The Berlin Street Market Killings: Reactionary legislation solves hardly anything

December 23, 2016

In the wake of the Berlin market truck killings, some voices are calling for the Schengen open borders policy in the European Union to be scrapped.  This is understandable on a visceral level – Anis Amri, a man who had been on terrorist watch lists, had apparently driven freely all over the Schengen area both before and after the killings – he had managed to travel over 1,000 miles around Europe in spite of an arrest warrant, and he was finally caught and slain by police in Milan, Italy; so he had successfully travelled from Germany to Italy while he was a high-profile murder suspect.  But scrapping the Schengen agreement because of the Amri case would be an example of reactionary legislation that would achieve very little but would pose problems for millions of law-abiding citizens.  Maybe trucks should be banned too?  After all, Amri used one to commit his crimes.

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Anis Amri, the Berlin truck murderer killed by police in Italy

It reminds me of the reactionary gun laws passed in Britain because of “lone gunman” cases: for instance, the Hungerford massacre when Michael Ryan used assault rifles to murder 16 people in 1987 led to a ban on automatic weapons; and the Dunblane atrocity when Thomas Hamilton entered the Dunblane Primary School in Scotland and used pistols to murder 15 children and their teacher caused the government to ban virtually all handguns as well as firearms such as hunting rifles.

These two UK examples of sweeping gun control reform after single atrocities have probably saved few, if any lives.  The assault rifles used by Ryan were extremely rare in any case, and the Dunblane massacre was down to insufficient vetting of Hamilton more than the law that allowed properly-vetted individuals to buy pistols for recreation or competition shooting; because of the post-Dunblane legislation, members of the 2012 British Olympic shooting teams were unable to train in Britain, and £42 million had to be spent on special facilities where the shooting events could take place, at Woolwich Royal Artillery Barracks – facilities that were demolished after the Games. Shooting sports bodies and some politicians argued that the money would have been better spent on the lasting legacy that would be gained by refurbishing and upgrading permanent facilities at the National Shooting Centre at Bisley, which would have cost a maximum of £30 million, and which would allow British competitive sports shooting teams to practice on home soil.

The ultimate irony of these reactionary legislations is that only law-abiding citizens are affected by the laws.  Criminals who want assault rifles or handguns can buy them anyway, on the black market, where they do not have to possess licences.  Any change to the Schengen agreement would have the same effect: stopping countless citizens to move freely in the European zone because of one evil man’s actions.  It is an erosion of rights similar to those we have seen in the USA – except of course in the States guns and bullets are trivial to buy.


Drones drones drones… Enough already with the effing drones!!!

October 22, 2012

I am sick of drones. The police want to use them… the RAF is buying more Reaper drones which will be deployed in Afghanistan but controlled from bases in Britain… and now France is sending drones to Mali, to help kill insurgents and whoever else is in the target area at the time.

I understand why armed forces like drones – they can carry out dangerous missions without risking the lives of aircrew, and they can patrol huge areas without risking pilot exhaustion. So yay yay, we can do war stuff without risking the lives of our patriotic forces (some people might say that using drones is cowardly as the pilots are safely on home turf. But obviously that isn’t a view I share). But while the drones keep the fighting at arm’s length, the Afghani population are still dying because of the airstrikes. One very obvious problem is that a guy piloting a drone via a TV screen and a PlayStation control pad is going to make errors that a real life pilot in a plane could avoid simply because he is there, seeing stuff with his own eyes. There’s been enough “collateral damage” (ie senseless slaughter of innocents) already. If we want to fight the people of Afghanistan, we should send real live people there,not glorified remote control planes armed with horrific weaponry.

A civilian killed by a drone is just as dead as one bombed by a manned plane. His family is destroyed just the same. Is this how we want our “heroes” to be remembered, as men who fire missiles at civilian targets while relaxed in a base back in Blighty? Because that is how they’ll be perceived if the use of drones escalates – there are enough people around to make sure that is how history written, from bloggers in the West and from children orphaned by a bomb dropped from a drone. Lions and asses.

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Do as I say, not as I do.

October 17, 2012

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Tory Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell: why don’t they put 50,000 volts up his ass?

In the first Prime Minister’s Questions session since Tory Chief Whip swore at police officers and called them “plebs”, Cameron has defended Andrew Mitchell against calls from the Opposition that his position is now untenable.

Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour party, said in PMQs that Mitchell should be sacked. After all, as London mayor Boris Johnson said in last year’s Conservative convention, anyone who swears at a police officer must expect to be arrested as part of a zero-tolerance approach. One rule for the yobs, another for the elite, pointed out Miliband (though he didn’t really need to point this out – the elite have always enjoyed a cosy relationship with the forces of law and order, as well Ed knows, having been a member of tha t elite for quite some time).

It will be mildly interesting to see what’s done about Mitchell. Only mildly, because whatever is done ain’t gonna amount to a hill of beans. Slapped wrists, grudging “apologies”, then a donkey in Blackpool will bray the National Anthem or something and Mitchell’s tribulations will be yesterday’s news. No one cares, cos everyone knows there’s no point in caring.

Another mildly interesting story in the Guardian today is that a copper shot a blind man in the back with a 50,000 volt taser because he apparently thought the man’s white stick was a samurai sword. WTF? Ch Supt Stuart Williams, of Lancashire police, said the force deeply regretted the incident, in an apology as grudgingly given as Mitchell’s, then went on to explain:

Police had “received a number of reports that a man was walking through Chorley armed with a samurai sword”.

A description of the offender was circulated to officers and patrols were sent to look for the man. One of the officers who arrived in Chorley believed he had located the offender. Despite asking the man to stop, he failed to do so and the officer discharged his Taser.

Colin Farmer, the 61-year old victim of this electrocution said he was taking a slow walk to meet some friends when he became aware of some shouting. Next thing he knew, he had been zapped to the ground and forcibly restrained by an anonymous officer (anonymous cos the police ain’t telling and Farmer can’t identify the dickhead since he’s blind).

Ch Supt Williams said that as soon as officers realised their mistake, they took care of Hunter and gave him a lift to meet his friends. That was big of them, considering they could have killed the guy. Hunter, obviously not a young man, has already had two strokes and lives in fear of a third. And how in heck does a police officer mistake a blind man’s white stick for a samurai sword? I thought the whole point of the white stick was so people would realise its carrier was blind. But now, if I were blind, I’d be too scared to take my stick out with me. Who knows, maybe it’ll be a Heckler & Koch MP5 submachinegun used on the next unfortunate victim of mindless police brutality. Insanity.

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