It is a truth universally acknowledged that a mayor in possession of a problem must be in want of a policy. But not all policies are created equal, and almost none are as silly or as counter-productive as the one that London mayor Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday: Children will be barred from watching shooting events at the 2012 London Olympics.
The restriction is designed to help stem London’s rising gun-crime rate, and to prevent the “glorification” of firearms. But it is predicated upon a farcical misconception, best characterized by the secretary of the British Shooting Sports Council, David Penn. “There is no link between Olympic-level shooting and crime,” he argued. “It is like saying that a thief would use a Formula One car as a getaway car.”
It is absurd and unsurprising in equal measure. Successive British governments have been nothing if not consistent in their asinine attitude toward firearms, and, since the Dumblane school massacre in 1997, official policy appears to have been to irritate the majority of the citizenry as much as is humanly possible, while leaving the source of gun crime — criminals who don’t follow the rules anyway — untouched. And so the British now have a country in which the national shooting team has to travel to France to practice its sport, pentathletes training for the Olympic games have had to waste time facing down a comical plan to replace their air rifles with laser guns, and farmers are subjected to training courses and expensive compliance procedures in order to avoid confiscation of the shotguns on which their livelihoods rely. Meanwhile, the instances of gun violence on Britain’s streets have doubled in number in the last ten years, and rioters have recently proven that they can roam wild, striking blows against civilization with impunity.
Georgina Gelkie, an Olympic shooter who will compete for Britain in 2012, told the London Evening Standard that she was “horrified” at the decision, and rued the lost “chance for children to look at guns in a different way.” While her frustration is understandable, she misses the salient point: This is all quite deliberate. For young Britons to see that guns are but a tool, and that the virtue or evil of their employment is entirely contingent upon the intentions and character of the person carrying them, would go some way to undermining the mindless but ubiquitous mantra that all firearms are intrinsically bad and need extirpating from any nation that wishes to call itself kind.
Danny Brian, founder of Communities against Gun and Knife Crime, applauded the policy, arguing that “there is no way we should glorify guns.” It is hard to imagine a policy that would be more effective at doing just that. Mayor Johnson’s policy will, in the name of protecting them, pick children up out of the Olympic stadium in which the nation’s best exponents of firearm safety are giving a public demonstration of sportsmanship, and drop them back onto their couches. No doubt some of them will sit in front of their televisions, on which every channel and video game will expose them to the sort of wanton gun violence and glorification of death of which Mr. Brian can only dream.
Never fear, though; young people will still be allowed to watch the opening ceremony and the traditional lighting of the Olympic Flame. That is, unless the mayor of London has the torch-carrier arrested for arson.
— Charles C. W. Cooke is an editorial intern at National Review.