Every once in a great while, an independent-minded United Kingdom official is overcome with a bout of common sense on firearms. However, such outbursts of reason are typically short-lived, as the gun control apostate becomes the immediate target of the country’s anti-gun establishment politicians and media. Such was the case in 2014, when former Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party and Member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage had the temerity to point out that the UK’s handgun ban is “ludicrous” and call for its repeal.
Following the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London, Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez was taken by a similar case of logic. During a June 12 appearance on BBC Radio Cornwall, Hernandez suggested that armed citizens could provide an important response to a terrorist violence.
According to an account and audio of Hernandez’s BBC appearance made available by the Guardian, a caller – who is a firearms dealer — to the radio show asked the police commissioner, “If there should ever be a terrorist attack, what happens if I and other people try to defend themselves using those guns? What would be the repercussions?” After lauding the caller’s question, Hernandez responded that such an armed response “might be some of our solution to our issues.”
The audibly dumbfounded BBC host, called the caller’s proposal “vigilantism,” going on to question the caller’s ability to properly handle and use firearms. Even after the host’s initial derisive comments, Hernandez defended her position stating, “I’m just saying, let’s officially have a look at that and see what would be the implications of it…. We work with businesses to keep our communities safe. I’d really be interested in exploring that with the chief constable.”
Unfortunately, Hernandez’s rational position was lost on Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer and Deputy Chief Constable Paul Netherton. The same day as Hernandez’s interview, Netherton issued a response to the police commissioner’s comments that appears to foreclose even a discussion about the use of private firearms to stop a terrorist threat.
In the release, Netherton noted that during an attack, “highly trained police firearms officers and Special Forces will be deployed to protect our communities,” and that “Under no circumstances would we want members of the public to arm themselves with firearms, not least because officers responding would not know who the offenders were, and quite obviously they would not have the time to ask.”
Netherton also reiterated official UK response policy, stating, “Our message to the public is a simple one: to run, to hide and to tell.” This charge is a noticeably neutered version of the United States Department of Homeland Security’s “Run, Hide, Fight.”
Just as disturbing as the UK’s disrespect of the fundamental right to self-defense is the ongoing effort by the UK’s political and media establishment to preclude any debate on the topic. Nigel Farage’s comments on the handgun ban were met with “fury,” with one opposing lawmaker dismissing Farage’s Ukip party as “extremely dangerous.” The BBC host dismissed Hernandez’s comments and the caller’s question out of hand. Likewise, Netherton released a statement refuting Hernandez’s position without exploration or discussion. Far from radical, Hernandez’s thoughts on fighting terrorism are shared by former Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble.
Such foreclosure of discourse is unbecoming a so-called liberal democracy. Today’s UK would do well to rediscover the great English classical liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill, as his work on the merits of free thought and vigorous discourse appears to be foreign to most of its subjects.