons.  Poor taste would be a considerable understatement.  And, one can easily understand why those who worship Mohammed would be offended.  This does not, in anyway, justify the barbaric attack and the murder of the magazine’s employees.  I would, however, imagine that much of what was displayed in Charlie Hebdo would not be condoned or allowed in the United States – at least I hope not.

Why did I first say that ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘freedom of expression’ does not really exist?  And, quite frankly, it shouldn’t.  Some Americans might have found the cartoons depicting Mohammed funny or innocuous, but I don’t.  What if we had a magazine that made obscene, demeaning fun of Jews or African Americans?  Wouldn’t most of us object?  I would.

Unfortunately, for most Americans, demeaning Christianity is basically OK.  As I’ve said before, I am agnostic, but I still find some of the awful acts debasing the Christian religion offensive.

 “Piss Christ,” once branded as a “deplorable, despicable display of vulgarity,” will be displayed at the Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery in Manhattan. The artwork features a “photograph of the crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine.”

This is art?  This is freedom of expression?  This is crap!  The ‘artist’ is an idiot.

However, getting back to my original point, I don’t think Charlie Hebdo publishers and writers, now deceased, should be considered heroes.  Sorry, I just don’t.

I do think that Ahmed Merabet, the French Police Officer who died trying to protect the employees of Charlie Hebdo is a hero.  He and the other two officers killed that day should be celebrated as the true heroes.

#JenesuispasCharlie ‘I am not Charlie’

#JesuisAhmed ‘I am Ahmed’

True Nelson

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Should Cops wear Body Cameras? I am skeptical.

Our President has requested $264 million to fund police body cameras for street cops – our ‘thin blue line.’  I have my doubts that this is such a good idea.  It is a questionable use of tax payers’ money, and is premised on what is basically, in my opinion, a knee-jerk decision.

Yes, of course, the President’s action is because of the high-profile Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases involving police shootings.  First off, the Eric Garner arrest, which led to Garner's unfortunate death, was filmed.  Secondly, there seems to have been adequate witness testimony in the Michael Brown case – and it is doubtful that a filmed version would have changed anyone’s opinion as to what actually occurred.

Some will say ‘What’s the down side?’  ‘What can it hurt?’  I’m not really sure; but, to me, there seems to be a lot of unanswered questions.

I don’t know exactly what is intended.  However, in Oregon, you can’t record sound (like a conversation) unless both parties are aware that they are being recorded.  That’s easy, some will argue, Officers can advise all those they contact that they are being recorded.  Think about it.  A police officer might have dozens of contacts during a typical shift.

Secondly, can the officer turn the camera on and off?  Defense Attorneys will love this.  ‘And, Officer Smith, why wasn’t your camera on in the two minutes before you exited the car to approach the defendant?’

Will rough talk by police officers be gleaned from past recorded videos?  And, subsequently used against them in court to attack their credibility, their professionalism?  Or, attempt to determine a pattern of conduct?  Do not police officers have some expectation of privacy during the course of their shift?  They are not robots.  They are human beings doing a difficult job, under often dangerous situations.

And, consider this:  There is a shooting in a neighborhood.  The officers go door-to-door attempting to quickly get a suspect description.  If you were a neighbor and happened to know that the shooter was a local gang-banger will you cooperate with police, realizing that you’re being filmed and your conversation recorded?  I’m not sure I would.  The casually informed public should understand, at least I hope they do, that police often get tips from individuals that are valid and lead to arrests – although the potential witness will deny cooperation later.  Again, one might respond, ‘Well, the detectives don’t need to wear cameras.’  Alright, but much good information is obtained by the first officers on the scene.

I guess my main point is, ‘What person wants to wear a camera recording their every move during an eight or ten hour shift?’

Why don’t fire-fighters, prison guards, parole and probation, and all security personnel wear cameras?  What about surgeons, child welfare employees, or teachers?  They get sued from time to time.  They also commit crimes.  Shouldn’t we know how they are conducting themselves?  Where does it stop?

I do think that cameras on police patrol vehicles is a good idea.  I do think that is more than adequate.

There has to be an element of trust, an element of respect, extended to those in law enforcement.  If not, who but a complete knucklehead would even want to take the job?

True Nelson