No Call For Yet More Change to Gun Laws

Wednesday June 9, 2010 | Ann Widdecombe

Theresa May is right to be cautious about changes to gun laws following the horror in Cumbria.

After the Dunblane massacre and in response to the public drumbeat of “something must be done” I was the minister who had to take through the House of Commons a law banning most handguns.

I never did believe it would prevent another tragedy and if ministers feel similarly pressured this time all that will happen is another costly law.

There is no law in the world which can prevent mental illness or the sudden “flipping” of apparently sane people. If such people have no guns with which to rampage they will choose crossbows, flame-throwers, machetes or some similar ghastly weapon of death. It was ever thus.

We legislated after Hungerford and it did not prevent Dunblane. We legislated after Dunblane and it did not prevent Cumbria. A madman is a madman and deterred by no law. The same was true of legislation to curb dangerous dogs. Responsible owners found their pets seized while the rest carried on as before.

Jobsworth police took away a dog whose muzzle had been taken off to allow it to be sick and one which was muzzle-less but in a securely locked car. Has it stopped dog attacks? No. Good owners in good control are the only answer, not rafts of legislation implemented by bone-headed officials.

We have come to believe that there is a magic answer to every ill and that the government should always be able to find it. Sometimes there is action which can be taken. After the Dunblane shootings security measures were taken in every primary school to ensure people could not just wander on to the premises at will. It should not have needed a madman running amok to bring home that lesson but unbelievably it did.

Frequently, however, there is nothing we can do. We cannot prevent the unpredictable actions of lunatics any more than we can prevent sudden, unforeseen lunacy. It is an occupational hazard of being human. Theresa May has had the courage to face this unpalatable truth.

Occasionally a politician should be able to say: “There is nothing we can do to guarantee this will never happen again.” Instead of which the opposite is more often the case and the reaction disproportionate. Politicians are so very frightened of being faulted by some future inquiry.

That is why the country spent a fortune on a swine flu epidemic which never happened in any real sense of the word. At the moment Britain does not have a fortune to spend on anything and copious but futile law is not the right response to what has happened in Cumbria.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. After the Soham murders there was a clamour for greater access to paedophile registers. That sounds reasonable but the smallest pause for thought tells you that such a law would merely drive the most determined abusers underground.

The gun law we introduced after Dunblane did nothing to control the shooting frenzies of the insane but did damage Britain’s ability to compete in ordinary, lawful international shooting contests. Counter-productive laws fill acres of the statute book and the Home Secretary is right not to add another one to it.

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