This isn’t going to be an easy one to get right. Whenever America takes a look into British society or news, it ends up going wrong. They get it just a bit wrong, and hell hath no fury than a country beaten in a war of independence. We’re the David to your Goliath, you see. And we all know who won that one. But sometimes, just sometimes, a story needs an outsider’s eyes.
You couldn’t make up a more shocking story. A woman makes two emergency calls to police in the middle of the night. She is worried that another woman is being raped in the alley behind her house. Minutes later, a police car arrives. The police jump out, and shoot the caller dead. This being America, it is very relevant that the cops were black and the woman was not. The immediate result is that a lot more people are demanding change now that a middle-class white woman lies dead.
There are some details about a person banging on the hood of the police car, and so on. But the pertinent thread is that the police shot an innocent woman for no good reason whatsoever. Back in Britain, we have grown used to seeing American police kill innocents. What do you expect when you militarize your police? Here, there is only one place for guns and that is in the military. Amazing, I know.
Just last weekend I was walking around London with an American friend. After explaining to him what a zebra crossing was, he asked me whether our police really were unarmed. Of course, I replied, without hesitation. We believe it makes us all safer. And lest their be any doubt, we can have an unlimited number of hand cannons on any spot in London within a minute or so. Look at the attack in Borough market recently.
We just don’t understand how the same country that can be proud of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks can, in 2017, still have such fundamental race issues. We have never had such issues. We never had apartheid anywhere in Britain. An island trading nation, we have always welcomed immigrants. No, Britain is not perfect. No, we don’t all speak with a single voice. But the kind of entrenched all-out klan-style racism simply does not exist here and never has.
Having a race problem is one thing. But arming your police to such a level in the same areas where you have profound race issues is, on the face of it, an avoidable error. It seems such a gross and obvious error that we absolutely cannot understand it. If you cannot fix the racism, please take away the guns. You have the power. We did it.
In March 1996, a man shot 16 children and a teacher in a school in Dunblane, in Scotland. British tennis star Andy Murray was there that day, only narrowly escaping. There was a public inquiry which resulted in two new firearms Acts of Parliament. Today, as a direct result of Dunblane, it is very, very hard for anyone at all to obtain a gun. Of course there are illegal channels, but so many of your shootings seem to be carried out by people who just walked into a shop and bought one.
If the perps cannot get guns, perhaps the police don’t need as many. If you cannot fix the race thing, perhaps you can at least take a crack at the gun thing? We know it won’t be easy, but think of what is at stake.