I wonder if some Brits aren’t wishing they had a firearm (or two) to discourage rioters and looters from preying upon them, their loved ones, and their property these days? From the BBC News’ Gerry Holt this morning:
Stories are emerging of Londoners forming vigilante groups to protect their homes and businesses, but police have warned this is making matters worse.
When rioters struck in Stoke Newington, north-east London, on Monday night, a group of Turkish shopkeepers were in no doubt about what was required.
Arming themselves with rudimentary weapons – a rubber hose or a piece of metal from a hoover – they were poorly equipped to see off the hundreds of youths who were running amok, smashing windows and setting fire to homes.
But their statement of intent was clear.
“Every man is entitled to defend his castle and we’ll defend the shop against anybody,” said one.
In the aftermath of the initial rioting in Tottenham four nights ago, traders and residents have accused the police of standing by and allowing people to loot.
Others spoke of how powerless they felt watching family businesses or homes burned to the ground.
But little by little a picture is emerging of Londoners beginning to fight back against the wave of violence – in some cases by taking the law into their own hands…
In Southall, west London, hundreds of Sikh men stood guard outside their temple and patrolled the streets on Tuesday night.
“We want to show the rioters we are here together,” the temple’s president, Himmat Singh Sohi, told Sky News.
Reports have suggested that some people protected their homes armed with just pots and pans, while others formed lines outside to stop looters breaking in.
Pots, pans, rubber hoses? Throw in Hatchet Harry’s rubber assault dildo from Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and you’ve got yourselves a terrifying arsenal there. All kidding aside, I applaud them for using whatever they have at their disposal to protect themselves, as its well-known the British government isn’t a big fan of citizens owning firearms. The BBC’s Dominic Casciani wrote back on November 2, 2010:
The UK has some of the toughest gun control laws in the world. If you want to own a gun, it is very difficult to do so.
In short, it has been designed to put as many barriers in the way as possible and to assume the worst, rather than hope for the best.
In the United States, you can declare that it is your constitutional right to bear arms. But in the UK, you need to spend hours filling in paperwork and proving to police officers that you are not a danger to society.
The system is administered by police forces in each part of the UK and in England, Scotland and Wales there are separate licences for shotguns and for other firearms.
According to the most recent figures for England and Wales, there are 138,728 people certificated to hold firearms and they own 435,383 weapons. There are 574,946 shotgun certificates which cover 1.4 million shotguns.
Statistics for Scotland show that 70,839 firearms were held by 26,072 certificate holders at the end of last year. Some 50,000 people in Scotland are certificated to hold shotguns – and 137,768 weapons are covered by that scheme.
Police chiefs can revoke certificates if they conclude that the holder can no longer be trusted. In 2008-09, almost 1,300 certificates were revoked.
Since access to firearms is restricted in this manner, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that accounts like the ones above mirror those that took place in Cairo, Egypt, during the uprising that eventually forced Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak out of power. I wrote back on April 27:
How bad did the situation get in Cairo during this time? From the Associated Press on January 31:
When Egypt’s police melted from the streets of Cairo this weekend, the people stepped in.
Civilians armed with knives, axes, golf clubs, firebombs, metal bars and makeshift spears watched over many neighborhoods in the sprawling capital of 18 million this weekend, defending their families and homes against widespread looting and lawlessness.
The thugs had exploited the chaos created by the largest anti-government protests in decades and the military failed to fill the vacuum left by police.
And now, it’s being reported that three men who were in the process of protecting their neighborhood have died in the violence. From ABC News’ Kevin Dolak and Jeffrey Kofman this morning:
The rioting and looting gripping England has turned deadly as it enters a fifth day with three men killed by a hit-and-run driver in Birmingham.
Reports from neighbors indicate that the men were attempting to protect their area from rioters when they were struck by the car.
“Three men — aged 31, 30 and 20 — were on foot in Dudley Road in the Winson Green area of the city when they were in collision with a car. All later died from their injuries in hospital,” read a statement of the West Midlands website. “Detectives … will today question a 32-year-old man on suspicion of murder.”
All I can say to our friends across the pond is, good luck. They’re going to need it, as I suspect the rioting and looting in European nations is only just starting (this episode will probably subside soon, however), before it eventually makes its way to our shores as times get even tougher. Don’t think it can happen here? Bust out some U.S. history books and start reading- if recent events like New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina and the 1992 Los Angeles riots somehow escape your memory.
Holt, Gerry. “England riots: When is it right to turn vigilante?” BBC News. 10 Aug. 2011. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14473781). 10 Aug. 2011.
Casciani, Dominic. “Gun control and ownership laws in the UK.” BBC News. 2 Nov. 2010. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10220974). 10 Aug. 2011.
Dolak, Kevin and Kofman, Jeffrey. “U.K. Riots: 3 Dead as London Police Go on Offensive.” ABC News. 10 Aug. 2011. (http://abcnews.go.com/International/uk-riots-dead-london-police-offensive/story?id=14269401). 10 Aug. 2011.
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