Retiring Judge Solves UK’s Criminal Knife Problem

In the United Kingdom, criminal violence committed with knives has become a serious crisis.  Stabbings, some of which are fatal, of and by young adults and teenagers is at an eight year high.  Many of the weapons used in these attacks are stolen kitchen knives.  People are dying. This is a very, very, serious issue.  Unfortunately, a retired judge has proposed a solution which can’t be taken seriously at all.

The Telegraph reported, Judge Nic Madge, who recently retired, has “proposed a nationwide programme to file down the points of kitchen knives as a solution to the country’s soaring knife crime epidemic.”  That is to say, he wants all kitchen cutlery, in the entire nation, “taken somewhere to be modified, with the points being ground down into rounded ends.”

With a population of over 65 million people in Britain, that’s a lot of knives that must be ground down.  In the US, there are dozens of pieces of cutlery with sharp points to be found in many home kitchens, and many more in every commercial kitchen.  It would be surprising if kitchens in the UK were any different.  That suggests that there may be more sharp, pointed knives in the UK than there are guns in the US, to provide some perspective.

As if neutering existing cutlery wasn’t enough, The Telegraph says Judge Madge also wants to effectively ban the manufacture and sale of new knives made with sharp points.

“I would urge all those with any role in relation to knives – manufacturers, shops, the police, local authorities, the government – to consider preventing the sale of long pointed knives, except in rare, defined, circumstances, and replacing such knives with rounded ends.”

This is a futile endeavor.  Anyone in Britain (or anywhere) who wants a knife can make one out of almost anything.  All that’s required is sufficient motivation, tenacity, and a little ingenuity.

For starters, any criminal (or misguided kid) with a steel file can take one of those knives that has had the point filed off and put a point back on it.

It stands to reason then, that in order for a ban on sharp and pointy knives to be even partially effective, it would be necessary to also ban all steel files, cutting torches, and grinders of every kind (especially those powered with electric motors).  Otherwise, the same tools used to remove the points off millions of sharp knives, leaving a rounded end, could be used to quickly put a sharp point back on any knife.

If nothing else is handy, a bit of coarse concrete could be used as a makeshift grinder to shape any piece of metal into a sharp and pointed weapon.  Other ingenious methods of creating weaponry can be employed as well. According to prison inmates are well known as makers of shivs and shanks out of almost any item or material.

Improvisation is another alternative.  For example, screwdrivers are also often used as weapons by criminals in the UK. According to the BBC  recently, a 78 year old man defended his home and family from career criminals who broke in and were armed with a screwdriver.  Not having a gun for self-defense (because guns are tools which are banned for most private UK citizens) he used either a kitchen knife or a screwdriver against the intruder.  (Reports aren’t clear or are contradictory).

In case you thought this couldn’t get any more absurd, The Telegraph elaborated with more from Judge Madge.

He said laws designed to reduce the availability of weapons to young would-be offenders had had “almost no effect”, since the vast majority had merely taken knives from a cutlery drawer.

In short the retired judge has, without any apparent cognitive pre-processing of his words, admitted that taking access to weapons away from criminals doesn’t work, because criminals steal other weapons with the intention to commit more crimes.  Case in point: banning guns and certain knives in the UK has made stolen cutlery knives the new weapon of choice among young offenders who lack the means to obtain a gun from the black market.

Why It Matters

Criminals don’t respect or obey laws.  Who knew?

A knife is just a tool.  A knife is not a criminal.  It is neither good nor bad.  It holds no ill-will nor animosity toward anyone.  It is entirely at the command of the human who holds it in his hand. (Wow, that’s just like with guns!)

Banning or restricting tools to prevent bad people from criminal misuse of tools only punishes good people by denying them use of the tools. People who love to prepare food (as well as those who don’t love it, but have to) would be hamstrung (if you’ll pardon the pun) by the absence of good cutlery.  Thus their lives are made less convenient, not to mention the restriction imposed on their liberties and property.

No, the solution to this crisis does not involve tools, it involves people.  Specifically, it requires adults.

I can’t help but think of the classic novel, “The Lord Of The Flies”, in which a group of British school boys are stranded on a remote island.  The boys are alone without adults to guide them, or to be role models, or to set limits on their behavior. The castaway boys descend into tribalism and savagery.

At the end of the novel, Ralph, one of the leaders of the boys, trips and falls as he’s being chased to a certain death by a tribe of armed boys known as ‘the hunters’. But instead of killing him, all the boys stop running. Then Ralph looks up at – looks up to – an adult. The adult is a British Navy officer who is there to rescue them.

Today, British youths are descending into tribalism and savagery with knives.  Where are the adults?  Kids need and want adults they can look up to, follow, and trust to keep them safe.  If kids don’t feel safe, adults shouldn’t wonder why they arm themselves.

Some people think the solution is to remove all tools which people could use to harm others.  That idea lacks the courage, the selflessness, the commitment, and the leadership needed to deal with the root of the problem.  It is ridiculous, and ultimately ineffective.

A much more effective solution would be for real adults to get involved with kids, especially troubled youth.  Be a substitute parent, a guide, a role model. Set the example, be a leader.  And for goodness sake, set limits on behavior with consequences for bad behavior.

This means adults must actually spend time with kids.  A good deal of time.  Some selflessness and sacrifice is required.  Most of all it takes commitment.

Take an interest in the kids, not the tools.

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About Richard Doud 622 Articles
Learning is a life-long endeavor. Never stop learning. No one is right all the time. No one is wrong all the time. No exceptions to these rules.