Monday, 30 May 2011

Gun-free Sprees

20 May: Lee Bradley appeared at Bolton Crown Court to receive an indeterminate sentence for using a stolen car as a weapon. Having been refused entry to the Dali Bar in Rochdale in October 2010, Bradley returned in a stolen Saab and ploughed through the queue—hospitalising 14 people and injuring 11 others—in a bid to get at the doorman who’d refused him entry. That he didn’t kill anyone is probably because he was pushing the car pushing through the crowd at low speed, directing his attack at the door staff, rather than ramming the queue at high speed. The judge described him as deliberately using the car as a weapon. Naturally, there are no implications for people who own and use cars legally.

22 May: In Cork, a middle-aged man approached a Garda Siochana (police) traffic patrol car, hauled the uniformed driver from his seat, punched him, slashed him across the face with a 12-in kitchen knife, then took off in the police car for Cork airport, buffeting four other vehicles on the way. According to the Belfast Telegraph, “Several garda units responded... and the stolen vehicle ploughed into one patrol car near the entrance to Cork Airport. A garda was partially thrown from the vehicle by the force of the collision. The stolen vehicle then ploughed at high speed through the old airport security fence. The man was confronted by airport police and fire brigade personnel—and was forced to abandon the badly damaged garda vehicle.”
            By now he was, it seems, garbed only in boxer shorts. The report continued:
            “However, he brandished his knife and dragged two fire brigade officials from their airport vehicle. He drove off [in it] and then attempted to ram two parked planes, but was frustrated by airport security vehicles. The airport vehicle eventually collided with two vehicles, the last of which was a luggage transporter, before it stalled. The man was then confronted by armed RSU officers. When he refused to get out of the vehicle, a garda fired a taser gun and successfully disabled him.”
            The Telegraph described the incident as “the greatest security threat at Cork Airport in its 50-year history”.
            No one has yet suggested that police cars and fire trucks should be banned lest half-naked gents wielding knives steal them and run amok.

Meanwhile in Mesa, Arizona, on 20 May, homeless 30-year-old Renee Deshaies entered a Dairy Queen restaurant and threatened employees with a grenade for reasons so far unreported. Police apprehended her soon afterward. They said the grenade was used only for training purposes. Ms Deshales however had been under the impression that it was live, which would tend to indicate murderous intent. She faces charges of disorderly conduct and misconduct with a simulated explosive.
            Look, Ma, no guns. Again.

And fortunately, no one dead, although many could have been.

Readers may expect more reports along these lines, as we receive them.

Packing Irony

The Daily Mirror reported (Saturday 30 April) the death of Dorothy ‘Cherry’ Groce, whose shooting by a Metropolitan police officer in 1985 sparked riots in Brixton, south London, where Mrs Groce lived until Easter Sunday. Her death was attributed to kidney failure because of the quaint way in the United Kingdom in which you have to die of something. ‘Old age’ is usually unacceptable on death certificates, although we noticed that it slipped through on the Queen Mother’s when she died aged 101.

The police who attacked the Groce family home in 1985 were searching for Mrs Groce’s son Michael, and an armed officer purportedly mistook a retreating black middle-aged woman for an advancing young man and claimed his common law right to defend himself. His body-line shot damaged her spine and lung, and Mrs Groce was left wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life. Her son Michael, an armed robbery suspect in 1985, is currently a community worker, according to the report. The officer was charged with malicious wounding, but found not guilty. A not-guilty verdict is what the police like to refer to as a “failed prosecution”.

A couple of weeks later Voice-onLine, which seems to be the internet edition of The Voice, a usually sharp and intelligent newspaper for black people in London, carried an interesting puff piece for CO19, the Met Police’s equivalent of a SWAT squad (see One officer was quoted as saying: “There is no doubt that this is the best police firearms training in the world. The knowledge of the people here and the quality of the officers being trained is of a very high standard.”

The officer—a former soldier—may be reflecting the truth of his own experience. But how would he know, really? The impression left by former Chief Supt Michael Waldren’s book Armed Police (Sutton 2007) is that the Met has never seriously looked over its own parapet to learn from the experience of armed police abroad. And, since the 1997 ban on sporting handguns, individual officers no longer have the opportunity to train with their own weapons on courses such as those Mas Ayoob and others used to provide in the UK.

Consequently, they’ve had to learn from their own mistakes, from which Cherry Groce escaped with her life, but others did not. No doubt the training is better than it used to be, and occurs more frequently and consistently. But that’s partly because firearms crime is so rare that specialist units like CO19 aren’t called out that often to any serious purpose, and have to fill their time and justify their massive budget somehow. The Voice-onLine reporter’s claim that “the issue of gun crime [is] an increasingly grim reality of life on the streets of the capital” just doesn’t hold up against the statistics. Armed crime is on the wane everywhere in the UK.

Instead, we have incidents like Wiltshire’s specialist firearms unit—and their helicopter—being called to deal with a rough shooter who frightened some Norwegians inspecting a crop circle (i.e. trespassing) in July 2009. More recently—on 22 May—Hampshire Constabulary’s overstaffed firearms squad spent part of their weekend evacuating a golf course and scrambling the force helicopter to apprehend (with the aid of experts from the local zoo) a stuffed toy tiger, spotted in a field off the M27 motorway near Hedge End. They couldn’t afford to take any chances; if they don’t use the budget, they’ll lose it. And there was that case a few years ago of a kid with a spud gun...

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Shooter's Journal 52 on its way

The Shooter's Journal  
No 52, Spring 2011 is in the mail to SRA members.

Contents include:

Beware of Elephants!—A wry report on the Home Affairs Select Committee's
firearms enquiry of 2010
Driving Through Mythical America—Do "lax" US gun laws lead to more,
or less, gun crime?
Plus news, court reports, reviews, and more...

The Journal is also available to non-members, price £3.50, post free
for your copy, email enquiries[at], or drop a line to
SRA, PO Box 3, Cardigan, SA43 1BN

Happy reading!