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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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Is this a dagger that I see before me? No, a table knife, actually

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NOT long ago I was having one of those clear-outs and I took a crockery set and a cutlery set to a charity shop. They accepted the crockery but told me that they could not take the cutlery because they are not allowed to sell knives. Even table knives count as dangerous weapons and they are forbidden to sell them. It seemed a pity to break up the cutlery set, so I took it round to a few such shops and was eventually told by one that they would donate it to a company which exports second-hand British cutlery to Africa. It collects tons of it and ships it out in packing cases.

If you want to buy a kitchen knife on the High Street these days, you have to go to a specialist kitchen shop where they are kept in a secure cabinet and you may see them only under supervision.

The present UK law is based on the assumption that it’s the prevalence of knives that causes knife crime. Ban the knife and you ban the crime. But is that true? It seems to me that we’ve never had more knife crime and it’s not only in London. On July 28, a nine-year-old girl, Lilia Valutyte, was fatally stabbed while playing in the street in Boston, Lincolnshire. Just over a week ago, Charley Bates, 16, of Radstock, near Bath, died after being stabbed in the street. An 18-year-old has been charged with murder.

Just do an internet search on the number of stabbings in London in the past twelve months. You will soon lose count. Official statistics from the ONS show that the trend was basically rising every year until 2020, when the Covid lockdown caused a sudden drop. But now in 2022 it is rising again steeply, and often women are the victims.

On July 6 Zara Aleena died after a knife attack in the street in Ilford, East London. Barely a week later another woman was stabbed very close to the first attack. 

Left-wing newspapers such as the Daily Mirror regularly warn us that it’s far too easy to buy knives and if teenagers can access them, then knife crime will be the result. They carry out experiments to see how easy it is to buy one. But I remember when every Boy Scout and Girl Guide had a pocket-knife and I don’t believe it was common for them to be used as a lethal weapon.

Readers will see my drift. It’s another example of health and safety gone mad, with no analysis of the wisdom or the effectiveness. The simple question is: if this law cannot be shown to have stopped or drastically reduced knife crime, what justifies keeping it?

Knives are not like guns, for which there is no everyday domestic use. I am not arguing in defence of the US constitutional ‘right to bear arms’ even when interpreted as including anything from a PKM machine gun to an inter-continental ballistic nuclear missile. That is a different matter. I am talking about the sort of knife we use to cut  food and which most people have in their kitchens, unless they live entirely on takeaways or ready meals. My favourite one at home is now apparently irreplaceable, unless you buy it as part of a set that hangs on the wall. Are knives sold in sets impossible to use to stab someone? 

What prevents a person using such a knife for violent crime is their upbringing, their attitudes and their ethos. What knife bans and knife sweeps do is avoid facing these more fundamental societal conditions the State encourages, such as fatherlessness and collapse of parental control and moral teaching either at home or at school.  

And if the justification for banning knives is that knives necessarily cause violent attacks, aren’t we encouraging crime elsewhere by exporting them en masse to Africa? 

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Julia Gasper
Julia Gasper
Julia Gasper is an academic specialising in early modern literature. She is a a current member of the English Democrats Party.

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