Armed and Dangerous

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.


  1. JuliaM says:

    “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 was something going on that required armed police, I’d have expected that they be waiting without showing that they were there. So they could catch the people they were after, not simply deter them.

    And what are cops with fully automatic weapons supposed to do in a panicking crowd following a terrorist incident anyway?

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      So again I come back to the question of what was the point of them doing so? Nothing was going on, they weren’t waiting for something to go off and the idea that they were likely to prove a deterrent to any would be martyr is laughable.

      • JuliaM says:

        About the same as those little tanks Blair sent to sit outside Heathrow a few years ago – a visual reminder that ‘the government will keep you safe’ for the hard-of-thinking…

  2. Demelza says:

    The gov’t are now treating railway stations like airports, and they have protocols for deploying overtly armed police as the general alert level goes up and down. The overt weaponry is only for show: apparently to “reassure the public” (i.e. ensure someone’s arse is covered if there’s an actual attack).

    It could be that they’re concerned the Libyan revolution will inspire secondary trouble amongst the many groups of nutters in GB.

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      CYA is probably about right. Having decided that it knows best by disarming the electorate and assuming responsibility for their safety the last thing the state wants is to be caught with its knickers down having made no efforts to do the job it has taken upon itself. One day the population will realise that they, not the state, must take responsibility for their own safety. I wonder if I will be alive when that day comes?

  3. Furor Teutonicus says:

    They were there for the same reason Britain has Trident.

    THINK about it.

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      A couple of armed coppers is a deterrent is it? Against what precisely? Shoplifting? A Mumbai style terrorist incident? Anyone carrying sufficient fire-power to conduct the latter will be able to deal with two unprepared plod whether they are armed or not and the former will just go somewhere down the street out of sight.

      The sole reason for having nukes was that you hoped the other bugger was sane enough to realise that there was nothing to gain from attacking you as both places would end up as radioactive slag heaps. Two armed people in a crowd of thousands of unarmed sheep on the other hand means easy pickings for the wolves once the dogs have been disposed of.

      Armed cops aren’t a deterrent – armed civilians are.

  4. Simon Cooke says:

    There are always at least six uniformed coppers – currently without obvious armaments – on Leeds station forecourt every morning. Just wasting time I guess.

  5. WitteringWitney says:

    Apols for late comment MG – been a tad busy of late…..

    “it could all too easily become the latter… and then we really would be screwed.”

    It is the latter and we already are!