Arms Trade – 2

A letter I sent to the Home Affairs Committee:

‘I believe that as a country, we do not take the issue of gun availability seriously enough, therefore I feel that a more radical and holistic approach is necessary to tackle the issue.  I note with interest the recommendations made by the Home Office Select Committee published last month, but they don’t go far enough, if we are increase the safety of the public.

Therefore, I would like to make a number of suggestions:

a) Ban the use of any type of gun (including airguns, air soft guns and imitation ones (unless made inoperatable and a licence is held for such guns obtained from the Home Office)) by individuals, which can be used to injure, maim or kill an individual.

b) All current licences should be revoked and guns handed in to the police to be destroyed – independent verification of destruction must be undertaken by a UN body

No matter what sort of gun law one has, there are bound to be abuses, thus an outright ban is the only answer.  I believe that by reducing the availability of guns and controlling manufacturers (at least in the UK), will make it difficult for criminal gangs and terrorists from obtaining them.

With regard to replica guns, as it says above, they can only be held if shown to be inoperable and a licence from the Home Office is held to prove that fact.

c) Those caught with a gun, are fined at least £1,000 and sent on a rehabilitation course, which they have to pass and pay.

It is essential that the message about gun crime is got across as strong as possible. Hence the importance of both a fine and a course.  The course is the crucial bit, so it needs to be designed so as to change attitudes.  And as part of that they will need to pay for it.  The longer it takes for them to develop the right attitude, the more it is going to cost them.  If payment is not made, then they will have to face a custodial sentence with a criminal record.  At the same time, one has to be careful that the course does not become manipulative.

Another part of getting guns out of the ‘system’ is to encourage the use of ‘Crimestoppers’ to report anyone having a gun.

d) The media, education authorities and the art industry encouraged to promote the idea that using guns is not ‘cool’.

Prior to the ban, the Government should conduct an ‘attitude changing’ campaign, not to frighten people but more to show that we don’t need guns.  But any campaign should not last too long prior to the ban to prevent the illegal stocking up of guns.

Along with fire prevention, first aid, drug and alcohol education, there should be inter-active presentations on the dangers of guns, including airguns to children in secondary schools.  Such education programmes must involve professionals from the relevant bodies.

Also, there needs to be discussions with the video games industry as to how to make such things less violent, to encourage a realisation that violence does hurt and it does have consequences.  Otherwise, people become de-sensitised to suffering.

e) In the case of gamekeepers and vets, special arrangements will need to be set up.

Obviously, there is a need to control animal life in the wild, as well as sedating them (especially large ones like elephants, giraffes and hippos).  Therefore, as part of a registration scheme, all gamekeepers and vets who require the use of guns for these limited purposes will need to be checked that they know how to use them effectively and how to store them.  Before any licence is given, security arrangements (like where the guns are to be stored when not in use) will need to be thoroughly checked by trained inspectors.  Licences will need to be renewed every year or if a new gun is obtained, whichever is the sooner.  If a new gun is obtained, the old one must be destroyed to prevent a second-hand market developing which is more difficult to control.  Also, spot checks should be carried out on a regular basis, without announcement.  Any old guns are destroyed by the police – verification is required by an independent UN body.

f) Toy gun manufacturers must follow a strict code so that such items cannot be converted into usable versions.  Packaging must show that the manufacturer is registered with the Home Office and the details publically available.

This is a difficult one.  On the one hand, it would be great if children, especially boys, did not want to play with guns, but with video games and other media currently promoting the use of guns, the public might not be very keen to ban them.  So, the only alternative is to make sure that all toy manufacturers only make toy guns and other ‘weapons’ in such a way that they cannot be converted into ‘real’ ones.  Hence the importance of registration and a licensing system, which would also have to apply to importers.  The system would need to be regularly reviewed to take into account of changes to technology.  Also, these licences will need to be re-applied for every two to three years, hence the importance of good record keeping by the manufacturers.

g) Gun clubs (registered with the Home Office and the details publically available) are allowed to exist, but only for sports’ purposes (this also includes ‘clay pigeon’ shooting).

I realise that people are interested in shooting as a sport, and not for any other purpose.  But, to make sure the gun ban is effective, there needs to be stricter controls of gun clubs.  This must include increased security and not allowing members to take them off the premises, except for competitions and then under strict conditions.  Each club will need to have their stock of guns checked every two years so that records can be verified.  Any old guns are destroyed by the police – verification is required by an independent UN body.

To become a member, the individual must have a police check showing that they have not committed any firearm offences.  Evidence must be held by the club that such checks have been carried out.  Members need to have checks done every two to three years to update records.

h) Guns can only be bought by gun clubs, the police and armed forces, through UK gun manufacturers (registered with the Home Office and the details publically available) and not through the internet.

i) Manufacturers must not be owned directly or indirectly by defence companies of any sort.

As the manufacture and distribution of guns is ‘big business’, there needs to changes so as to better control the industry.  Hence the importance of knowing who ultimately owns such companies.  With internet sales difficult to control, such sites should be blocked by the Government. Also, to prevent corruption, external verification by the UN should be carried out on a regular basis checking the machines that make the guns against whom they have been sold.

j) Police are only allowed to use guns to wound persons who are armed and pose a threat to the public or themselves.

I am not satisfied that the police use guns sparingly.  There does not seem to be a consistent policy across all forces as to when to use guns.  I also believe that negotiation is not used long enough prior to shooting the individual in most cases.  It also seems that the policy to shoot always means that the person is killed and I don’t believe that it is necessary.  The findings of the Independent Police Complains Commission never seem to lead to any successful convictions of reckless use of guns (like what happened in the shooting of the Brazilian student (Jean Charles de Menezes back in 2005)).  Hence, the importance of research to find a tranquiliser dart gun which can safely and temporarily paralyse armed individuals, is so important. Especially in bringing people to justice.

k) The holding of weaponry on armed forces’ camps – rules tightened up to make sure none leave the camps, except when on exercises, and for war.

I have never heard of any independent checks done on armouries as how secure they are and whether the procedures for taking out weapons are ‘fit for purpose’. Therefore, I believe one should be carried be carried out on a regular basis.  In particular ‘missing’ weapons should be accounted for and a ‘follow-up’ system to make sure that they do not fall into the wrong hands.

l) The Government consults all interested persons on how to make these proposals work.

I strongly believe that these proposals must be put in place, as part of an overall International Agreement on Small Arms, but implementation can really only be carried out if there is detailed consultation on the process with all those who it will affect.

I look forward to your response to the above brief points.

Thank you for your help in these matters.’

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Arms Trade – 1

A letter sent to the European Commission

‘With the number of conflicts around the world increasing, the EU should be in the forefront of seeking to reduce weapons of all sorts, not encouraging their sales.  As you are aware, in purely economic terms, conflicts prevent international trade, and lead to greater corruption and bad governance.  And then, there is the ‘people’ cost, with civilians bearing most of the deaths.  It also means a loss of potential skilled workforces in these countries.

I would like to see the following put into place:

  • A publically-held list of countries with a reasonable record of human rights, to be determined by an independent group consisting of MEPs (who have no connection with defence companies directly or in-directly) and NGOs representatives (eg Amnesty International), with whom possible trade in weapons could be undertaken.
  • A publically-held framework of conditions that a sale to one of the above countries would be considered to take into account those countries’ actual defence needs and their effect on their economy, especially in terms of expenditure on education and health.
  • An effective end-user monitoring system is put in place to prevent any weapons sold or given to the above countries being passed onto countries not on the approved list.  A website set up with annual reports.  The group monitoring should be independent of the EU.
  • BAE Systems and other large arms companies are broken up into several smaller companies to reduce corruption.
  • Sufficient funding is made available to communities affected by the reduction in orders as a result of the above changes to develop alternative industries to take on the skilled staff made redundant.
  • All Pension Funds to have to withdraw from investments in defence companies.  They are making money out of people’s misery.
  • Government ministers and members of any of the Royal Families to refrain from encouraging or supporting defence exports (like at the Farnborough Air Show).
  • Arms Trade Fairs to be banned throughout the EU as they encourage a militaristic viewpoint instead of a defensive one.
  • Each EU member country to set up a Commission to determine their own actual defence  requirements, but also the processes to obtain such equipment and any training required to use it (which are based on the EU Directive – see below).  It should also take into account of their responsibilities within the United Nations peacekeeping forces, and Rapid Intervention Forces alongside NATO.  This Commission to consist of the country’s Minister of Defence plus a few of that country’s MEPs (who are not connected with the Defence industry directly or indirectly).  Ideally, the MEP’s should be cross-party.
  • An EU Directive is created based on the above principles.  This is to include the processes to obtain such equipment, which would cover from whom they are obtained (based on their human rights and environmental record – countries and companies), the areas of application to which the equipment is to be used (and whether they fulfil the requirements of the various Treaties in place like the one for Cluster Bombs) and whether they are necessary (in terms of avoiding excess buying of military equipment and hardware).  Also the Directive should stipulate the need to take into account value for money and effectiveness and not for political reasons.
  • In light of the lengthy period of consultation over the International Arms Treaty, an EU-wide version of it should be urgently put in place, which would be even stricter and more enforceable than the current status of the Treaty.

I look forward to your response to the above brief points.

Thank you for your help in these matters.’