Knives and Guns, Oh My

In the wake of the recent spate of mass shootings, gun control is again being debated. I had just finished reading some opinion pieces (now called “news”) both for and against more restrictive laws, when I came across this article in Newsweek:

UK’s #Knifefree Chicken Boxes Called ‘Offensive’ and ‘Racist’ by Some

Wondering how a chicken lunch could be considered offensive and racist, I clicked on the article. I learned that eating chicken for lunch is considered a black stereotype, so a social program targeting chicken lunches is offending some people. (Really? Fried chicken is racist? I thought it was just delicious!)

But what mainly caught my attention was the purpose behind these knife-free lunches. Apparently, in the face of increasing knife-related crime, and at the urging of the government, several fast-food fried chicken outlets are trying to convince people to stop carrying the weapons. (I’m still trying to reconcile my image of the little plastic knives you get with take-out food, with a knife that can do serious harm. Or do people there whip out a switchblade to cut up their drumstick?)

The article continues:

Policing minister Kit Halthouse said on Wednesday that the boxes will “bring home to thousands of young people the tragic consequences of carrying a knife and challenge the idea that it makes you safer.” …

The #knifefree chicken boxes follow a series of Government announcements this month to tackle serious violence, including the recruitment of 20,000 new police officers and confirmation that all 43 police forces in England and Wales can use enhanced stop and search powers.

Now replace the word “knife” with “gun.” It sounds similar to what we’re hearing here at home, doesn’t it?

The UK has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world. While sporting rifles and shotguns are permissible, handguns have been banned for over 20 years. Perhaps this is why, according to the article, “The volume of knife crime offenses has increased by 33 percent since the year ending March 2011.”

In the absence of handguns and assault rifles,  people find other ways to hurt people. Bombs, illegal guns, toxic substances, grenades (surprisingly popular)—there are limitless ways to kill a lot of people, if that is what your intent. This is why I view mass violence as a symptom—of political extremism, misguided religious fanaticism, crime, mental illness, and perhaps having a culture where perpetrators of mass violence are made famous by the media (and kudos to those reporters who refuse to do so).

Are more laws the answer? I honestly don’t know. I don’t like guns, and choose not to own one. But, while more recent data is lacking, a 2015 Fact Checker article in the Washington Post determined that none of the proposed gun control laws at that time would have prevented any of the mass shootings in the previous four years. The shooters either obtained their weapons legally (in ways that would still be legal should the laws pass), or they simply broke the law.

According to a 2017 Small Arms Survey, the U.S. population owns about 1,073,000 registered firearms—and a whopping 392,273,000 unregistered firearms. How would more laws address the problem of managing this overwhelming majority of unregistered weapons? Ideas, anyone?

Meanwhile, I wonder if the UK is considering laws restricting knife ownership.

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