After the Newton massacre
A 34-year-old man shot people with an AK-47 who were drinking alcohol and behaving loudly outside his home. Another 24-year-old man shot and wounded himself in the shoulder while cleaning his gun. Accidents like that occur almost every day, not only in the USA, but in Poland, in a country inwhich strict laws are on the books to counteract such incidents. The Newton tragedy, as usually happens in such cases, will be used to start a debate to put even more restrictions on the availability of firearms. No doubt that the argument that such massacres cannot happen in Poland,because of its restrictive gun laws, will be raised. However, is that feeling of safety fully justified?
On Tuesday, December 11th 2012, police officers from Opatów were informed by the local hospital that a young man with a gunshot wound in his shoulder had arrived at the ward. The 24-year-old testified that he was shot during a walk in the woods. However, the policemen found out that he shot himself under the influence of alcohol, while cleaning an illegally possessed firearm, after he had tested its accuracy. The weapon was found during the search of the man’s home. Not more than a day earlier, the officers from Sola Zdrój stopped a car for a routine control. The car stopped, and a 33-year-old passenger got out of it and started running away. After the arrest, it turned out that he was in possession of an illegal firearm and ammunition. Illegal guns were also found during the search of a poacher’s home, who was caught on December 9th 2012 in the Kunów district.
This news was published in mere two weeks by the courtesy of a local newspaper, “Echo Dnia.” Their neighbors from the Radom area also cannot complain about boredom. The local version of the same newspaper reported that the local public prosecutor’s office pressed charges against Andrzej C.,who fired at his neighbors windows with a rifle he bought illegally on a marketplace on March 22nd of the same year. One day later the people of Radom could read in the news that a group of hunters from the local hunting club “Pheasant” detained four poachers, one of whom was in possession of illegal firearms and ammunition, as transpired later during the investigation. Another hot topic was the case of 34-year-old Stanisław W. who, irritated by the loud behavior of a group of people who drank alcohol outside of his home, pulled an AK-47 out of his closet and shot three times in their direction, luckily not hitting anyone. As he testified in court, he acquired the rifle at the Polish-Slovak border for 700 Euros from a man he did not know. Probably the would-be terrorist Brunon K. paid much less for his weapons: When disappointed by the police refusal to issue him a firearm permit, he illegally bought a TT pistol – a weapon renowned for its ability to pierce light bodyarmor, when used with such ammunition. As he testified, he bought it without any problem on a flea market.
Where do the guns come from?
In the year 2011, there were 541 crimes committed in which a firearm was used. This makes about 10 incidents per week! At the same time, the police confiscated 402 handguns, 475 long guns (including fully automatic weapons), 47 sub-machine guns, and 76 so-called homespun guns, that is, weapons made from scratch without any advanced tools. In a country where the laws regulating firearms ownership are among the most restrictive in Europe, such a high number may be surprising. Can those numbers be diminished by tightening the laws even more?
The answer is simple – they cannot, because those firearms do not come fromlegal possession. As we can read in a report published by the Ministry ofInternal Affairs about the state of security in Poland in the year 2011, the mainsource of illegal firearms are foreign gangs and criminal groups. There has tobe a way of amnesty for the attic guns and a possibility of registering them aslegal guns. This way the owners would be obliged to store their possessionsafely, according to law.
Are we in danger of USA-style massacres?
Unfortunately, the answer is “yes”. As we can see, firearms are easily obtainable for criminals and collectors even in the countries with as harsh firearm laws as Poland. History shows that tightening the regulations even more does not guarantee us real safety, because firearms are mechanisms so simple, that they can be made in a garage. Even during the times of occupation, firearms were produced in Poland, either the crude “Bechowiec” or precise replicas of British STEN guns, which could be distinguished from the originals only by the rifling in their barrels. Just as today the firearm factories are being found and shut down around the world, in the countries in which firearm-acquisition is even harder than in Poland. That is why the theory of eliminating the risk by obstructing the access to firearms for law abiding people should be acknowledged as dubious at best.
However, practice shows that obstructing the access to firearms for law-abiding citizens only helps the psychopaths and criminals, who do not care for something as irrelevant as the law. It should be noted that the majority of massacres in the USA took place in so called gun free zones; places in which the only armed person is the attacker. However, there are often situations in which the massacre is stopped by the armed, lawful citizens who take out the attacker as soon as his bullets reach the first targets. In Poland, the chances for such a turn of events are almost zero.
As a consolation, it should be noted that the theory stating that merely the accessibility of weapons determines the massacres is dubious at most. The only country in which they happen regularly is the USA, even though in many countries the accessibility of firearms can be seen as almost unimpeded. That’s why instead of restricting the access to weapons for law-abiding people who one day could stop a psychopath, we should search for other causes of the massacres. As for the police… well. One time I had to stay over 30 minutes on the line 112, waiting for someone to pick up the phone. If seconds count the police are only minutes away!