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Belmont Club

The European Gun Debate

August 13th, 2011 - 3:33 pm

The debate: Do guns kill or defend people?  Plus, the future of the deadly Finger Gun.

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One interesting category of weaponry is the deadly Finger Gun. For those who are unfamiliar with the term here is the entry from Wikipedia.

The finger gun is a hand gesture in which the subject uses their hand to mimic a handgun, raising their thumb above their fist to act as a hammer, and one or two fingers extended perpendicular to it acting as a barrel. The middle finger can also act as the trigger finger.

It is also sometimes used by placing the “gun” to the side of one’s own head or under the chin, as if committing suicide, to indicate a strong desire to be put out of one’s misery, either from boredom or exasperation.

Children and teenagers have occasionally been punished or removed from school for making the gesture. In some cases this was because authority figures interpreted it as a signal for threatening real violence, while in others they interpreted it as unacceptably supportive of gun violence in general.

Although the subject of irony the as here and here, the Finger Gun is used as a proxy or all the negative vibes that social engineers want suppressed in society. It is the intent behind the gesture, rather than the gesture itself which worries some people. One British journalist Kevin Braddock describes “expressive criminality”:

In the gang sphere, excuses for antagonism are easy to find and violence flares so quickly. All hell can break loose when someone steps on someone else’s shoes in a dance, when someone looks at someone else the wrong way, or when a casual hand gesture, as in the case of Fabian Ricketts’ death, is misinterpreted as the two-finger “gun salute.” …

Much of the violence crystallises around the notions of “respect” and “face” – commodities that can be won or lost, and that also function as markers of gang territory. Straying into the wrong “ends” is interpreted as an act of disrespect – a “violation” – and dealt with accordingly.

Thus the “expressive criminality” of fighting serves ultimately to define the broader gang identity. Like Catherine Tate’s depiction of the histrionic teenage response to imagined criticisms, Lambeth’s young gangland hotheads are excessively “bovvered” about reputation.

Operation Trident, whose enforcement triggered London’s recent riots, was itself set up to warn Londoners against “gun crime”. But as these things go, it has become misinterpreted by the community as a program to put guns in the hands of young people so that they can go kill each other. As Braddock put it:

Trident also engages with schools and pupil referral units to raise awareness of gun criminality. That includes challenging the widely held belief in the inner-cities that guns are being supplied by the Government to undermine communities.

Indeed, “There is no ways guns are getting into the country without someone at the top letting it through,” Marcia, 18, told us. “Why it is so easy to get a gun in Lambeth? They put them here for a reason.”

“It’s bizarre in the extreme,” DI Tyler acknowledges, “but it’s a held belief and one we have to challenge”.

Bizarre is the word. After all, what law enforcement agency would distribute guns solely for the purpose of using it as a pretext for cracking down on gun-crime? Next thing you know people will be accusing the BATF of shipping guns to Mexico to prove that the Second Amendment is fueling crime there.

Perhaps the actual presence or absence of guns is less important than the social and political state of a society. How else would one explain the low rate of crime in Switzerland, where assault rifles are ubiquitous and the mayhem in the poorer parts of London, where gun laws are extremely restrictive? Maybe the rate of crime is far more strongly correlated with political and social factors than it is to the physical prevalence of instruments like guns, knives or clubs. If so, then perhaps it is political and social policy that kills people, and guns and other physical instruments simply extend the aggression in the mind.

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