The suggestion by David Wohl, who has stood in for Donald Trump at election campaign events, that terror attacks like the one on London Bridge would be less likely if the public had easy access to guns is ignorant and insulting, writes Alex Cole-Hamilton.
Of all the deranged and reality-altering political comment to come out of the United States in recent months the following, from Trump campaign surrogate David Wohl, takes the biscuit: “Takeaway from #LondonBridge incident: If law-abiding Londoners could carry firearms legally, it probably wouldn’t have happened. Amazing how bold the terrorists are when they know their victims will be unarmed.”
Wait, what? There is so much that is wrong with this statement, I don’t even know where to begin. I appreciate that Trump surrogates, and President Trump himself, struggle with empirical evidence and facts in general, but let’s just unpack what happened at London Bridge.
On Saturday, a terrorist brutally murdered two young graduates and grievously harmed several others with a knife in central London. Two other citizens, armed only with a narwhal tusk (taken from Fishmonger’s Hall where the attack began) and a fire extinguisher, subdued him.
The only firearm involved in the entire incident was that which killed the attacker, used by a trained firearms officer following protocol on the discovery of an apparent suicide vest.
The attack was cowardly and it was devastating, but I guarantee you, Mr Wohl, that a few dozen side arms in the hands of untrained civilians at the scene would have only led to far greater bloodshed.
Had we had the kind of ‘open-carry’ laws which allow people to holster a sidearm on their way to the supermarket, things might have been very different – and not in a good way.
Terrorist would have had a gun
Firstly, it is highly likely that the terrorist himself would have been using a gun in the first place.
If we had the liberalised approach to weapons sales that would allow any random member of the public to obtain one over the counter, then Saturday’s terrorist wouldn’t have been carrying a knife. The reach of his deadly ambition under those circumstances would have been far more brutal.
Then there’s what happened on the bridge itself. Two by-standers effectively brought the attack to an end using everyday objects deployed not to kill, but to keep the attacker and his knife away from any further potential victims. A proliferation of handguns at the scene could have very likely resulted in a shoot out with untold injury and loss of innocent life.
Finally there is this assertion that terrorists might find armed civilians a deterrent. As if their twisted crusade might be put off by a metallic bulge in a handbag. People carry guns in America, and yet still terrorists attack there.
Why is it that American politicians, who represent precincts with some of the highest gun mortality rates in the world, always think the answer to that violence is yet more guns?
They will tell you that their defence of liberalised gun ownership comes from the rights bestowed upon them to raise an organised militia (and thereby carry guns) in the second amendment of the US Constitution.
The second amendment was created for a time when America was struggling for its independence, street by blood-soaked street. It has been twisted by the gun lobby to suggest that every family has a patriotic duty to own an assault rifle. Put simply, when your constitution allows the mechanised slaughter of nearly 40,000 individuals killed by firearms every single year in America, it’s probably time to change your constitution. Furthermore, when you put that number side by side with the fact that gun deaths in the UK over the same period total around 140, you begin to see the lie in Mr Wohl’s hypothesis.
There was real heroism on that Bridge on Saturday, two total strangers reached for the nearest thing to hand to cut short a catastrophe. An ancient piece of whale ivory and a fire extinguisher were all they needed to contain the situation until help arrived. To suggest the situation would have been improved by a hail of bullets is as ignorant as it is insulting.
Alex Cole-Hamilton is the Lib Dem MSP for Edinburgh Western.