Proof that there's only one way to protect ourselves


Today, 96 years ago, London was rocked by a terrorist outrage. Two Latvian anarchists, who had crossed the Channel after trying to blow up the president of France, attempted an armed wages robbery in Tottenham. Foiled at the outset when the intended victims fought back, the anarchists attempted to shoot their way out.

A dramatic pursuit ensued involving horses and carts, bicycles, cars and a hijacked tram. The fleeing anarchists fired some 400 shots, leaving a policeman and a child dead, and some two dozen other casualties, before they were ultimately brought to bay. They had been chased by an extraordinary posse of policemen and local people, armed and unarmed. Along the way, the police (whose gun cupboard had been locked, and the key mislaid) had borrowed at least four pistols from passers-by in the street, while other armed citizens joined the chase in person.

Today, when we are inured to the idea of armed robbery and drive-by shootings, the aspect of the "Tottenham Outrage" that is most likely to shock is the fact that so many ordinary members of the public at that time should have been carrying guns in the street. Bombarded with headlines about an emergent "gun culture" in Britain now, we are apt to forget that the real novelty is the notion that the general populace in this country should be disarmed.

In a material sense, Britain today has much less of a "gun culture" than at any time in its recent history. A century ago, the possession and carrying of firearms was perfectly normal here. Firearms were sold without licence in gunshops and ironmongers in virtually every town in the country, and grand department stores such as Selfridge's even offered customers an in-house range. The market was not just for sporting guns: there was a thriving domestic industry producing pocket pistols and revolvers, and an extensive import trade in the cheap handguns that today would be called "Saturday Night Specials". Conan Doyle's Dr Watson, dropping a revolver in his pocket before going out about town, illustrates a real commonplace of that time. Beatrix Potter's journal records a discussion at a small country hotel in Yorkshire, where it turned out that only one of the eight or nine guests was not carrying a revolver.

We should not fool ourselves, however, that such things were possible then because society was more peaceful. Those years were ones of much more social and political turbulence than our own: with violent and incendiary suffrage protests, massive industrial strikes where the Army was called in and people were killed, where there was the menace of a revolutionary General Strike, and where the country was riven by the imminent prospect of a civil war in Ireland. It was in such a society that, as late as 1914, the right even of an Irishman to carry a loaded revolver in the streets was upheld in the courts (Rex v. Smith, KB 1914) as a manifestation simply of the guarantees provided by our Bill of Rights.

In such troubled times, why did the commonplace carrying of firearms not result in mayhem? How could it be that in the years before the First World War, armed crime in London amounted to less than 2 per cent of what we see today? One answer that might have been taken as self-evident then, but which has become political anathema now, is that the prevalence of firearms had a stabilising influence and a deterrent effect upon crime. Such deterrent potential was indeed acknowledged in part in Britain's first Firearms Act, which was introduced as an emergency measure in response to fears of a Bolshevik upheaval in 1920. Home Office guidance on the implementation of the Act recognised "good reason for having a revolver if a person lives in a solitary house, where protection from thieves and burglars is essential". The Home Office issued more restrictive guidance in 1937, but it was only in 1946 that the new Labour Home Secretary announced that self-defence would no longer generally be accepted as a good reason for acquiring a pistol (and as late as 1951 this reason was still being proffered in three-quarters of all applications for pistol licences, and upheld in the courts). Between 1946 and 1951, we might note, armed robbery, the most significant index of serious armed crime, averaged under two dozen incidents a year in London; today, that number is exceeded every week.

The Sunday Telegraph's Right to Fight Back campaign is both welcome and a necessity. However, an abstract right that leaves the weaker members of society – particularly the elderly – without the means to defend themselves, has only a token value. As the 19th-century jurist James Paterson remarked in his Commentaries on the Liberty of the Subject and the Laws of England Relating to the Security of the Person: "In all countries where personal freedom is valued, however much each individual may rely on legal redress, the right of each to carry arms – and these the best and the sharpest – for his own protection in case of extremity, is a right of nature indelible and irrepressible, and the more it is sought to be repressed the more it will recur."

Restrictive "gun control" in Britain is a recent experiment, in which the progressive "toughening" of the regulation of legal gun ownership has been followed by an increasingly dramatic rise in violent armed crime. Eighty-four years after the legal availability of pistols was restricted to Firearm Certificate holders, and seven years after their private possession was generally prohibited, they still figure in 58 per cent of armed crimes. Home Office evidence to the Dunblane Inquiry prior to the handgun ban indicated that there was an annual average of just two incidents in which licensed pistols appeared in crime. If, as the Home Office still asserts, "there are links between firearms licensing and armed crime", the past century of Britain's experience has shown the link to be a sharply negative one.

If Britain was a safer country without our present system of denying firearms to the law-abiding, is deregulation an option? That is precisely the course that has been pursued, with conspicuous success in combating violent crime, in the United States.

For a long time it has been possible to draw a map of the United States showing the inverse relationship between liberal gun laws and violent crime. At one end of the scale are the "murder capitals" of Washington, Chicago and New York, with their gun bans (New York City has had a theoretical general prohibition of handguns since 1911); at the other extreme, the state of Vermont, without gun laws, and with the lowest rate of violent crime in the Union (a 13th that of Britain). From the late Eighties, however, the relative proportions on the map have changed radically. Prior to that time it was illegal in much of the United States to bear arms away from the home or workplace, but Florida set a new legislative trend in 1987, with the introduction of "right-to-carry" permits for concealed firearms.

Issue of the new permits to law-abiding citizens was non-discretionary, and of course aroused a furore among gun control advocates, who predicted that blood would flow in the streets. The prediction proved false; Florida's homicide rate dropped, and firearms abuse by permit holders was virtually non-existent. State after state followed Florida's suit, and mandatory right-to-carry policies are now in place in 35 of the United States.

In a nationwide survey of the impact of the legislation, John Lott and David Mustard of the University of Chicago found that by 1992, right-to-carry states had already seen an 8 per cent reduction in murders, 7 per cent reduction in aggravated assaults, and 5 per cent reduction in rapes. Extrapolating from the 10 states that had then implemented the policy, Lott and Mustard calculated that had right-to-carry legislation been nationwide, an annual average of some 1,400 murders, 4,200 rapes and more than 60,000 aggravated assaults might have been averted. The survey has lent further support to the research of Professor Kleck, of Florida State University, who found that firearms in America serve to deter crime at least three times as often as they appear in its commission.

Over the last 25 years the number of firearms in private hands in the United States has more than doubled. At the same time the violent crime rate has dropped dramatically, with the significant downswing following the spread of right-to-carry legislation. The US Bureau of Justice observes that "firearms-related crime has plummeted since 1993", and it has declined also as a proportion of overall violent offences. Violent crime in total has declined so much since 1994 that it has now reached, the bureau states, "the lowest level ever recorded". While American "gun culture" is still regularly the sensational subject of media demonisation in Britain, the grim fact is that in this country we now suffer three times the level of violent crime committed in the United States.

Today, on this anniversary of the "Tottenham Outrage", it is appropriate that we reflect upon how the objects of outrage in Britain have changed within a lifetime. If we now find the notion of an armed citizenry anathema, what might the Londoners of 1909 have made of our own violent, disarmed society?

•Richard Munday is the author of Most Armed & Most Free? and co-author of Guns & Violence: The Debate Before Lord Cullen


Book Reviewer
Fascinating story - and a lesson to us all :) Of course, no politician is going to do anything about this. The right to bear arms as individuals (as opposed to 'citizens') is anathema to all socialists and centralists. People who carry weapons are less amenable to being pushed around, whether literally or figuratively. I mean, next you know we will be able to defend ourselves against burglars.

For a good read about this, try the old SF (Science Fiction, not Ultimate Farce) novels by A E Van Vogt - The Weapons shops of Isher/The Weapon Makers.


Very interesting stuff, which will undoubtedly be yet further proof that things like research and evidence are of very little interest to politicians when they are looking for new ways to repress, restrict and control us.
Perhaps our pollies silently acknowledge the fact that, historically, the right to carry in the US had as much to do with defending themselves against assault as it did with the people being equipped to overthrow an unpopular government. Perhaps slightly anachronistic now, but I think that this principle is alluded to in the article.

On a different note, it is legal to carry firearms in Washington but they must have been manufactured before a certain date (in the late 1800s I think). A good friend of mine was posted there for six months and took to carrying something like a peacemaker under a long coat after he realised that drug-related shoot outs were happening within earshot of the White House.
Back in the late 80's it happened that officers of the Alburquerque Police Department were in dispute with the local authority over pay. Niether side was prepared to back down and so the cops called a strike, confident that the numbers of complaints, about burglaries and like crimes, would soon cause the bosses to fold...
Ten days later nothing of the sort had happened, in fact the numbers of reported crimes actually took a nosedive.
In desperation the cops tapped all their snitches, to find out what was going on...
Simply put, the answer was that none of the goblins wanted to get blown away by nervous, heavily armed householders; folk who might ordinarily have called the police and left it to them, hoping not to lose too much.
'When are you guys going back to work? It ain't safe out there!' was the reported reaction of one snitch. :lol:
It does rather make one wonder whether our reliance on having a police force creates an environment that is more conducive to the safe conduct of crime?
Certainly Richard Munday's article indicates that the 'gun culture' at the turn of the last century was a positive factor in the overall low crime statistics for that period.
John Lott's studies also indicate that there is a 'spill-over' effect, in areas where the CCL (concealed carry law) operate, whereby those who choose not to carry are, in some measure, protected by those that do. Assaults that might have taken place, in a CCL area, do not, whereas the threat 'migrates' into areas where the CCL is not enacted. Goblins aren't totally stupid; why get shot? Take the soft option, boys!
Of course, here, in Cool Britannia, they don't need to make a choice, do they? :evil:
This is exactly my point when defending gun legistlation when confronted by tree huggers. i have a FAC and Shotgun Ticket and i also instruct kids to shoot. some people call me all the names under the sun. perhaps this kind of article may help the government make a descision or two? more than likely it wont.


PS heard a rumour the labour administration were going to reverse the total ban on hand guns to allow .22 pistols (So we can host the olympics - including pistol shooting) then ban them again after.

not a big fan of michael moore, but anyone who's seen 'bowling for columbine' would probably agree that some of his stats regarding 'gun culture' and the difference between canada and the US are quite interesting. Now, I'm not saying they're gospel, but having grown up in canada myself, it was perfectly normal to be around guns on a regular basis, clay-pigeon shooting etc, even got my first scoped .22 at 14. And although canadians actually own more guns per capita than the americans, violent crime due to registered, legal firearms is significantly lower.

Also, the crime rate per capita is lower. Last year at xmas, my home town, quite large (c. half a million and quite urbanised) had our first and only murder of the year DEC 22.

Just a bit of food for thought to add to the discussion. A caveat though, I'm not entirely confident in the stats I quoted, so I could've gotten them wrong, if so, feel free to correct me.
We're at a strange place in history.

It's far too late to do anything about erosion of personal freedom by democratic means but we still haven't reached the point at which armed insurrection would be deemed justified.
The city in California that I live in used to have a significant crime problem until about 15 years ago. The city then elected a new sheriff who decided that anybody who wanted a concealed firearms permit could have one (the opposite to what is normal in California). The net result was that within a few years crime was down significantly with the most prolific offenders in the morgue.
I seem to remember some story about a town in the liberal north banning guns only to find that a town in the deep south made it compulsory to carry firearms. Thus the southern mayor wrote to the northern mayor asking for the guns that that had been collected under their amnesty so that he could arm his townsfolk.

Urban myth anybody?
under the bill of rights 1600 ish every english man is allowed to own weapons for self defence.
somebody was trying to sue the goverment for the right to own a rifle and service pistol don't know how far he got though?


Kit Reviewer
Probably an urban myth Stickybomb, but Kennesaw in Georgia was the first town to enact a 'must own' bylaw.

Until 2000, (the last time I had hard copy in my possession,) there had been only two firearms related incidents since the bylaw came into force. One was a suicide, but then if someone's set on topping themselves they'll find a way.

The second was a drunk who argued that a .22 RF round wouldn't penetrate his skull !
The worst thing was he was proved wrong......and then survived ! 8O


Kit Reviewer
brighton hippy said:
under the bill of rights 1600 ish every english man is allowed to own weapons for self defence.
somebody was trying to sue the goverment for the right to own a rifle and service pistol don't know how far he got though?
It was in 1688 I believe, the Royal Mint had some coins struck commemorating the tri-centenary of all the rights - spookily enough in the same year the '88 Amendment Act came into being......
My recollection of the Bill may be a little hazy, but I do remember that there was a very deliberate order to the various rights.
The right to free speech came before the right to free elections but both were far behind the right to carry 'a sword and pistol.'

They knew what they were on about even back then.
There are plenty of arguments, backed up by valid statistics, that support a right to bear. I don't think anyone here has a problem with decent, straight thinking and sensible people having the right to defend themselves commensurate with the threat. We as a society have moved on since the turn of the century however, I'm going to avoid going into rant mode but here's a couple of illustrations to my point.

Your local town-centre Chavs drinking white lightning and carrying a couple of 9mm pistols.

An 80 year widower, sickened at the way things are going in this country, gets a brick through his window. Frustrated at his constant victimisation, his poverty and the utter impotence thrust upon him by state, society and age, he snaps, he unloads a 45 into the fleeing group of yobs. The oldest yob is 13.

Community members from both sides in Burnley, Oldham, Leeds or Bradford with semi automatic rifles in the cupboard under the stairs.

The kid who turned up to my sister's school last week with two claw hammers because he "wanted to kill" a fellow pupil manages instead to get hold of a couple of revolvers. Even without a reload that's 12 very unhappy kids.

Watch Trisha, spend wednesay night down Mecca Bingo when it's two for one night, spend thursday and friday nights in a hogshead or yates in any city in this country. How many of those people would you want to see armed?

Personally, I think there is a need to further arm the police. When making that argument I try to forget the state of the younger members of our Police Forces with which I have worked - because to be honest, I wouldn't let those fcukers loose with a leatherman.

Yes, as an ideal, it would be great to be able to protect our loved ones from the scroats that may or may not come into our lives to take what they have no right to take.
It is a greater ideal to have a government and police force willing and capable of protecting us.
I understand that quite a few police officers are against being armed fearing/believing that it will up the ante and encourage more criminals to go armed. Anyone out there can comment? I believe that the law should be relaxed again as long as it is properly administered, the problem firearms are the illegal ones not the legally owned ones.
I think that the law could be relaxed and pistols/ self-loading rifles permitted, if the current ownership "conditions" are retained: ie reasonable cause to own, membership of a club (including a probationary period and some sort of training), reasonable home security and occasional visits/checks by a Police liason officer. I think most shooters, in return for relaxation of ownership restrictions, would even accept German-style conditions - fairly rigorous training and testing by your club before getting a tick in the box.

The shooting community is already highly self-regulating; not only are most of its members already upstanding citizens, but clubs very quickly spot & report someone who is a potential danger (either through weapon safety or personality disorder). Maybe, under the new FoI Act, we'll be able to peel away the police obfuscation & confirm that virtually no firearms offences in recent times have been committed by a legal weapon or shooter.

Those of us who are shooters are really boiling over with the unjust, undemocratic and sheer stupid persecution of law-abiding citizens. I could give a list of the truly ridiculous situations which arise because of the recent raft of badly-conceived laws and the dictatorial behaviour of most Police forces, but I'd probably have a stress-related brain melt-down...
As far as I am aware, in the USA, nobody with a criminal record may own any sort of firearm. Further, those states that issue CCLs require the applicant to complete and pass a course in safe handling and the responsibilities of the holder.

*(I may be wrong but I think the score was 48 out of the 50 states.)*
:oops: I was wrong, just checked Richard Munday's article; the score was 35 out of 50! Sorry! :lol:

Local ordinances may preclude CCLs, such as the Sullivan Act in the City of New York, which banned the ownership of handguns.

Sullivan was a one-time Mayor of New York, spectacularly corrupt, and enacted that particular ordinance to avoid being shot by outraged New Yorkers. The result of this was a boom industry in burglaries and a sky-high murder rate, until fairly recent times.

Far from being a shoot-up free-for-all, the CCL has proved to be a significant success.. The old saying 'An armed society is a polite society' would appear to be born out by this.

I would disgree with the assertion that UK society has 'moved on'; if anything we have regressed to the point where an 80 year-old widower becomes the victim of 13 year-old yobs.

In a polite society the 13 year-olds would be running errands for the 80 year-old, not victimising him, and the vision of 'my poor little Wayne', with his brains splattered all over the street, simply wouldn't have any currency.

Given the two requirements for CCL, hypothesising a trans-Atlantic shift to the UK, I can't see your average white-lightning swilling Chav meeting them with any success.., but then it might well be that he's packing a 9mm fashion accessory in any case; illegally, of course....
4(T) said:
I think that the law could be relaxed and pistols/ self-loading rifles permitted, if the current ownership "conditions" are retained: ie reasonable cause to own, membership of a club (including a probationary period and some sort of training), reasonable home security and occasional visits/checks by a Police liason officer. I think most shooters, in return for relaxation of ownership restrictions, would even accept German-style conditions - fairly rigorous training and testing by your club before getting a tick in the box.
Aah, yes, the Germans.

What one can do in Germany:

1: Any legally owned wpn may be carried loaded within your fenced in property, and may be used in self defence.
2: Anyone over 18 with no criminal record can ask the police for a " kleine waffenschein" which lets them carry a pepper spray, electric zapper, signal gun or gas gun.
3: Posession (but not carriage) of incapacitants as in (2) has recently had its age limit reduced to 14.
4: There is no blanked ban on concealed carry, but it's hard to get.

I think that the boxheads are rather more enlightened than us on these issues... I don't support completely unrestricted ownership & carry, but anyone who is willing to submit themselves to training and a Police background check should be able to carry should they desire.

What I think will happen in the UK is that crime will spiral out of control over the next 10 years or so, and ordinary people will start to acquire guns illegally for protection.
Hey, lookit this, stoats; just off the press from Reuters:-

Tuesday January 25, 10:21 AM

Violent crime and gun offences rise

Violent crime recorded by the police in England and Wales rose 6% in the third quarter of last year, new government figures have revealed.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke also published separate data showing a 5% increase in the number of firearms offences in the year to September, reaching 10,670 incidents, or 500 more than in the previous 12 months.

The total number of crimes recorded by police from July to September last year fell 6% period on period to 1,395,900.

It included a 7% increase in violence against the person to 268,100 offences in the three months, compared with 250,200 in the same period in 2003.

The total number of violent crimes was 306,200 compared with 289,800.

However, the separate British Crime Survey, which is based on interviews with 40,000 adults, showed 9% fewer violent crimes.

Further figures on murders in England and Wales in 2003-2004 showed the first annual fall since 1996.

There were 858 deaths initially recorded as homicide, a fall of 18% on 2002-2003, or a fall of 2% when the cases of killer doctor Harold Shipman were excluded from the previous figures.

Recorded sexual offences rose 22% in the quarter from 13,900 in July to September 2003 to 17,000, but officials said this was due to changes in the way offences were counted following major reform of sex offence laws.

Recorded crime data showed the number of domestic burglaries fell by 23% and vehicle thefts by 17% in the quarter.

So, whose figures do you refer to when trying to make an overall assessment? BCS is based on 40,000 interviews with individual members of the public. This may include those who have actually exerienced some sort of crime, but it may also include anecdotal or subjective data, whereas the Home Office figures should be derived from recorded incidents.

Either way it makes for pretty dismal reading.

Interesting that the biggest mass murderer in recent British history, Dr Harold Shipman, accounted for 16% (and counting) of the 2002-3 murder total; if I've got my sums right... :oops: ...And yet another GP is under investigation?

Tough on the Scum-rag, though, since neither of them were members of the shooting community; no rabble rousing angle there, eh? :lol:

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