Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment published on the Internet
Issue Number 14
9th March 1998
Armed Men on the Streets of London
by Sean Gabb
Earlier this evening—or yesterday evening, to be precise—I went with my wife to see Titanic. It was an impressive though much overrated film, not nearly so good as the older A Night to Remember, which in a number of scenes it appeared to copy. I disliked it for the melodramatic tear-jerking that interfered with the much larger story, and for the implied attack on England—all that wailing Irish music and the suppressed glee at showing how a shining glory of the White Star Line went to the bottom.
Even so, it contained an interesting portrayal of the Old Order as it existed just before the Great War. There was much that was harsh in that Order—the rigid separation of classes, for a start, and the emptiness of many of the lives at the top. But it was the choice fruits of the most wonderful and stable expansion of the productive forces that has ever happened. The people who sailed on the Titanic in April 1914, and who went down with her, were—regardless of their social station, and regardless of how many of them met their fate—free citizens of free countries. There were no passports to be carried and presented on demand, no intrusive body searches for prohibited vegetable substances, and no questions asked if passengers chose to carry firearms across national frontiers.
We were invited to feel sorry for the thousand or so people who went down with the Titanic. For myself, I would rather have died then than have lived to witness the avalanche of our free civilisation that began two years and two months later at Sarajevo, and that may before its centenary have carried away all the familiar landmarks of the England and America that existed in 1912.
That was the message I carried away with me as Mrs Gabb and I stepped out into Leicester Square and walked down to where we had parked on the Embankment. Any tears I might have been inclined to shed for Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslett were entirely obscured by thoughts of that far more awesome catastrophe. And I was more sensitised than usual for what happened next.
At 11:45 pm, as we came to the junction of Charing Cross Road and Trafalgar Square—between the National Portrait Gallery and St Martin’s Church—we noticed a Police car stopped behind another car. A black man had been stopped for something. It hardly matters what—black drivers are often stopped at night on the streets of London: sometimes for real crimes, sometimes for suspected infractions of laws that ought not to exist, sometimes simply because they are black. There was nothing unusual in this scene until we were walking past. Then I noticed that one of the Police officers was carrying a gun. It was buttoned into a holster on his hip. He was not using it for any purpose. He just happened to have a firearm. Had I stayed to look more, I might have seen that the other officers were also armed.
I was shocked. Ever since the Trafalgar Square riot of 1886, the Police in this country have been unarmed. Certainly, guns are available for special purposes; and there are occasionally armed officers in places where Irish terrorist outrages are expected. But I had never before seen an armed officer involved in a casual stop and search of a driver. There was plainly no call for the gun to be brandished—as I said, it was buttoned safely away in its holster.
I wanted to stop and make a note of the Police car’s registration number, but was unable. Though she said nothing, there was something about Mrs Gabb’s manner that told me: “Keep moving. Don’t get involved. This is nothing to do with you”. Since she grew up in a Communist police state, she knows exactly how to walk past on the other side when the authorities choose to be nasty to strangers. And she was probably right to keep in practice earlier this evening. Her love affair with England began five years ago with encomiums to British freedom, but has now matured into an escape into its history before 1914 and a growing interest in the United States—a country which is cursed with a militarised bureaucracy and a legal profession that has perverted the plain English of the Constitution into something that none of its drafters would have recognised, but which is still somewhat behind us in its progress to being a satrapy of the New World Order.
Of course, American Police officers are armed as a matter of routine, and my American readers may wonder what it is that has launched me on these melancholy reflections. The answer is that the British public has just been comprehensively disarmed. Any ordinary British citizen who is caught with so much as a Beretta .22 faces unlimited fines or up to ten years imprisonment, or both. There are calls in the media for even tighter controls than now on rifles and shotguns. And there is actually a Bill before Parliament to bring in a licensing scheme for airguns.
We are the most comprehensively disarmed people in the “free” world. Even the Red Chinese are better trusted by their rulers with guns than we now are. And Mrs Gabb regarded it as normal at her school in Czechoslovakia to be taken out of her lessons every now and again for some target practice with live ammunition.
But our rulers have given up not a single gun of their own. The Prime Minister remains so terrified of the people who elected him that he dares not visit his Constituency without 28 armed guards to protect him. The Police have taken to openly flaunting their firepower.
The authorities keep their guns for two reasons. The first is the obvious one. The hundreds of thousands of guns that have been handed in during the past few months had been almost entirely in the hands of law-abiding people. The number of licensed guns used for criminal purposes in this country has always been minuscule. Even the Hungerford and Dunblane massacres hardly raise the figures to statistical significance. But the guns that are the proper object of concern—those in criminal hands—have not been handed in. The number of armed crimes in this country has been rising smoothly since the 1960s. The progressive tightening of gun control since 1968 has done nothing to moderate this trend. Indeed, by disarming the prospective victims of crime, gun control has contributed to the trend.
The two Firearms Acts that followed Dunblane gave immense pleasure to creeps like Anne “Yes I do [want to live in a slave state]” Pearston and to all the special interests that used her as a battering ram against our liberties, but did nothing at all to make the streets any safer. Therefore the continued need for having armed Policemen on the streets.
The other reason is less obvious. It is probably not even fully understood by the authorities. But it seems to be that the proliferation of casually armed Police officers in the past few years is partly to tell us who are the masters and who are the slaves. They have the power, and we must obey. For the most part, naked force—or even its overt threat—is unnecessary. We have long since been broken in to the new order of things. Guns are displayed merely as a symbol—rather as top hats were worn on the first class decks of the Titanic not so much to protect the wearers from the wind and rain as to distinguish them from the other passengers.
Why do I stay in this decadent police state that England has become? Why not give in to my wife’s prompting that a good teaching job is just waiting for me across the Atlantic, in a country where we can keep more of what we earn and live in a decent house and still have the freedom—even if diminishing—to keep and bear arms?
The answer is written on the pediment of the statue of Nurse Edith Cavell that overlooked that armed incident in London a few hours ago: “Patriotism is Not Enough”. I may go to America for holidays. I may go there to earn a little money. But I have a duty to the country that I still passionately love to keep my home here and to return to it and do what little I can to make it England again.
© 1998 – 2018, seangabb.
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