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(en) Freedom 6401 Jan, 2003 - The most heavily armed gangsters are the police ...

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 20 Jan 2003 08:44:22 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

> The Cult of the Gun
Gun crime is back on the agenda of mainstream politics in the
wake of shootings outside a Birmingham New Year's party. But
there's a curious inconsistency in the way the issue is being
addressed. The Birmingham shootings were said to have
involved a submachine gun. There's talk of arsenals being built
up by drug gangs, who use guns smuggled from the Balkans
since the mid 1990s. But apparently the true terror gripping
our streets isn't the prevalence of Uzis or Heckler & Koch
carbines (Scotland Yard's weapon of choice, incidentally) but
the toy guns that throng the nation's playgrounds.
Since handguns were banned after the Dunblane massacre in
1996, the use of firearms in robberies has fallen 23%, even
while the level of so-called 'gun-related' crime has risen.
Obviously just banning the instruments of crime does nothing
to address its roots, and sales of replicas have soared to make
up the gap. Crimes in which victims are threatened with guns
are on the increase and police believe it's these replicas that
may be involved, not real weapons. The Home Office has
already called an emergency summit, and looks set to
introduce lots of new legislation.
What's at the root of gun crime, whether it uses genuine guns
or replicas, is frequently misdiagnosed. Leaving aside property
crime (which stems, ultimately, from disparity of wealth and
opportunity), many shootings apparently involve what police
describe as 'respect issues' - punishments for trivial affronts.
These motives, if they really exist, surely indicate either an
extraordinarily fragile sense of self-worth on the part of the
people who use guns - a desperate attempt to compensate for
feelings of powerlessness - or the opposite, an over-inflated
sense of self-worth and contempt for others. Either way, it's
hard to see how motivations like these can be addressed by a
ban on replica weaponry. Nor could a ban do anything to
prevent shootings like the one in Birmingham, where the guns
used were only too real.
Anyway, the biggest motives of all for using guns, which police
say they're trying to address, are rather different. One reason,
both for the rise in gun crime and for the rise in replica sales,
is that guns are seen as fashion accessories, touted even among
school children. There's a developing cult of the gun. Blame
has, as always, been attributed to the usual suspects for
'glamorising firearms' - rap singers, shoot-em-up arcade games
and violent films. Teenage boys, tucked up in their bedrooms
listening to rap, playing computer games and watching DVDs
are, it seems, greatly to be feared.
But of course this is rubbish, and Commander Alan Brown of
the Metropolitan Police unwittingly, but succinctly, last week
outlined a more likely cause of the problem. "The gun is a
symbol of power in some circles, and there's a knock-on effect
down through the criminal ranks all the way to the
playground," he said. The 'circles' Brown should have been
talking about, though this was far from his intended meaning,
were of course the police and army themselves, the forces of
the state. It's in their criminal ranks that the gun is a symbol
of power most prominently of all.
The state is the arena of society where the 'cult of the gun' is
most prevalent. It's the police and army themselves that claim
a monopoly on violence, and set the biggest example of
disputes being settled by force. After all, the police say they
want to increase the number of routine armed patrols in
Britain's towns. Their proposed solution to getting guns off the
streets? Putting more guns on the streets. Now, you can't fault
logic like that.
Anton Pawluk

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