The New Year started with one of those brutal acts that still has a capacity to shock the entire nation. The savage gunning down of two teenagers at a party in Birmingham by young men armed with sub-machine guns brought home to many the growing violence that exists in parts of our inner cities and has already expanded into our city suburbs and now seems to be threatening rural towns.
Since the Government declared a â??total banâ? on handguns six years ago in the aftermath of the Dunblane tragedy it has become clear that there are more guns being used by criminals in our society. However much the police in Birmingham try to make out that the New Year murders were an out-of-the-ordinary event it is clear that it was only the gender of the victims that made it so startling. Even here on the streets of central London I am fully aware, from speaking to fellow local residents, that gangs of young men involved in the illegal drugs trade, prostitution and protection rackets think nothing of brandishing firearms in order to protect their patch.
Drug dealers need to ensure a monopoly of supply in their districts if they are to maximise their profits. Competition for territory needs to be muscled out. These gangsters have no fear of the police â?" their only equals are other gangs whom they know are going to be similarly armed. Until we support the police in their endeavours to enforce the law to diminish the power of these gangs, the use of firearms will grow.
Unfortunately the reaction of many politicians and many in the media to the Birmingham bloodbath was both predictable and illogical. The call for the existing handgun ban to be further enforced by new mandatory five year jail sentences handed out to anyone possessing a firearm is just grandstanding. Even a momentâ??s reflection should have persuaded everyone that this is neither a sensible nor a practical way forward. The fact is that the criminals on our streets are already refusing to obey the existing laws so there seems little point in passing even more new legislation for them to continue to ignore. Until the current total ban on handguns is properly enforced in this country then we shall continue to see a greater increase in gun-related violence.
In the aftermath of the Birmingham shootings I discussed the whole issue with a friend who lives in leafy Hertfordshire. He said to me, with an entirely straight face, that he is now as fearful of crime as if he were living (rather than simply working) in London. He is seriously contemplating procuring a firearm for his familyâ??s self-defence though he has never fired a gun before in his life. My great concern is that I am not so sure anymore that this is such an atypical reaction in our long time gun-averse society. On the whole issue of gun control we are rapidly reaching a crossroads in public policy. Cool heads are now needed especially in the light of what seems to be an escalating murder rate using firearms.
The problem is simple. We have failed to enforce our current already relatively strict laws. We should not simply stand by and wash our hands of this problem by passing yet more laws â?" the police already have sufficient powers and all that is now required is the political and judicial will to use them properly.
We have handcuffed our own police by removing their ability to â??stop-and-searchâ?. We have allowed no-go areas to be created in our inner cities because of political correctness and I gained little pleasure from listening to community leaders speaking about the Birmingham killings and saying that the police had become too lenient in the area. If you create a vacuum of social order it will be filled by violence, anarchy and the indifferent destruction of human life.
Fortunately we can still be stunned by the manner of the loss of these teenagersâ?? lives in Birmingham but unless we reverse the rising anarchy and social disorder in parts of our nation I fear that such horrors will re-occur.