07.08.1994

Guns that deter

Guns that deter
 
LYNETTE BURROWS
 
ONCE again we have seen armed police out in force in pursuit of a criminal who, in this case, shot himself dead. It is a sight that is becoming ever more familiar, and the irony is that the liberal philosophy that denied society the sanc­tion of capital punishment is returning it to us in the more covert form, long practised on the Continent, of sum­mary justice, administered by policemen and without benefit of judge and jury, let alone a trial. Every country that has armed police kills criminals — and not only murderers — as well as a cer­tain number of innocent people, either incidentally or accidentally. It is difficult to see how this is an improvement.
 
All the passionate argu­ments mustered to condemn capital punishment can be used with far more force against the idea of an armed police being the only deter­rent to crime. If an innocent man could be hanged, even after his case has been thoroughly scrutinised by a large number of people, how much more likely is an inno­cent person to be killed as a result of a split-second deci­sion made by a police officer who feels himself threat­ened? Indeed, it has already happened here, even with the limited use of armed police we have had up to now. In 1986 a five-year-old boy was shot dead when police raided a house in Birming­ham; and in 1980, also in Bir­mingham, a pregnant teen­ager, admittedly being used as a human shield by her boy­friend, was killed.
 
As for the idea that a death penalty does not deter crime, this too is comprehensively rejected by the means now being deployed in its place. The police carry their own death penalty around with them because they know that only the threat of death will deter some criminals. Most people believe it too, but the state has withdrawn that pro­tection from them.
 
It cannot even be claimed that the absence of capital punishment has made us a more kindly and civilised society as the reformers in the Sixties promised. They were doubly wrong; not only has every type of serious crime increased but the ordi­nary, law-abiding public have been made vengeful and bit­ter by the constant assaults on their sense of justice. Who can doubt that, if a new Bentley and Craig were to
appear today waving a gun at the police, they would both be shot dead and the country would simply say "good rid­dance"? That is how liberal our liberal laws have made us.
 
I HAVE never actually seen one of those Californian men who wear false mammary glands in order to pretend to feed their babies naturally, but I feel their effect must be much the same as that of the young woman who has won the right to a place in one of the toughest military academies in America; raucous and unkind laughter.
 
In the name of an entirely bogus equality, this poor young woman has to have her head shaved because it is one of the rules of the place but, at the same time, she is excused the rule requiring her to do 40 press-ups in two minutes because she cannot.
 
So she is going to progress through a training where physical strength is every­thing, and she is not going to be able to do any of the things that the men do. Bald and inadequate, the arche­typal victim, in fact, she will be an object of pity to all those around her, and one has to ask, what for? There are many things that women do well but fighting is not one of them. So one has to ponder the fact that, if one wanted to put women firmly in a low and undignified position in relation to men, this would be the perfect way to do it. Could that be, even subcon­sciously, what is intended?
 
WE have become so doctrinaire about questions of gender in different areas that com­mon sense and subtlety have quite vanished. The recent innovation of girl altar-servers in church is a case in point. Well-meaning priests invite girls to serve on the altar today in the mistaken belief that appearing in an ancient ritual as handmaid­ens to a man makes them look more modern. In fact it throws them back to pagan days and the vestal virgins. One understands why being an altar server is good for boys; they seldom appear in an unpaid, serving role at any time throughout their lives so it is good for their spiritual education. This symbolism is entirely lost when it is simply a woman doing the normal job of clear­ing up after a man. As Ches­terton remarked, the trouble with meaning well is that it is only a hair's-breadth away from meaning nothing.
 
GOOD old Mick Jagger, knocking 'em for six on his American tour, to the fury of so many of the plump and suited middle-aged commentators who were once his fervent fans. What they cannot forgive him for is that he still enjoys displaying his raucous, vul­gar masculinity when they long ago exchanged their true selves for something more anodyne and androgy­nous. Years of being slaves to the rigid conventions prescribed by a career have meant that they haven't expressed anything genuine about themselves for a cou­ple of decades, except per­haps the fact that they want to be as rich as the next man.
 
The Rolling Stones made a fortune telling their fans to "let it all hang out", and they did; but it dried quickly and they folded it up and put it all away. Jagger, however, is still a rampant, unconven­tional jester while they are pale interchangeable shad­ows whom even their money cannot make interesting.
 
Masculinity is at least gen­uine. Compare that with the modish feminism of Mad­onna; blasphemous by name and fake by nature. Can you imagine her wowing the young by doing what she does now, 30 years on?