By Ciaran Brady
January 23, 2015
Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, after the death of Lee Rigby.
In August 2014 the independent government advisory group in the UK known as JTAC (Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre) raised the threat level for the entire UK (including Northern Ireland) to “Severe,” one step down from the maximum Critical level, where it has remained to this day some 5 months on. In the words of the conservative home secretary two days ago -- attacks in the UK are “very likely.”
The threat of marauding gunmen in a city, so vividly illustrated at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher supermarket, has been clearly apparent to western nations since the horrific Mumbai attacks in 2008. MI5 have confirmed that the Syrian arm of a resurgent al-Qaeda is planning similar attacks against the UK, possibly by British jihadists who have already returned from fighting in Syria or Iraq. They include plans to blow up a passenger jet, employ Mumbai style shootings in crowded places or even hit-and-run attacks using vehicles (an attack style employed in France in Christmas 2014). Andrew Parker (Director General of the security service MI5) said the number of random “crude and potentially deadly” plots from “lone wolf” extremists was increasing. In a stark warning, he said: “Although we and our partners try our utmost, we know we cannot hope to stop everything.”
This is where we find ourselves now. Every citizen in Europe and the UK faces the risk of an Islamic attack merely while going about normal day-to-day business. UK citizens in particular face this risk whilst being denied weapons of self defense. In the past I have fully and enthusiastically supported the UK’s complete ban on hand guns. But immediately after the killing of Lee Rigby I began to reconsider the wisdom of that ban and I now utterly oppose it. As things stand in the UK, hand guns are illegal. For those shotguns you could own, extremely strict licensing specifically disallows self defense as a motive for ownership and so the old adage “In countries where guns are illegal, only the criminals have guns” is the frankly mad situation we now have in the UK.
Once illegal guns are used in anger, you then have to consider how long it takes armed police to respond. The three sprees most responsible for framing the gun laws we now have in the UK reveal a rather worrying problem, given it took 2 hours for armed police to arrive on the scene in Cumbria in 2010, by which time Bird had killed himself and 18 others. In Hungerford in 1987, Ryan had 6 hours to kill himself and 16 others before armed police arrived. In Dunblane in 1996, armed police again never made it to the scene before Hamilton killed himself and 17 people.
The reality is that small crack teams of armed police can never be relied upon to make it to the scene of a crime until after some undefined but inevitably critical delay. In London on the 22nd May 2013, it took over 15 minutes for armed police to arrive when the soldier Lee Rigby was killed by two supporters of Islam who first ran him down with their car and then hacked him to death with knives and a meat cleaver. They later claimed to be “…avenging the killing of Muslims by British armed forces”.
When these events occur in the UK, members of the public armed with nothing more than smiles and harsh language will inevitably be the first responders. In the Cumbrian shooting spree Bird encountered literally dozens of people on his route, all of whom were unarmed and many of who died as a result. The same applied in the case of Ryan and Hamilton. In the Lee Rigby killing all of us in the UK watched videos showing Ingrid Loyau-Kennett take on this first responder role… but seeing the killers’ hands literally dripping with blood left me aghast at just how vulnerable and utterly defenceless she and all the citizens in the vicinity actually were.
In direct and stark contrast is a recent UK shooting incident that occurred on the 23rd May 2014 when a young man (Sedat Meric) in West Green Road London walked to the front of a snooker hall and opened fire into the doorway with a 9mm semi automatic hand gun, discharging four shots. This could have been just another example of a criminal with a gun in the UK were it not for an armed NCAfirearms officer who happened to be nearby and had the sense to intervene and return fire. Meric ran out of ammunition after firing a set of random shots as he ran down the road to escape and was promptly arrested and subsequently convicted with the help of CCTV footage.
One good person, experienced in the use of firearms and armed with a handgun, could have ended each of these attacks with immediate effect -- an example demonstrated to great effect by the brave NCA officer.
It is for this reason that UK authorities routinely protect politicians and dignitaries with armed escorts, but when it comes to us ordinary citizens, the state appears to consider our defense rights as almost irrelevant and then goes on to reinforce that policy by removing any and all tools that the law abiding citizen could realistically use to that end.
Given the seriousness of this threat and how much worse it is liable to become as more and more battle hardened jihadists are allowed back into the UK, it is abundantly clear to me that unless the law is changed, we humble citizens will continue to find ourselves alone and defenseless whenever these attacks occur. God forbid, should that happen: I wonder if you, like me, would want the ability to actively defend your family with something more than a cricket bat and if need be, go down with a fight. I’m pretty sure that the Muslim policeman shot on the ground in Paris would… if he could!
Ciaran Brady is Technical Director of a small software engineering company, living in the UK with his wife.