One morning recently I stumbled off of my morning train to London and, just after exiting the station, passed two members of the police openly carrying automatic weapons. There may have been more but I wasn’t curious enough to stop and look. So far as I can tell though – and there has been nothing in the news concerning it that I could find – they weren’t there for any particular reason.
Which got me thinking.
If nothing was happening then why the show of force? Living as I do in a society where very few people are legally allowed to own a firearm and where the police do not routinely walk around displaying weaponry, the sight was not – to my mind – very reassuring. Why? Because my first thought was “where’s the danger?”
If there was something going on that required armed police then I’d have expected that the area to have been sealed off. If there wasn’t then why bother standing there holding them? My terminus hardly counts as a high value target, being as it is amongst the smallest in London, so why armed police when it usually doesn’t get any attention whatsoever?
Robert A. Heinlein said that ‘An armed society is a polite society’ but what about a society where only a small number of people can openly carry guns? Are those people there for my protection or for my suppression?
Given that the state has taken the role upon itself the answer should be the former but I can’t say that I’m comfortable with it. It could all too easily become the latter… and then we really would be screwed.