Earlier this year, after the school shootings in Florida, I had a long discussion on Facebook with friends of American friends who were firmly convinced that gun control laws would have no effect on reducing the number of mass shootings that the United States regularly suffers from.
I was able to cite the relatively low number of deaths caused by firearms in the UK; and the complete absence of school shootings since Dunblane in 1996. It didn’t convince them at all; with some of them saying that seeing people “open carrying” (walking down the street with visible holsters) made them feel more secure. Oh dear.
But gun control laws are not the only issue, essential though they are. If you have a society, as we do, where the social infrastructure has been steadily worn away, social mobility is frozen, social insecurity is rife, inequality is becoming more rampant and visible; and the cuts to the police have led to a style of policing less and less rooted in communities, so the presumption begins to spread among the most marginalised young people not only that “there is no such thing as society” (certainly not one that gives a damn about them) but also that if you turn to criminal and predatory ways of being “aspirational” there is a very good chance that you won’t be caught – the uptick in stabbings and shootings is written into government policy even as they wring their hands over the consequences.
On Monday last there was a shooting incident at the Aces Dessert Lounge opposite Kingsbury tube station. There were three casualties. Two young men in their upper teens and a woman aged 30. No further news on what it was about. None of them killed fortunately. Aces is one of the places that some of the youth who have been riding mopeds without helmets across the park tended to hang out – not a lot of conversation going on, quite a few eyes that look a bit dead. The last time I walked through, they seem to have moved down to Costa’s, about ten yards away. If this is a defensive response it seems quite limited.
The police were all over the scene in the immediate aftermath and presumably got all the evidence they needed. The following morning, when I went past, everything was normal. Aces was shut but everything else bustled along as it usually does. In the afternoon, there were police tapes and some fairly heavy looking officers standing guard, while a couple of bored looking SOCOs made a desultory centimetre by centimetre double check on the pavement outside; but just walking slowly and looking down, not on their knees and fingertips. Why they’d be doing this after leaving the whole area uncordoned off all morning was a bit puzzling if they were seriously looking for additional evidence. probably just a case of wanting to be doing something having been deployed there.
With a prospect of a government increasingly wearing away our threadbare social safety nets and waging selective campaigns of social exclusion, i fear that this sort of thing is likely to become more common. I hope I’m wrong.