Address violent crime by keeping felons off streets
Published: Sunday, February 27th, 2005
Scotland has long been thought of as a wild land, peopled by independent-minded warriors, herdsmen and farmers. For centuries, its remoteness has fostered the spirit of self-sufficiency and independence that brooked little interference from the outside world. Scots fought many wars to safeguard their freedom. Who can forget Mel Gibson’s William Wallace shouting out the word “freedom” as he was being tortured to death in the closing scene of the movie, “Braveheart?” Modern Scots, however, are seeing that spirit of freedom legislated away in favor of more state control of their lives. Many Americans are aware of the strict gun-control laws in the United Kingdom, of which Scotland is a part. It’s nearly impossible for the average U.K. citizen to own a firearm, much less carry it for self-defense. A couple of indicators seem to show the ban is doing its job but having unforeseen effects: Violent home invasions are increasing because felons know the odds of encountering an armed homeowner are nil; and the number of knife murders are rising. That last one is of particular concern to Scotland’s First Minister, Jack McConnell. He’s trying to get legislation passed that would slap restrictions on knives and swords. According to The Scotsman online newspaper, McConnell’s proposal would license shops selling non-household knives, ban the sale of swords, make it illegal to carry a knife or sword and double the sentence for carrying a knife to four years. Proponents of the measures point out that carrying a sgian dubh, a small knife tucked into the top of a stocking as part of traditional garb, would be exempt from the ban. Carrying most other knives, however, would be illegal. Although it’s tempting to dismiss the proposal as a goofy response to a serious problem — violence — it must be taken seriously by defenders of an individual’s right to self defense. Thomas Jefferson summed up that right in the Declaration of Independence: Men (and women) are born with “certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Implicit in those rights is the right to defend oneself from outside attack by other people or the government. It is that natural right of all men that McConnell’s idea attacks. The Scotsman quoted McConnell as saying, “The sale of swords in Scotland today is fundamentally wrong. There can be no reason for people buying swords off the street for use or to have in their homes.” Sound familiar? It’s nearly word for word the same argument used in this country by those who would ban the sale and possession of firearms. Will these people ever learn that the way to address violent crime is by taking and keeping felons off the street, not simply restricting the tools of their trade? The United Kingdom’s experience with gun control shows that felons will simply change weapons when their favorite is outlawed. We wouldn’t be surprised to learn, should McConnell’s proposal become law, that Scottish thugs were carrying clubs and brass knuckles. What then?
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