Right Thinking From The Left Coast
I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have. - Thomas Jefferson

Holidays in the Gun
by Lee

Welcome to safety.

Britain is in danger of “committing slow social suicide” as such Big Brother techniques as surveillance cameras and recording equipment spread into every aspect of our lives, the nation’s information watchdog will warn this week.

A new report from Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, will say that the public needs to be made more aware of the “creeping encroachment” on civil liberties created by email monitoring, CCTV and computer tracking of our buying habits.

It is understood that one of the concerns in Mr Thomas’s report is the use of special listening devices which can be placed in lamp posts, street furniture and offices. These are already widely used in the Netherlands to combat crime and anti-social behaviour.

More than 300 of the cameras with built-in microphones have been fitted in benefit offices and city centres. The equipment can pick up aggressive tones on the basis of decibel level, pitch and speed at which words are spoken.

Westminster council has already started piloting the listening devices, but experts say the use of these microphones raises questions about how surveillance can be used to intrude into the private lives of citizens.

He will also call for greater regulation of companies that supply surveillance technology which provides “convenience or safety for the more affluent majority”, but not for the vulnerable such as children, immigrants and the elderly.

Well, the police can view and listen on damn near anything a citizen does, and this doesn’t seem to worry people.  But thank God private citizens can’t own guns.  That would be terrifying.

Constant 24-hour police state surveillance is civilized.  Gun ownership and personal self defense is for American neanderthals.  If you’re raped, don’t worry, the police are watching it happen.  No need to defend yourself.

Posted by Lee on 04/28/07 at 11:21 PM (Discuss this in the forums)

Comments


Posted by on 04/29/07 at 06:09 AM from United Kingdom

Lee do you think the British government should change the law to allow the population to own guns?

Posted by InsipiD on 04/29/07 at 08:09 AM from United States

Lee do you think the British government should change the law to allow the population to own guns?

That’s not all he means.  Britain has just slipped a little further down the slope of sacrificing freedom to whatever.  I refuse to believe that such a level of surveillance actually improves safety.  The US isn’t far behind.

Posted by on 04/29/07 at 09:01 AM from Japan

In all the years I lived in the UK (one reason my spelling is always so mixed up), and in the multiple trips I had back there since, and from an immediate member of my family who is still based there - I have never heard anyone actually worry about this issue. Not one.

Guns, however, were a more common topic - most people I met were in favor of keeping the existing bans.

It’s only Americans who worry about CCTV in Britain. Which is kinda nice really. Could almost be mistaken for care.

Posted by on 04/29/07 at 09:50 AM from United Kingdom

Lee do you think the British government should change the law to allow the population to own guns?

The ban on handguns has done little to curb their use in murders in the England and Wales. In fact the number of firearms related murders has changed very little in the last 30 odd years.

England and Wales Page 18 table 4 1972 to 1997

England and Wales Firearms Offenses 1997-2005/6

The 97 gun law in the UK was bad law written in haste. The UK had, at the time, some of the strictest gun laws in the world. They did not prevent Dunblane.

Should the law be changed? Maybe. If a strict set of rules can be put in place that are properly enforced.

However the current legal firearms are already heavily controlled. It is, as usual, the uncontrolled firearms that are causing our problems. Just as they do almost everywhere.

The Criminal benefits from any prohibition that a government puts in place. It is the Law abiding people that end up paying the price.

We are now at the stage in the UK where we have to pay for a crime to be investigated over and above the taxation we pay for the Police Service.

Car theft victims pay police £105 to investigate

Posted by Lee on 04/29/07 at 01:14 PM from United States

Lee do you think the British government should change the law to allow the population to own guns?

I think the right to self defense is one of the most important human rights, and when a government denies you the means of self defense they are violating your human rights.

If the British people want to live in a gun-free society, which is clearly the case, then they should do so.  I’m not trying to force guns on anyone.  My point is that, in the absence of a means of self defense, you have to grant the government more and more power to defend you.  This is what we are seeing in Britain.  You have no right to self defense, you are expected to let the government do it for you.  Like I said, if this is how the British wish to live then more power to them. 

To me, this situation is absolutely horrific.  The idea of constant government surveillance should terrify anyone who cares about freedom.

If the choice was to live in a country awash with guns, where self defense was a right, and where we had the occasional massacre, or to live in a country where the citizens had no right to self defense and Big Brother was watching my every move, I’ll take the former.

Posted by Lee on 04/29/07 at 01:27 PM from United States

It’s only Americans who worry about CCTV in Britain. Which is kinda nice really. Could almost be mistaken for care.

The reason I worry about it is because, to a good segment of American liberals, as goes Britain so should America.  CCTV is becoming common here as well, though not to the degree that it is in the UK.

Posted by on 04/29/07 at 02:02 PM from United States

You have no right to self defense, you are expected to let the government do it for you.

The problem is that the government can’t, like theboxers pointed out. No society can adequately peotect its citizenry because its impossible for the police to be everywhere.

The reason I worry about it is because, to a good segment of American liberals, as goes Britain so should America

I’m not to worried about this. Granted they adulate Europe’s nanny state stance on welfare, regulated markets, more vaction time, subsidized health care, and especially the premeditated irradication of Christianity, our culture has a predisposed hesitency when it comes to the “public safety trumps individual liberty” mentality.

Posted by on 04/29/07 at 04:55 PM from United Kingdom

I have never heard anyone actually worry about this issue. Not one.

Well I live here and I’ve heard dozens of people worrying about it, online and in person.  I have seen dozens of articles about it in the papers.  There was one in the Guardian yesterday iirc.  As somebody observed, it is happening in America too, in some places as fast as in England.  Try going into a casino or a bank and counting the number of cameras you’re on.  I did once in a casino in Reno and lost count after 15.

But I think Lee is trying to link things that are separate.  I doubt there’d be fewer CCTV cameras if we had liberal gun control laws.

To me, this situation is absolutely horrific.

What many here find horrific is the prospect that allowing guns will certainly raise our murder rate, perhaps to American levels or, who knows, higher.  The murder rate in London is 2.9 per 100,000 compared with 8.6 per 100,000 in New York and 49.15 per 100,000 in Washington DC (2000 figures - too lazy to find anything more recent).  And firearms are used in 68% of murders in America, compared with 7% in Britain, and 41% of robberies, compared with 5%.  The rape rate in America is about three times as high as in Britain, despite America’s more liberal gun control laws (though the statistics here are questionable and may be incomparable).  Unlike too many Europeans, I’m not presuming to lecture America about what it should do, but in this area, nobody is going to take lectures from Americans about how to build safer societies.

But everybody knows these arguments on both sides and there is little point in rehasing them.

Incidentally, I’ve read or heard in a couple of places that your own gun is much more likely to be used to shoot you than to defend you.  Does anybody know if this is a fact?

the premeditated irradication of Christianity

I think you’re giving us too much credit there - mistaking apathy for strategy.

Posted by on 04/29/07 at 04:57 PM from United Kingdom

more vaction time

What on earth do you have against vacations?

Posted by Lee on 04/29/07 at 05:42 PM from United States

But I think Lee is trying to link things that are separate.  I doubt there’d be fewer CCTV cameras if we had liberal gun control laws.

No, I think I’m being misunderstood.  I probably didn’t make the point clear enough.

I’m not trying to draw some kind of parity between guns and CCTV cameras, only in the attitude towards each is tolerated by their respective societies, and the degree of “evilness” which is assigned them.

In America, self defense is seen largely as an individual right and responsibility.  In the UK it’s seen in more a collective manner.  This isn’t just about guns, either, it’s about self defense as a concept.  In America, if you woke up in the middle of the night and found someone in your living room, in just about every state you could kill him and be justified in doing so under the law.  In some states you are allowed to use deadly force to protect your property—you could kill someone trying to steal your car, for example.  The presumption of guilt is on the offender.  The UK is exactly the opposite.  If you kill someone you find in your house, you will likely be charged with murder unless there was an immediate threat, such as him charging at you with a knife.

To compensate for this difference in attitudes, the UK is littering the country with CCTV cameras.  The collective mentality towards self defense lends itself well to this sort of police surveillance.  Since you’re not allowed to defend yourself, it’s the job of the police.  CCTV cameras will make it easier for the police to do their job, therefore CCTV cameras are good.

Both CCTV cameras and guns have their pros and cons.  I happen to think that the cons of CCTV far outweigh the cons of guns and American self defense.  Like I said earlier, I’d much rather live in a free country which had the occasional gun massacre than live in a country where the police were legally permitted to watch and record my every activity.

Posted by on 04/29/07 at 06:41 PM from United States

I have never heard anyone actually worry about this issue. Not one.

That’s the beauty of it. They take away your rights and you don’t even complain.

Posted by on 04/29/07 at 07:10 PM from United States

Lee - if your brother still lives in the Woodlands, ask him about all their new cameras.  They’re only on the stop lights, but, jeez, it seems like they are everywhere. 

A drive through there and definitely you feel like Big Brother is watching.  I find it a bit creepy.

Posted by on 04/29/07 at 07:28 PM from United States

What on earth do you have against vacations?

Absolutely nothing, just saying that on average Europeans take more vacation days then Americans, usually 3 to 4 times. I’m sure there is some correlation between this and productivity levels, but I’m making no inferences.
It’s all academic for me anyway since I took early retirement last year.

Posted by Starving Writer on 04/29/07 at 07:37 PM from United States

The murder rate in London is 2.9 per 100,000 compared with 8.6 per 100,000 in New York and 49.15 per 100,000 in Washington DC (2000 figures - too lazy to find anything more recent).

Interesting that you picked two of the American cities with the strictest gun control laws.  Wonder how high the stats in Chicago and San Francisco (two other cities with extremely strict gun control laws) are. 

What is the murder rate of England as compared with the murder rate of USA?

That more murders in USA is commited with guns is irrevelant.  If I’m murdered, does it matter if a gun or a knife is what does me in?  I’m still dead either way.

Posted by Starving Writer on 04/29/07 at 07:40 PM from United States

My old hometown, High Point, North Carolina, decided to put cameras on various intersections to catch red-light violations.  This was a few years back.  The whole point of that exercise was to reduce the amount of crashes in intersections by people speeding past red light.  They started to send tickets to everybody who sped past a red light.

So what happened?

Intersection crashes skyrocketed.  People were now slamming their brakes to avoid going past a red light, resulting in a whole bunch of rear-ending. 

Two years later, those intersection cameras were removed.

Posted by on 04/29/07 at 08:13 PM from United States

The whole point of that exercise was to reduce the amount of crashes in intersections by people speeding past red light.  They started to send tickets to everybody who sped past a red light.

So what happened?

Intersection crashes skyrocketed.  People were now slamming their brakes to avoid going past a red light, resulting in a whole bunch of rear-ending.

Two years later, those intersection cameras were removed.

That sounds about right.  There was something on the local news the other night about some loophole that makes it illegal for the Woodlands to actually issue tickets.  Which means, all these cameras they have installed are basically a waste.  I’ve looked, but can’t seem to find anything on the Internet about it. 

The Woodlands is a very closed in community.  In some areas, there are traffic signals basically at every block.  With a camera at each one of these, you really do get that Big Brother feel.

Posted by on 04/29/07 at 09:14 PM from Japan

Interesting that you picked two of the American cities with the strictest gun control laws.  Wonder how high the stats in Chicago and San Francisco (two other cities with extremely strict gun control laws) are.

Isn’t New York’s murder rate half of Los Angeles, which is about the same as SF?? It’s almost as if there is no correlation between gun control laws and the murder rate at all, isn’t it??

[ducks]

Posted by on 04/29/07 at 09:31 PM from Canada

In America, if you woke up in the middle of the night and found someone in your living room,

I think even in this situation the responsible law abiding people who should be allowed to own guns still probably wouldn’t shoot the criminal unless the criminal ran at them.  Just becasue someone has a gun for self-defense, doesn’t mean they want to kill people.  In fact, if they went through legal channels, chances are they don’t want to hurt anyone.  I’m imagining most people would use the gun to hold the criminal there till police came.  Of course to play my own devils advocate, a panic room and security system could probably accomplish a similar result.

The funny thing about CCTV and people thinking they are a good idea is that I’ll bet these same people go ape shit whenever China uses such tactics.  All governments will say they use CCTV and other freedom restrictions for the good of the people.  And don’t throw out the democracy line as being the difference.  Democratic societies can and have done shitty things in the past when enough of the population were scared. 

And as a final point, even if today England has the most perfect government in the world, that doesn’t protect the people when the government changes tomorrow.  Nice thing for the new government is that they’ll already have CCTVs everywhere and a sheepish population. 

Think of how much more efficient genocides and massacres of the future will be?  I’m sure Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot etc. could have done a lot more efficient killing if they already had the means to watch everyone when they took over.

Posted by on 04/30/07 at 12:21 AM from United Kingdom

In America, self defense is seen largely as an individual right and responsibility.  In the UK it’s seen in more a collective manner.

I think that’s exactly right and very well put.  I’d accept not being able to defend myself if a madman broke into my house and stabbed me to death as a price for a much lower level of gun violence overall.  I doubt I’d be delighted, but in theory anyway I’d accept it as a price worth paying.

Posted by on 04/30/07 at 12:24 AM from United Kingdom

To compensate for this difference in attitudes, the UK is littering the country with CCTV cameras.

Two further comments on that.  Firstly, we may be slightly ahead of the curve there, but don’t think America won’t be where we are now in a couple of years’ time.  Secondly, another reason why we have more cameras is that our cities are policed much less heavily.  I read somewhere that London has about half the number of police officers that NY has.  And CCTV cameras are much cheaper than police officers.

Posted by Lee on 04/30/07 at 01:06 AM from United States

Two further comments on that.  Firstly, we may be slightly ahead of the curve there, but don’t think America won’t be where we are now in a couple of years’ time.  Secondly, another reason why we have more cameras is that our cities are policed much less heavily.  I read somewhere that London has about half the number of police officers that NY has.  And CCTV cameras are much cheaper than police officers.

It’s interesting you should mention New York, because they’re ahead of the national curve in CCTV.  There’s a difference, though, in that the CCTV cameras in use in the UK are far more centralized and coordinated than the cameras in the US. 

I’m not against their use in the larger sense.  For high target areas like subway stations I think CCTV is a necessary and justifiable tool to protect the public from crime or terrorism or what have you.  But the UK appears to have taken this a quantum leap further, in setting up a general level of surveillance in most large populated areas as a means of general crime control.

In America the use of firearms for personal protection is often justified by saying “The police can’t be everywhere.” This is obviously true.  However, in the UK the police are saying “Hey, we might not be able to *be* everywhere, but with these cameras we can *monitor* everywhere, and that’s almost as good.” The question then becomes, is a society which is under constant monitoring by the police the type of society in which you’d want to live?

When I lived in China I knew that I was under 24 hour monitoring.  We knew there were hidden cameras in the elevators in our building, so that someone could monitor when we came and went.  We suspected there were listening devices in our apartments.  These were all put in place so the Chinese government could keep a close eye on what the foreigners were doing, lest they be fomenting subversive activities like criticizing the government.  This is the problem with setting up a centralized police camera system.  If the government is good then it will only be used for good.  But it’s oh-so easy for it to be used for bad.

This is the argument I have here all the time with the people who support Bush’s desire to greatly expand the powers of the president, to do things like torture and so on.  Even assuming that this is good and necessary to fight terrorists (it isn’t), it relies on a level of trust that it won’t be abused.  And if history has shown us anything it is that government will use any means at its disposal to perpetuate its own existence and grow its own power. 

Guns are decentralized.  This is both their strength (criminals don’t know if you are armed) and their weakness (anyone can get one illegally).  CCTV is centralized.  Its strength is its efficiency, but to me this is also its weakness.  The government can monitor you damn near continually in the name of “safety.” What’s to stop it from using this technology for more nefarious reasons? 

For examples, look at the abuse of the RICO statute.  It was designed to go after mafia families and organized crime, and it was wildly successful.  Now it’s being used against anti-abortion protesters and other groups for whom it was never intended.  The PATRIOT Act is another great example.  These tools were supposed to be used for fighting terrorism, but they’re merely given police additional powers to enforce laws already on the books.

I suppose you could make the argument that should the UK decide to get rid of CCTV cameras it will be a lot easier than it would be for the US to get rid of guns.  But will either of these happen?  I doubt it.

Posted by on 05/02/07 at 03:19 AM from United Kingdom

Firstly, can I say this is perhaps the soberest and most reasonable debate on UK/US gun laws I have ever seen on the interwebz - probably why its only 20 odd comments long!!

In America, if you woke up in the middle of the night and found someone in your living room, in just about every state you could kill him and be justified in doing so under the law.  In some states you are allowed to use deadly force to protect your property—you could kill someone trying to steal your car, for example.  The presumption of guilt is on the offender.  The UK is exactly the opposite.  If you kill someone you find in your house, you will likely be charged with murder unless there was an immediate threat, such as him charging at you with a knife.

Absolutely right - in the US it is justified to kill someone for simply being in your living room without permission. In the UK you are allowed to defend yourself, but only if it is absolutely necessary to protect yourself. I guess the question from the UK side of the fence is that if there is no ‘immediate threat’ then what do you need to defend yourself for?

Next entry: A Message from Rick

Previous entry: Reasons or Excuses

<< Back to main