This week, UK authorities effectively admitted that the “gold standard” of gun control is not enough to protect the country from extremists that are intent on using illegally obtained firearms to commit terrorist violence. Warning that terrorists could bypass the country’s strict laws, the UK’s National Crime Agency and National Counter Terrorism Policing have issued a desperate appeal to the public for any information that could prevent terrorists and other criminals from acquiring firearms.
In an October 31 press release, NCTP head Mark Rowley made clear, “The current threat to the UK from international terrorism remains ‘severe’, meaning an attack is highly likely.” Rowley went on to note, “Despite our good work we know that firearms can enter the criminal market through a variety of means, including thefts from legitimate holders or dealers.” NCA Director General Lynne Owens also noted that criminals bypass UK law, stating, “Criminal networks, who think nothing about who they sell firearms to, present a significant route by which extremist groups will try to access the sort of weapons used in recent attacks in Europe.”
U.S. politicians could learn something from this episode. Efforts to ban commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms or prohibit firearm possession based on secret, and dubious, government lists won’t prevent terrorist violence. Most of the UK prohibits nearly all semi-automatic firearms, and the licenses and certificates required for gun ownership can be denied for the thinnest of reasons. Further, the UK has strict firearms storage requirements, which subjects gun owners to government inspections of their firearm storage arrangements. UK law enforcement seems to have little doubt in the ability of terrorists and other criminals to bypass these stringent measures.
Attempting to stop committed terrorists or other violent criminals by restricting law-abiding citizens’ access to firearms is a fruitless endeavor. However, there is an option pointed to by former Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble that could help to thwart terrorist violence, while respecting gun rights.
Back in October, 2013, shortly after a terrorist attack in a mall in Nairobi, Kenya that killed 67, Noble granted an interview to ABC News. Noble suggested that an armed citizenry could help to combat terrorist violence, stating, “Societies have to think about how they're going to approach the problem.... One is to say we want an armed citizenry; you can see the reason for that.”
Noble went on to note,
Ask yourself: If that was Denver, Col., if that was Texas, would those guys have been able to spend hours, days, shooting people randomly? ... What I'm saying is it makes police around the world question their views on gun control. It makes citizens question their views on gun control. You have to ask yourself, 'Is an armed citizenry more necessary now than it was in the past with an evolving threat of terrorism?' This is something that has to be discussed… People are quick to say 'gun control, people shouldn't be armed,' etc., etc. I think they have to ask themselves: 'Where would you have wanted to be? In a city where there was gun control and no citizens armed if you're in a Westgate mall, or in a place like Denver or Texas?
In a similar vein, during recent periods of unrest, Israeli officials have relaxed the country’s gun laws in order to permit more citizens to exercise their Right-to-Carry for the defense of themselves and the public.
UK law enforcement’s warning on terrorist gun attacks is a stark illustration of the fundamental flaw of gun control. Rather than scheming of new firearms restrictions that violent offenders will simply ignore, policy makers should be looking for ways to empower the law-abiding to better provide for their own defense.