It may sound like parody, but it’s becoming a reality in London. A string of knife attacks in the British capital has pushed its murder rate — both as a percentage and in real numbers — past New York over the last two months. The mostly random attacks have Londoners on edge, and mayor Sadiq Khan now says that people have no business carrying knives on the street, or buying knives online either:
Anyone buying a knife online will be banned from having it sent to a residential address, under a government crackdown following a surge in street stabbings.
New legislation, to be brought forward within weeks, will also make it illegal to possess zombie knives and knuckledusters in private – or any knife on further education premises.
Rapid firing rifles will be banned and the legal definition for threatening someone with an offensive weapon changed to make prosecutions easier. …
It follows six shootings and stabbings in London in the past week alone and more than 50 murders in the capital in just the first three months of the year.
Khan made his intention to pursue bans yesterday:
No excuses: there is never a reason to carry a knife. Anyone who does will be caught, and they will feel the full force of the law. https://t.co/XILUvIFLOW
— Mayor of London (@MayorofLondon) April 8, 2018
Khan rolled out a series of policy changes in response to the knife attack epidemic. Besides “knife wands” to detect weapons in schools, which began to roll out last year, Khan has approved “targeted patrols with extra stop and search powers for areas worst-affected by knife crime” [emphasis in original]. That’s been coming for a while, but it’s still quite a change for Khan, who had run for office opposing such powers. “I’d do everything in my power to cut stop and search,” Khan declared in September 2015:
“The last few years have shown what can be achieved when there’s a concerted effort to reduce the overuse of stop and search.
“But there’s still much more to be done, and if I’m Mayor I’ll do all in my power to further cut its use. Overuse of stop and search can have a dramatic effect on communities. It undermines public confidence in our police if Londoners are being stopped and searched for no good reason.”
It’s amazing how flexible one can be when their policies fail to address issues of public safety — and people start dying as a result. What’s not so amazing is the impulse to impose a police state as a result. Ben Shapiro took aim at Khan’s scorn at the very real need for law-abiding citizens to have sufficient means of self-defense:
Yes why would anyone want to carry a knife or gun for self-defense pic.twitter.com/qDhU3WtBwq
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) April 9, 2018
Emily Zanotti followed up at The Daily Wire and warns that it’s not just Khan pursuing these policies:
Strangely enough, Khan is responsible for decreasing the number of stop-and-searches, having previously declared the tactic racist and potentially Islamophobic. It’s also not clear what local Londoners will now use to cut their food.
Parliament is also set to take up heavy “knife control” legislation when it resumes this week. The U.K. government is expected to introduce a ban on online knife sales and home knife deliveries, declare it “illegal to possess zombie knives and knuckledusters in private” — “zombie knives” are those defined as being manufactured for the purpose of being used as a person-to-person weapon — and ban sales of caustic materials to anyone under the age of 18, the Independent reports.
There have been proposals in recent months (August 2017 in this case) to outlaw all knives with sharp points, with advocates arguing that people can use blunt-nosed knives for any personal culinary needs. Retailers have already been checking ID on cutlery purchases for several years as part of their “Think 25” campaign, with predictably absurd results. Some stores now demand proof of identity even to buy blunt-nosed plastic knives, although whether that’s a requirement is tough to nail down (via Guy Benson). Note that none of these measures seems to have had an iota of impact on the scourge of knife violence.
How seriously lawmakers are taking these calls is an open question, of course; this may not reflect the mainstream of the debate, but it’s certainly notable. One has to wonder how British subjects will open letters and packages, and what would happen to all of the millions of knives with sharp points currently in British homes. Those calls, however, long predate the current debate, although that also shows how long the knife-violence issue has been percolating in the UK. It also shows that knife control advocacy predates the refugee crisis, which many appear to associate to the crime now.
The debate is also notable in its echoes of the gun-control debate here in the US, Stephen Gutowski argues:
It's crazy how perfectly this mirrors the current American debate over gun control. It's word for word. Incredible. pic.twitter.com/mJdaBASlKX
— Stephen Gutowski (@StephenGutowski) April 8, 2018
There are a number of parallels, but we should also recall that states in the US already have laws prohibiting the carrying of some bladed weapons, too. California allows certain kinds of defensive bladed weapons to be carried openly as long as they are sheathed at the waist, but prohibits almost all bladed weapons from being concealed and makes others illegal in all circumstances. The state of New York allows for ownership of hunting and some other knives, but the law states that it is illegal to own “any knife adapted for use primarily as a weapon.” The state doesn’t have a specific prohibition on carrying legal knives, but KnifeUp offers this warning:
New York does not have concealed carry laws, therefore it is legal to open or conceal carry any knife that is legal to own and that the carrier does not intend to use unlawfully against another.
The law provides that when a person is found in possession of a dirk, dagger, or stiletto, there is a presumption that the possessor intended to use it as a weapon against another. This presumption can be rebutted in Court; however, a person can still be arrested and charged with a crime, even if he or she did not intend to use the weapon unlawfully against another. The determination of whether a person intended to use a knife against another may be left up to a jury, and a person still arrested and charged with crime, even though he or she did not intend to use the weapon unlawfully.
In other words, a jury might acquit you, but not before you’ve rung up tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees. Have fun carrying your knives, New Yorkers! And the Big Apple does do stop-and-frisk, so that might not be a great gamble in the state’s largest city. Knife control already exists in the UK, and in the US, and in lots of other countries.
With all of that said, though, the impulse to punish the law-abiding certainly parallels the US. People who commit these attacks have not been deterred by more intrusive police actions, which have been ramping up for some time. The police can’t be everywhere at once, which means that those in London or thinking of visiting it have to be prepared to defend themselves. When someone comes at you with a knife, simply yelling and running may not be enough, especially when the intent isn’t to rob a victim of their goods but to rob them of their lives.
Khan’s demand for a knife ban — and especially the intent of the UK to prevent people from buying perfectly ordinary knives on line — smacks of desperation and impotence. Rather than knife bans, perhaps London needs new leadership.