L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

02 December 2006 Blog Home : December 2006 : Permalink

Banning Things

One of the reasons why I don't live in the UK is the way that as soon as something bad happens politicians and their toadies cry out to ban something to do with the event. I admit this was a minor reason for my choice of life on the Riviera (despite today's miserable drizzle, the weather was the biggest reason), but it is one big reason why I can't imagine going back.

The problem is that passing laws banning something makes politicians look like heroes but usually results in them being real villains because the bans always but up agains the law of unintended consequences. Classic example of the day is Ellee Seymour who wants all knives banned or something like that. She wants this ban because the existing regulations of knives, which result in retired brigadiers being arrested for posession 5cm pocket knives failed to stop two muggers from stabbing someone. She wants a limit on the sale of knives because:

With our knife culture increasing, surely we should be banning their sale from shops. They should be as difficult to buy as guns. Those who  require them for countryside pursuits or any genuine activity will have to prove it, get a letter of consent from local police.

I know these weapons will always be available at sources like the internet, but we must make them as inaccessible as possible. Many violent crimes are probably committed on the spur of the moment, they are done for kicks, a sad indictment of the age we live in. We need to respond to that. My fear is that one day it might be my son, it could even be your child, who is in the wrong place at the wrong time…

I hate to say this but the lady is an idiot (and other stronger words perhaps). Banning knives is never going to work. You can create a weapon out of a screwdriver, a chisel, a kitchen knife (are we planning to license the posession of bread knives? or butcher's cleavers?), so the only way to effectively stop knife crime like this would be to remove from circulation every single blade greater than about 1 inch and everything that could be sharpened into a blade, which is pretty much every piece of metal larger than a couple of inches.

So lets assume we have some jobsworth system where everyone has to beg to buy a penknife. Does that stop the criminals getting knives? Of course not. Do you really think that it is going to be possible to remove all the existing knives in the country? Well Duh? so all a ban does is create a black market in illegal knives while ensuring that th ciminals can be even more sure that their prey are unarmed sheep. In other words it makes it more likely that criminals will have knives (and maybe guns) because they know that if they have a weapon no one will dare to stop them.

If you want to stop crime then in helps if you catch the criminals and make them face punishment. Since our prisons are overcrowded I suggest that some non-custodial sentencing be used, but sentences that make the punishment public such as the return the stocks as I have advocated before. The objection seems to be that this would be degrading for the criminal. Er Hello! this is the point. Unlike incarcertaion which is private and expensive, locking someone up for a day in a cage in the town square is cheap. You could even raise money by letting people send an SMS to a premium number and add some additional punishment for every SMS received. An automatic dunking in water, a machine that kicks the balls... I'm sure we could come up with a few creative ideas. And I bet that this kind of system would send a better message to a mugger or would be mugger than being locked up in jail for a few years.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin