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.
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.