Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Knife Amnesty Over, Look What Happens 

A few weeks ago (courtesy of lgf) I came across the story of an amazing program to reduce violence and keep dangerous weapons off the street:

Over 17,700 weapons were handed in during the first week of the national knives amnesty, the Home Office said.

Machetes, meat cleavers and axes as well as knives were among the haul of 17,715 surrendered to the 43 police forces across England and Wales.

Home office minister Vernon Coaker said the results were 'encouraging'.

The five-week amnesty, running until 30 June, allows people to surrender knives at police stations without fear of punishment.
Wow. I'm sure tough cuts of steak and stubborn tree stumps are feeling a lot safer today.

Seriously, while I'm not personally the type to attend a Dick Cheney birdshot-to-the-face shindig, and the 2nd amendment isn't really my focus -- except when people try to apply it to Hamas -- I generally look at the issue of large-scale restrictions on the right to own a weapon as attempts to control the wrong thing. The problem is the people, not the weapon -- I say this as an Israeli who safely walks his kids about town often surrounded by enough openly displayed weapons to arm a Hamas funeral, yet no one gets shot. Of course I wouldn't walk my kids around at a Hamas funeral, but that's the point: it's the people, not the weapons.

When you have to start begging gun-free, law-abiding citizens to also turn in their knives, it looks to me like further confirmation of a "solving the wrong problem" theory. Is it really guns that are the problem, or knives, or both? Or is it just that people aren't to be trusted with anything they might use to defend themselves, because others might use the same thing to attack, and no one has the backbone to put a stop to the ones who would attack. (hat tip again to lgf)

Well, now it's a few weeks later. Finally the knife amnesty is over, and look what happens:

THREE men were stabbed in Scotland at the weekend in incidents being treated by police as attempted murder.

The attacks coincided with the end of a month-long knife amnesty in which hundreds of weapons, including hunting knives and swords, were handed in to police.
Maybe they should have just left the amnesty in place indefinitely, so when bad guys felt the urge to stab they could instead grab the nearest steak knife or letter opener and cathartically turn it in. Because clearly giving criminals a month-long amnesty in which to come clean with no questions asked just wasn't enough to protect innocents from being hurt. It must have been the knives. If only we'd tried harder.

Then again, maybe three weekend stabbings in Scotland isn't so much worse than the violence during the knife amnesty period itself:

At the end of the five-week amnesty there were a total of 91 serious knife attacks in England and Wales from May 24 to June 30. This figure includes 19 fatal stabbings. In Scotland there were 18 stabbings, four of which were fatal. [gav: or about 3 stabbings per week anyway]

Shadow Police Minister Nick Herbert said: "This is a shocking indictment of how violent crime is spiralling out of control on our streets. "This is exactly why we have proposed tougher sentences for knife crime which the Government has opposed."
Still focused on the knife and not the knife wielder. I assume we'll have to watch for the rest of the natural progression, once the guns are gone and the rest of the knives have been collected; we then move on to carting away all the stabbing victims and writing up some new legislation. Then it will be time to start a "use a fist, go to jail campaign" to stop the rampant fist fights that will follow. And after everyone has heavily padded boxing gloves permanently affixed to their fists, we can work on those cutting, hurtful remarks that drive so many to unhealthful activities like drinking or overeating out of sadness. When will the violence end?

Full disclosure here: I must confess I may not be totally unbiased on the issue of knife collection -- I myself once had my own knife confiscated by security forces just before I could use it. I am so grateful I was stopped, before it was too late. So perhaps I should extend the same courtesy to others, allowing them the chance to also be saved from their own uncontrollable sharp-edged urges.

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