As the U.S. gun control debate heats up, Americans may do well to look across the Atlantic at the U.K., where violent criminals are living proof that you don’t need a firearm to hurt others. Gun possession is highly regulated in Britain, making them difficult to obtain by all but the most hardened criminals. Far from ensuring a peaceful utopia, however, thugs have simply adopted blades as their weapon of choice.
Data obtained by The Daily Mail newspaper has revealed that machete crimes across Britain have risen to an average of 15 per day, not to mention those committed with less exotic knives. While machetes are not yet one of the many banned blade varieties in Britain, what effect would a ban have when criminals can always choose the next easily accessible knife, vehicle, or acidic substance? A London home was recently invaded by burglars wielding screwdrivers of all things. Even a pen can be deadly in the right hands.
The city of London is the clear epicenter of U.K. violence. As reported by LN’s Sarah Cowgill, figures suggest London has outpaced New York’s murder rate; the city has seen 56 murder cases in 2018 or an average of one every three days this year. That includes 35 fatal stabbings, though police records show that knives and other sharp instruments are used to commit a range of crimes including robbery, burglary, rape, and grievous bodily harm.
Knife Crime Epidemic
Machetes are the current weapon of choice for gangs – that is, besides acid thrown from a moving scooter and the occasional gun – though these jungle knives are increasingly used in robberies and home invasions seemingly unrelated to gang culture. Freedom of Information requests lead the Daily Mail to discover that last November and December, U.K. police dealt with 928 crimes involving machetes; about one every 90 minutes. But such an intimidating blade is hardly necessary when an ordinary knife will do the job just as well, if with less extravagance.
The Office for National Statistics has reported that the 12 months leading up to September of 2017 saw an increase in British knife crime by 21% over the previous year, with a total of 37,443 recorded offenses. Gun crime, while a much smaller number of 6,694, was also up by 20%, despite restrictive laws on firearm ownership.
Officials at the London air ambulance service say they are now getting more call outs for “penetrating trauma” than anything else, including road accidents. Dr. Gareth Grier, the organization’s lead clinician said:
“Sadly, through 2017 the number of missions where a patient has been stabbed or shot has risen. It is not unusual now for our teams to perform open chest surgery for stab wounds twice in a single day. This would have been unheard of a few years back.”
Tragically, many knife attacks are aimed at children and young teens, with the number of knife fatalities among under-16s up by 63% over recent years. Seven teenagers have been killed with knives this year, although data from the National Health Service suggests that the number of teens treated for “assaults with a sharp object” is far greater.
One London surgeon, a Dr. Griffiths, told BBC radio that:
“We used to look after people in their twenties. Now people are often in their mid to late teens and children in school uniforms are being admitted under our care with knife and gun wounds.”
There is no consensus on what exactly caused the uptick in knife and gun violence; the usual accusations of drugs, gang turf wars, mass immigration, youth desensitization to violence via targeted social media, cuts in youth services and poverty do not answer the whole question. Most likely each of these factors has contributed to an ugly whole.
The upward trend began three years ago, shortly before the election of now infamous London mayor Sadiq Khan, under whom the figures have only risen. Khan is being forced to backtrack on his vow to cease “stop and search” policing as violence has run rampant in the city. While Khan is notorious for his lax attitudes towards immigration and terrorism as well as wasting resources on combating “online hate crime,” it wouldn’t be fair to blame him completely for London’s violent crime. Police funding cuts over the last eight years have removed over 20,000 officers from the city’s streets; a cut irrelevant to violent crime rates, according to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, in charge of law enforcement.
In an interview with The Guardian, retired head of policing in one London crime hotspot and head of diversity for London police, Victor Olisa, criticised police leadership, suggesting they have lost control:
“Communities are saying we don’t see the police around anymore. It appears to people I have spoken to as though the police have lost control of public spaces and the streets… The silence from senior officers in the Met [London Metropolitan Police] is deafening.”
Always Another Weapon
As always, the government’s answer has been to increase the power of the government. A reactionary Defensive Weapons Bill has been announced, which will further restrict people’s ability to carry acidic substances and knives, discussed by LN’s Mark Angelides. It seems the British, like gun-control demonstrators across the pond, have yet to learn one thing: you don’t need a gun to kill, you don’t need a machete to kill; there will always be another weapon ready and waiting for the person intent on doing harm. Before altering the constitution and forever changing their rights, Americans should realize that violence doesn’t stop just because the weapon of the day is taken away.