The Right Dishonourable Member of Parliament for Gedling and Home Office Minister in charge of Crime, Vernon Coaker, did arrogantly and ignorantly impose a ban on the sale, import and manufacture of the Japanese katana.
 
a speech by Charlton Heston was bought to my attention by a colleague and I dedicate it to you Mr Coaker
 
A handful of years ago Charleton Heston Spoke in Allen County. It was an impressive moment to hear him. But there was another speech that I had filed away. While cleaning up my files I found it and though it comes from a speech in 1999 I thought it would be good to share it with my readers.

For 50 years, the Harvard Law School Forum has been sponsoring speeches by luminaries ranging from Fidel Castro to Gerald Ford to Dr. Ruth. Sometimes the speeches have generated a bit of media coverage, sometimes not. But one given last month by Charlton Heston has taken on a life of its own.

Heston, the actor and conservative activist, delivered a stem-winder to about 200 listeners about “a cultural war that’s about to hijack your birthright to think and say what resides in your heart.” “He knew he was coming to a liberal environment, and clearly a group of his listeners was conservative and another was more liberal,” said David Christopherson, president of the forum.

About half respectfully challenged him during the questions. It generated a lot of debate around the campus. But what happened caught us off-guard. What happened was Rush Limbaugh’s radio talk show. On March 15, Limbaugh read the entire speech on the air, only to find himself bombarded with thousands of requests for a copy of it. The same happened at Harvard Law. “We couldn’t keep up with all the requests,” said Mike Chmura at Harvard. “It really didn’t have legs and might have been forgotten if Mr. Limbaugh hadn’t decided to deliver it.”

‘Winning the Cultural War’ – Charlton Heston’s Speech to the Harvard LawSchool Forum.

I remember my son when he was five, explaining to his kindergarten class what his father did for a living. “My Daddy,” he said, “pretends to be people.” There have been quite a few of them. Prophets from the Old and New Testaments, a couple of Christian saints, generals of various nationalities and different centuries, several kings, three American presidents, a French cardinal and two geniuses, including Michelangelo. If you want the ceiling repainted I’ll do my best. There always seem to be a lot of different fellows up here. I’m never sure which one of them gets to talk. Right now, I guess I’m the guy. As I pondered our visit tonight it struck me: If my Creator gave me the gift to connect you with the hearts and minds of those great men, then I want to use that same gift now to reconnect you with your own sense of liberty of your own freedom of thought … your own compass for what is right.

Dedicating the memorial at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln said of America, “We are now engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether this nation or any nation so dedicated can long endure.” Those words are true again. I believe that we are again engaged in a great civil war, a cultural war that’s about to hijack your birthright to think and say what resides in your heart. I fear you no longer trust the pulsing lifeblood of liberty inside you … the stuff that made this country rise from wilderness into the miracle that it is.

Let me back up. About a year ago I became president of the National Rifle Association, which protects the right to keep and bear arms. I ran for office, I was elected, and now I serve … I serve as a moving target for the media who’ve called me everything from “ridiculous” and “duped” to a “brain-injured, senile, crazy old man.” I know … I’m pretty old … but I’m sure, Lord, I ain’t senile. As I have stood in the cross hairs of those who target Second Amendment freedoms, I’ve realized that firearms are not the only issue. No, it’s much, much bigger than that. I’ve come to understand that a cultural war is raging across our land, in which, with Orwellian fervor, certain acceptable thoughts and speech are mandated.

For example, I marched for civil rights with Dr. King in 1963 long before Hollywood found it fashionable. But when I told an audience last year that white pride is just as valid as black pride or red pride or anyone else’s pride, they called me a racist.

I’ve worked with brilliantly talented homosexuals all my life. But when I told an audience that gay rights should extend no further than your rights or my rights, I was called a homophobe.

I served in World War II against the Axis powers. But during a speech, when I drew an analogy between singling out innocent Jews and singling out innocent gun owners, I was called an anti-Semite. Everyone I know knows I would never raise a closed fist against my country. But when I asked an audience to oppose this cultural persecution, I was compared to Timothy McVeigh. From Time magazine to friends and colleagues, they’re essentially saying, “Chuck, how dare you speak your mind. You are using language not authorized for public consumption!” But I am not afraid.

If Americans believed in political correctness, we’d still be King George’s boys-subjects bound to the British crown. In his book, “The End of Sanity,” Martin Gross writes that “blatantly irrational behavior is rapidly being established as the norm in almost every area of human endeavor.” There seem to be new customs, new rules, new anti-intellectual theories regularly foisted on us from every direction. Underneath, the nation is roiling.

Americans know something without a name is undermining the nation, turning the mind mushy when it comes to separating truth from falsehood and right from wrong. And they don’t like it. “Let me read a few examples.” At Antioch college in Ohio, young men seeking intimacy with a coed must get verbal permission at each step of the process from kissing to petting to final copulation … all clearly spelled out in a printed college directive.

In New Jersey, despite the death of several patients nationwide who had been infected by dentists who had concealed their AIDs — the state commissioner announced that health providers who are HIV-positive need not ….. need not ….. tell their patients that they are infected.

At William and Mary, students tried to change the name of the school team “The Tribe” because it was upposedly insulting to local Indians, only to learn that authentic Virginia chiefs truly like the name.

In San Francisco, city fathers passed an ordinance protecting the rights of transvestites to cross-dress on the job, and for transsexuals to have separate toilet facilities while undergoing sex change surgery. In New York City, kids who don’t speak a word of Spanish have been placed in bilingual classes to learn their three R’s in Spanish solely because their last names sound Hispanic.

At the University of Pennsylvania, in a state where thousands died at Gettysburg opposing slavery, the president of that college officially set up segregated dormitory space for black students. Yeah, I know … that’s out of bounds now. Dr.King said “Negroes.” Jimmy Baldwin and most of us on the March said “black.” But it’s a no-no now. For me, hyphenated identities are awkward … particularly “Native- American.” I’m a Native American, for God’s sake. I also happen to be a blood-initiated brother of the Miniconjou Sioux. On my wife’s side, my grandson is a thirteenth generation native American … with a capital letter on “American.”

Finally, just last month … David Howard, head of a Washington D.C. office, used the word “niggerdly” while talking to colleagues about budgetary matters. Of course, “niggerdly” means stingy or scanty. But within days Howard was forced to publicly apologize and resign.

As columnist Tony Snow wrote: “David Howard got fired because some people in public employ were morons who (a) didn’t know the meaning of rdly, (b) didn’t know how to use a dictionary to discover the meaning, and (c) actually demanded that he apologize for their ignorance.” What does all of this mean? It means that telling us what to think has evolved into telling us what to say, so telling us what to do can’t be far behind. Before you claim to be a champion of free thought, tell me: Why did political correctness originate on America’s campuses? And why do you continue to tolerate it? Why do you, who’re supposed to debate ideas, surrender to their suppression? Let’s be honest. Who here thinks your professors can say what they really believe? It scares me to death, and should scare you too, that the superstition of political correctness rules the halls of reason. You are the best and the brightest. You, here in the fertile cradle of American academia, here in the castle of learning on the Charles River, you are the cream. But I submit that you, and your counterparts across the land, are the most socially conformed and politically silenced generation since Concord Bridge. And as long as you validate that …and abide it… you are-by your grandfathers’ standards- cowards.

Here’s another example. Right now at more than one major university, Second Amendment scholars and researchers are being told to shut up about their findings or they’ll lose their jobs. Why? Because their research findings would undermine big-city mayor’s pending lawsuits that seek to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from firearm manufacturers.

I don’t care what you think about guns. But if you are not shocked at that, I am shocked at you.

Who will guard the raw material of unfettered ideas, if not you? Who will defend the core value of academia, if you supposed soldiers of free thought and expression lay down your arms and plead, “Don’t shoot me.”

If you talk about race, it does not make you a racist.

If you see distinctions between the genders, it does not make you a sexist.

If you think critically about a denomination, it does not make you anti-religion.

If you accept but don’t celebrate homosexuality, it does not make you a homophobe.

Don’t let America’s universities continue to serve as incubators for this rampant epidemic of new McCarthyism.

But what can you do?

How can anyone prevail against such pervasive social subjugation?

The answer’s been here all along. I learned it 36 years ago, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, standing with Dr. Martin Luther King and two hundred thousand people.

You simply … disobey.

Peaceably, yes.

Respectfully, of course.

Nonviolently, absolutely.

But when told how to think or what to say or how to behave, we don’t. We disobey social protocol that stifles and stigmatizes personal freedom. I learned the awesome power of disobedience from Dr.King … who learned it from Gandhi, and Thoreau, and Jesus, and every other great man who led those in the right against those with the might.

Disobedience is in our DNA. We feel innate kinship with that disobedient spirit that tossed tea into Boston Harbor, that sent Thoreau to jail, that refused to sit in the back of the bus, that protested a war in Viet Nam. In that same spirit, I am asking you to disavow cultural correctness with massive disobedience of rogue authority, social directives and onerous laws! that weaken personal freedom. But be careful … it hurts. Disobedience demands that you put yourself at risk. Dr.King stood on lots of balconies. You must be willing to be humiliated … to endure the modern-day equivalent of the police dogs at Montgomery and the water cannons at Selma.

You must be willing to experience discomfort. I’m not complaining, but my own decades of social activism have taken their toll on me. Let me tell you a story. A few years back I heard about a rapper named Ice-T who was selling a CD called “Cop Killer” celebrating ambushing and murdering police officers. It was being marketed by none other than Time/Warner, the biggest entertainment conglomerate in the World. Police across the country were outraged. Rightfully so- at least one had been murdered. But Time/Warner was stonewalling because the CD was a cash cow for them, and the media were tiptoeing around it because the rapper was black. I heard Time/Warner had a stockholders meeting scheduled in Beverly Hills. I owned some shares at the time, so I decided to attend. What I did there was against the advice of my family and colleagues. I asked for the floor.

To a hushed room of a thousand average American stockholders, I simply read the full lyrics of “Cop Killer”- every vicious, vulgar, instructional word.

“I GOT MY 12 GAUGE SAWED OFF. I GOT MY HEADLIGHTS TURNED OFF. I’M ABOUT TO BUST SOME SHOTS OFF. I’M ABOUT TO DUST SOME COPS OFF…”

It got worse, a lot worse. I won’t read the rest of it to you. But trust me, the room was a sea of shocked, frozen, blanched faces. The Time/Warner executives squirmed in their chairs and stared at their shoes. They hated me for that.

Then I delivered another volley of sick lyric brimming with racist filth, where Ice-T fantasizes about sodomizing two
12-year old nieces of Al and Tipper Gore. “SHE PUSHED HER BUTT AGAINST MY ….” Well, I won’t do to you there what I did to them. Let’s just say I left the room in echoing silence.

When I read the lyrics to the waiting press corps, one of them said “We can’t print that.” “I know,” I replied, “but Time/Warner’s selling it.” Two months later, Time/Warner terminated Ice-T’s contract. I’ll never be offered another film by Warner’s, or get a good review from Time magazine. But disobedience means you must be willing to act, not just talk.

When a mugger sues his elderly victim for defending herself … jam the switchboard of the district attorney’s office.

When your university is pressured to lower standards until
80% of the students graduate with honors … choke the halls of the board of regents.

When an 8-year-old boy pecks a girl’s cheek on the playground and gets hauled into court for sexual harassment … march on that school and block its doorways.

When someone you elected is seduced by political power and betrays you…petition them, oust them, banish them.

When Time magazine’s cover portrays millennium nuts as deranged, crazy Christians holding a cross as it did last month … boycott their magazine and the products it advertises.

So that this nation may long endure, I urge you to follow in the hallowed footsteps of the great disobedience’s of history that freed exiles, founded religions, defeated tyrants, and yes, in the hands of an aroused rabble in arms and a few great men, by God’s grace, built this country.

If Dr. King were here, I think he would agree.

Thank you.


I wrote 2 letters to my MP as well as Mr Coaker and I am in the process of writing a 3rd.
 

7th March 2008

To; Vernon Coaker MP & to whom it may concern

House of Commons

London SW1A 0AA.

Dear Mr Coaker et al.

I feel impelled to write in regarding the forthcoming amendment to the offensive weapons order to include curve single edge blades of a blade length 50cm or over. I understand how difficult it has proven to be to make an amendment for "Samurai Swords" and how to define exactly what constitutes a "samurai sword", along with all the other complications of collectors and martial artists, etc. But having read through all the documentation carefully I have come to the conclusion that this has got to be the most ill thought out and badly worded bill there has ever been.

But this is beside the point.

I’ve read your profile on the Home Office site, Mr Coaker, and see that your responsibilities include:

Crime Strategy Implementation

Drugs and Alcohol Strategies

Youth Crime

Violent Crime, including guns, gangs, knives

Anti-Social Behaviour

Domestic Violence

Child Abuse

And I wonder what studies you have done on the subjects of the causes of violence and hate crimes because, from what I have read from the reports, you seem to lack any awareness of these causes.

But this is also beside the point

I’m a responsible (as much as anyone is) member of our society. I’m 43 years old, I have a respectable job and I have 2 areas of interest and study outside my current employment.

I have for the last 5 years been studying the psychology of aggression and hate within the area of the causes of conflicts, primarily in relationships. This is towards becoming a relationship counselor and cognitive behaviour therapist. A lot of my study has crossed over in to the underlying causes of violence and aggressive feelings and I have a very good understanding of the root causes of aggressive and violent behaviour. And as such feel I have a reasonable perspective to comment upon your Summary.

My second area of interest is bladesmithing, with an emphasis on traditional oriental knives and swords, primarily from Japan. Although my interest spreads across the larger spectrum of the art of bladesmithing.

Before I go in to my observations based upon my studies of psychology, I’d like to point out where I believe your Summary is so ill thought out and badly worded.

Firstly and most importantly, it seems to totally ignore the conclusions of the Consultation in which 85% of those consulted were opposed to the ban.

Secondly; your Summary mentions costs (is this what human life means to some people?), well your numbers don’t add up. To quote:

In a worst case scenario, if 20,000 collectors buy 1 sword a year at £30 each there is lost revenue to business of £600,000. Any effect on business is likely to be moderated by the defences to the ban that allow some groups to purchase these swords. Over time business should adapt and demand may displace into other goods.

I’d like to point out here that collectors don’t pay £30 for a sword and I have no idea where you got that figure, but at the minimum you need to put at least another couple of zeros on the end, and at most you could be putting another 4 zeros on the end. So your worst case scenario is way off target. And using £6,000 as an average for a collector your £600,000.00 now comes out at closer to £120 million. I can only assume you made these figures up in your head (or had a researcher make them up for you).

Description and scale of key monetised benefits by ‘main affected groups’ If the ban prevents 1 murder and 7 serious woundings a year then this is a benefit to society of £1.74M. However, the ban does not reduce the stock of swords or prevent all sales and so it is possible that no offences will be prevented.

The latter part of this statement at least shows you have an awareness that the ban might not have any effect. But you are wrong. The ban will have an effect, but only on legitimate collectors and users, exactly the same way that the handgun ban hit legitimate collectors and users and had absolutely no effect on gun crime, which has steadily risen every year since. Are you aware that criminals don’t obey the law; hence that’s why we call them criminals? NO OFFENCES WILL BE PREVENTED BECAUSE THE CRIMINALS WILL STILL OBTAIN WHAT THEY NEED TO COMMIT CRIMES. Guns are still readily available to those that desire them enough to flaunt the law. The only possible target for the sword ban could be the random and extremely rare mental case, or the extremely rare domestic case. Both these exceptions are completely beyond control, and besides, it’s the person and what is happening inside them that is the cause and the chosen tool for their outburst is just coincidence. If they didn’t happen to have a sword, they would have used a hammer like Levi Bellfield, a kitchen knife, or whatever is at hand at the moment. What the object is, is beside the point. THE BAN WILL NOT HAVE ANY EFFECT ON VIOLENCE FIGURES AND WILL ONLY HIT LEGITIMATE COLLECTORS AND USERS. Yes, you may have the extremely rare cases of homicides with swords go down, but they will only be replaced with a rise of homicides with other objects because the object used as the weapon of choice in these circumstances is irrelevant.

I still can’t quite come to terms with the phrase "Key Monetised Benefits" when discussing human life.

Net Benefit Range (NPV) £ -600,000 to 1.74m PA

The above doesn’t mention the Zero to £1.74 million, and with the more realistic figure in terms of cost for a sword, your -£600,000 should read closer to -£120 million.

 

Your "Evidence Base" is highly questionable;

The Government has been concerned for some time about the use of offensive weapons in violent crime and in particular a number of reports of weapons described as "samurai swords" being used in violent crime, including murders. Police advice is that portability and availability of samurai swords make them the weapon of choice for growing numbers of young men with criminal intentions.

The first part of this sentence is obvious; as is the way you tie it in to "samurai swords" in order to manipulate opinion. It is clear that you have no figures other than those gathered from research using the media. I have to commend you on picking such an unbiased and unprejudiced source of information (sarcasm) for your thorough research. Are you aware that taking public fears and blowing them out of all proportion and throwing them back is the primary method the media uses to manipulate its market and sell its product? You appear aware of the fact that these isolated cases "Samurai sword crime is low in volume but high in profile". The reason that these rare attacks are "high in profile" is that it sells copy. The media jumps on it like a pack of hyenas, slaps it all over the front page because it shifts papers so of course it is "high in profile"!

So if you are going to use the media as your source of research, you really need to take in to account the fact that the media adore this sort of headline making material and blow in totally out of proportion, milking it for every copy of their newspaper that it sells.

Yes, some empathy for the victims and their families are due, but the whole issue really needs to be put in to perspective and compared with the number of people that are, say, killed or injured tripping over uneven paving slabs. Your figures (unverified) state 10 murders in the last 4 years, so perhaps you can state the details of each occurrence?

This is a quote from a police officer acquaintance who trains police personnel;

"Both bladed and offensive weapon legislation is perfectly adequate to deal with the scourge of knife crime on the streets and this item of legislation is poorly thought out, illogical and will be nigh on impossible to police effectively."

Your Police advice is totally false (and probably another invention by one of your researchers). There are a number of reasons why a "samurai sword" is a totally illogical weapon of choice, primarily in that it is totally impractical to conceal. None of the sword attacks that I am aware of have been carried out with the intent of criminal activity. They have either been random acts of violence by mentally unstable people, or acts carried out within domestic disputes when emotions are raised and people have behaved irrationally and with extreme aggression triggered by our phylogenetic defence mechanism and impulsively grabbed the first object to hand that could be used as a weapon, in coincidence, in some of these cases, that object has been a "samurai sword". The way your summary goes on it’s as if there are gangs of people running round the streets waving "samurai swords" with intent to cause harm. Perhaps this is your perception of things? For me, this raises the question of your mental state. This kind of irrational terror that leads to overreaction and an over active imagination is often suggestive of certain mental disorders in itself.

The fact is that crimes involving a "samurai sword" are extremely rare occurrences and completely unpredictable and the object in question is the object of choice by coincidence and coincidence alone.

Now you’ve obviously had considerable trouble defining a "samurai sword", or, to use its correct term, a katana. So you’ve gone for a blanket ban on single edged curved blades of 50cm or longer. Are you aware of how much this vague and ambiguous description actually covers?

Here’s a list:

scythes
cavalry sabres

scimitars
tulwar (part of Sikh national costume?)
Shamshir
Yataghan
Pedang
Pinuti
Kalis
Golok
Bolo
Barong
DaDao
Miao Dao
Dha
Sansibar
Sanduko
khukri
machete

Guillotines for paper cutting/sizing anything A2 size or over (used in schools & art colleges???)

Larger old fashioned rotary lawnmowers

Combine harvester blades

OK, so the last 3 were to highlight the absurdity.

all of the above are either over 50cm or come in varieties where some are available over 50cm. And I am sure that I’ve missed many other items that would fall under the curved single edged blade of 50cm and over.

So what affect is this "ban" going to have on the buying habits of those that would have been buying the cheap imitation "samurai swords" because they think they look cool without actually having an understanding of what they are buying? They will buy cheap imitation straight swords instead, or they will buy cheap imitation Wakizashi (a wakizashi is the name given to a Japanese sword smaller than a katana, it was the sword worn by samurai when they were inside buildings, it’s smaller and less obstructive and is available in sizes under 50cm!! And much more concealable!!!

So, once again, to reiterate,

it is possible that no offences will be prevented.

It’s not "possible", it’s blatantly obvious to all but the most dim-witted imbecile that no offences will be prevented!

Another thing your summary seems to have overlooked is the fact that there is not exactly a dichotomy between what is a cheap imitation and what constitutes a useable object in terms of practicing martial artists. Yes, there are cheap stainless imports that come from many places, including china. But there are also a lot of blades made in the UK, USA, China, etc. That are what the majority of martial artists actually use to practice their sport. It is very rare that someone practicing arts like Kendo, Iado, etc. will be using antique Japanese swords for cutting practice (tamashagiri) or in their training. The antique Japanese swords cost tens of thousands of pounds and would get destroyed if used in training, especially by the novice, beginner. Even the modern manufactured swords of Japan sell for tens of thousands of pounds The swords of Howard Clark (USA), Paul Chen (China), Hanwei (China), Imperial Forge (China), etc. To name but a few of the many non Japanese companies and individuals who make usable swords for practicing martial artists. They are not the cheap knock offs that I believe you are trying to target, but swords that will retail between £300 up to a thousand pounds. The cheap knock offs that have been used in these attacks are invariably stainless blades and as such incredibly useless as swords for training in martial arts. Your legislation also misses out "Ninja swords" for these are in fact straight blades and the ones available are invariably the cheap knock offs that you are attempting (and failing) to target. There are also many other straight blades that your legislation is missing.

The banning of samurai swords should also contribute to a positive impact on community confidence and reduce fear of crime.

I fail to see the above when compared to all the other elements which contribute to the fear of crime and acts of violence are still untouched. The fear of a sword attack is very low compared to the fear a knife attack because if someone is carrying a sword we can see it, but a knife can be concealed. The only time that the fear of a sword attack is in the public mind is when either newspapers get hold of a story of an extremely isolated incident and thinks it would make a good headline, or some ambitious politician thinks they can gain a bit of kudos and support with a cheap shot on an easy target by using the public fear to manipulate perspective and seem to be protecting the idiots who are unable to think for themselves. So a few grannies with over active imaginations feel you’ve done something to make them feel safer in their beds when they have far worse dangers that they really ought to be considering. Like the government’s failure to manage greedy energy companies that make billions of pounds of profit while poor old Grandma Smith is struggling to heat her council flat.

I have, along with some colleagues, done some research that counters your research figures regarding incidents involving a sword. We believe that these are some of the incidents that your "research" has used for its figures:

January 2008 – an attack in Mitcham, South West London. Early reports in the media of a "samurai sword" being used. Later reports begin to mention cricket bats, golf clubs and metal poles and the "samurai sword" was changed to a sabre. Later reports become a bit more vague, but mention a machete or a short samurai sword (under 50cm?).

January 2008 – A samurai sword used in a murder – the item used was reported as being 24" in overall length. This would make the blade approx. 18" in length. Unaffected by this legislation.

November 2007 – Death attributed to a samurai sword. The item used was reported as 18" in length so would still be legal under this amendment.

February 2007 – An amphetamine addict uses a sword to kill a woman and subsequently runs her over.

May 2006 – Man killed in a drug feud between dealers.

July 2004 – A son kills his father. Long history of mental illness and dysfunction within the family who ‘lived like a hermit in a single room’

January 2003 – Robert Dunne stabbed in the back in Middlesbrough; allegedly a "samurai sword" was used.

January 2000 – Robert Ashman attacks Nigel Jones and Andrew Pennington. Mr Pennington dies of his injuries

If you look closely at the majority of these incidents, the descriptions of the sword gets a bit vague. It starts out with the likes of The Sun newspaper putting up front page headlines of "samurai sword" attacks, but later reports get a bit more vague on the subject. Also in a number of cases, we really need to be looking at what is happening personally, and perhaps pointing a portion of the finger of blame at circumstances rather than objects. It is clear that the media is an unsuitable and misleading source of information for your research.

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2000/feb2000/uk-f01.shtml

At the end of the day, these pieces of political posturing and the headlines created by it do nothing to reduce public fear; rather they seem to magnify it towards meeting the needs of the self serving bias of the politicians and media empires. Public fear is not reduced, it is stirred up and this may be because people don’t think for themselves quite as well when they are in a state of fear. To my mind this is an ineffectual piece of legislation and nothing more than a cheap shot for your own personal advancement.

The banning of samurai swords should also contribute to a positive impact on community confidence and reduce fear of crime.

The truth of this matter is by exaggerating the danger and making headlines, you and the media are actually magnifying the community’s fear of crime towards getting your own self serving needs met. Some people still believe politicians, and by embellishing the truth of the risk of crime involving swords, these people live in terror in their own homes. People walk the streets paranoid of all the strangers they meet in case the next one is a nutter carrying a sword. Even our own Home Secretary has admitted an irrational fear of walking her own streets at night and has succumbed to this paranoia and believes this hype.

Fear, stress, anxiety, etc. Is one of the primary cause of people carrying weapons. They are possessed for defence because they live in a constant state of fear. The underlying root cause of violent crime is the internal battle going on in the individuals phylogenetically inherited defence mechanism, that base autonomous animal part that still exists in all of us. Incidents where they are used in violent crime are when that fear is heightened and the autonomous animal instinct has been released. So instead of pointing the finger of blame at objects, perhaps some portion of blame should be pointed at the people that use fear to either sell newspapers, or gain support in parliament, hmm?

Your (The Home Office) response is simplistic to extremes. Clearly no thought has gone in to this at all and it is a kneejerk reaction and it is being used to gather brownie points from people that don’t know any better. It is quite obvious to anyone with half a brain that it will not impact on violent crime in the slightest.

Are you aware of the publication from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies:, Kings College,
London – 2007 ‘Knife Crime – A review of Evidence and Policy’? Although it is predominantly discussing knife crime, it has highlighted how the blaming and subsequent banning of an inanimate object is a futile and senseless approach when the target of attention should really be the root cause.

I have added some notes from this report:

"Much of the media reporting and political comment has been misleading, in part due to the paucity of reliable information on the problem and in part due to the failure to present known facts accurately. (And it is media reports that have provided the ‘evidence’ used to justify the ban – WB) For example, some newspaper articles have cited figures from the Youth Justice Board’s annual Youth Survey, conducted by the market research group MORI, on the
percentage of young people who have carried a knife in the year before questioning without also stating that such knife carrying may only have occurred once and that most of those school pupils carried nothing more than a penknife, which is usually legal. Such inaccuracies are not confined to the press. The Metropolitan Police Service, in publicising the national
knife amnesty in 2006, released a statement that ‘52 teenagers are victims of knife crime EVERY week in London’."

"What does ‘knife crime’ mean in that sentence? It is easy to infer from such a statement that each of those 52 incidents of ‘knife crime’ involves a stabbing. It must, however, be remembered that ‘knife crime’ will not necessarily result in a physically harmed victim, although it may cause significant distress to the victim. Sensational statements increase public fear of crime beyond the actual risk and might, in the end, hinder rather than help the police."

"This area still suffers from a lack of useful, specific, reliable, longitudinal research on the nature, extent, cause, motivation, frequency and possible growth of knife carrying."

"There is little information available on the motivations for knife carrying and, as can be seen from the media reporting, much is anecdotal and provided by youth workers, teachers and other professionals. Without definitive information it is very difficult indeed to make any serious attempt to reduce the practice."

"Harriet Harman, [then] Solicitor-General [now Leader of the House of Commons, Minister for Women and Lord Privy Seal] and MP for Peckham [and Camberwell], makes a link with race – "There is clearly a sense that this is an unequal society where you are blocked by the colour of your skin, and there
is a feeling that you achieve status not by getting a degree or by qualifications but by having a knife." The status associated with the possession of a knife."

"The government has adopted a range of different approaches to tackling ‘knife crime’ The most publicised have included a
national knife amnesty and harsher sentences."

"Yet it is far from clear what actually works to reduce knife carrying and knife offences."

"According to the Home Office, a total of 89,864 knives were handed in during the national amnesty. Home Office minister Vernon Coaker stated that this means ‘fewer knives on our streets’ and greater security for everyone."

"Assuming that there are approximately 22 million households in England and Wales, each possessing a single kitchen knife, the amnesty has been successful in removing 0.0041 per cent of knives that might be used in crimes. Of course, most households contain many more than a single knife and it is barely worth considering the tens of thousands sitting in shops
waiting to be purchased. As such, it is at best questionable whether this will result in a reduction in knife carrying and knife-related offences."

"Evidence from other knife amnesties also shows that they have a very limited impact on crime levels. One retrospective records-based study in Strathclyde found that a knife amnesty (‘Operation Blade’, which ran for four weeks in 1993) did not have a long-term beneficial effect. The campaign in Strathclyde was followed by a reduction in the number of serious stabbings for ten months during and after the intervention but the rate for subsequent months exceeded the rates prior to the intervention. Essentially, knife amnesties address but one tool of expression of interpersonal violence and do nothing to address the underlying causes of such violence. Thus they do not affect either those who retain their knives believing it might be necessary to use them or those who pick up a knife on the spur of the moment in anger or fear."

"Relying on the implausible view that increased sentence length will have a deterrent effect, it seems unlikely that the government’s chosen policy will have an impact on knife carrying in public."

"After many years of neglect, investment in youth services is to be welcomed. But the government’s overall prevention approach to tackling youth crime lacks a coherent framework and is made up of a range of piecemeal initiatives. Most recently, in response to a number of high profile stabbings, government ministers have resorted primarily to criminal justice
responses – in particular the various measures in the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 – rather than developing prevention strategies. This is despite the fact that evidence suggests that a more concerted focus is needed to address the underlying social and economic factors."

"There is clearly a need to recognise that trends in any form of violence, particularly ‘knife crime’, are not determined by criminal justice responses but are related to underlying social and economic developments, which cannot be ignored in any strategy that seeks to prevent increasing numbers of people being both the victims and perpetrators of knife related violence."

"A lack of a considered, clear strategy based on high quality, specific research characterises the government and police approach to the problem of knife-related offences."

"…..ultimately, stabbings are not caused merely by the presence of a knife."

At the end of the day, what weapon is used in violent attacks is incidental. The object is not the cause of the attack, that cause is internal and if a sword is used, it is purely coincidental, if the sword wasn’t there, another object will be chosen, all the evidence points to this with the vast majority of violent crimes involving blades happening in the home with kitchen knives, and every home has on average, at least 6 blades that would make perfectly adequate weapons.

I’m wondering whether the attack on Nigel Jones MP and Andrew Pennington has perhaps made you feel personally vulnerable and that perhaps some of your motivation for this could be your own irrational fear of the possibility of being attacked in one of these rare and extremely isolated incidents? It can’t really be ruled out that this tragic, yet isolated and random incident has influenced the push towards this ban.

May I suggest, considering your areas of focus as a Home Office minister, that you try and learn something about the causes of violence if you really want to advance your career, rather than coming up with poorly advised and ineffectual legislation that will only really affect genuine collectors, martial artists and enthusiasts and do nothing to combat the root cause of violence in our society.

I can understand and tolerate a ban on impractical "samurai swords" i.e. the cheap knock offs that are completely useless as swords to martial artists, usually made of stainless steel and sold as "wall hangers". But you are essentially going to be banning the majority of swords used my practitioners of martial arts involving swords and this is wrong. You will not remove weapons from the hands of people who commit acts of violence by banning select items, they will use whatever is available.

So, to summarise, my main questions are:

Why was the 85% NOT in favour of a ban, from your own consultation, ignored, and the ban pushed through anyway?

What about the fact that the people who would perpetrate attacks with "samurai swords" will just move on to an alternative?

What is the true motive behind such an ineffectual, yet high profile addition to the offensive weapons order?

This ban it mentality has to stop before the real source of violence can be confronted.

The media and ministers have to realise their responsibility for encouraging violent crime by manipulating public fears.

It appears to me that you are totally committed towards this ban and blinkered to any information that contradicts or challenges your chosen path. It may be that writing this letter, that has taken me 3 days, will have been a total waste of my time, but freedom is far more important than 1 person’s life, let alone 3 days of their time, so it was worth it, even if it was just to feel I’ve got something off my chest, and at least tried to get through to you how ludicrous and useless this piece of legislative drivel is.

Yours Sincerely

Simon Attwood

"Quemadmoeum gladuis neminem occidit, occidentis telum est"

Seneca


19th March

To; Vernon Coaker

CC; Jonathan Batt

Richard Ottaway

Andrew Pelling

Tony McNulty

Jacqui Smith

Lord West of Spithead

Baroness Hanham

 

Dear Mr Coaker,

Once again I feel compelled to write to you following my reading of the transcript on Monday’s Committee meeting and Tuesday’s House of Lords meeting. I have realised that what I have to say may once again fall upon deaf ears, because, judging by the transcript, your position on this "samurai sword" agenda of yours verges on the myopic (as to whether this myopia is deliberate or unconscious is open for debate).

I find myself reading, in disbelief, the simplistic perspectives of some ministers over the production, use and history of "samurai swords" and the causes of violent crime, especially ministers that are supposed to be the country’s premier authority on violent crime. The whole concept of banning an object in order to tackle violent crime is a weak and ineffective, yet media friendly, cop out. The only conclusion I can come to is that it is no more than a cheap publicity stunt.

I will try and be more concise this time and just list my points;

On the one hand you state;

"From the information collected on recorded crime, it is not possible to identify those offences which are sword/knife related. Such offences are not specifically defined by statute and details of the individual circumstances of offences do not feature in the recorded crime statistics." (April 2007)

Then;

"

The benefits of the ban are also difficult to quantify as there is no accurate count of the number of offences currently committed with samurai swords."

Followed by an estimate based upon research reading the Daily Mail;

"Our estimates suggest that there have been around eighty incidents in 4 years including at least ten murders. This is based on unofficial data assembled from police and media reports."

Which is then stated as factual figures during Monday’s committee meeting;

"Our information shows that samurai swords have been used in about 80 incidents during the past four years, including at least 10 murders".

You’re twisting and inventing facts to support your agenda. Talk about spin!

"Jacqui Smith: When we consulted on adding samurai swords to the violent weapons order, there was clear support for the proposal."

Does 85% (your consultation figures) opposed to a ban constitute clear support?

What kind of warped perception comes up with that reality?

Ms Smith has already publicly declared her irrational paranoia and it is very clear that her perceptions have an extremely distorted bias and suggests to me that she lives in an imaginary world of constant irrational terror.

Earl Attlee: "I am curious about the curved blade. I am slightly anxious that it would be possible to import a batch of swords with straight blades, which would fall outside the provisions, and then, by a simple and well understood engineering process—putting them through a roller—cause the blades to bend. I do not understand why all long blades are not banned. I can foresee people importing straight blades and making them curved."

This statement shows a total lack of understanding of "simple and well understood engineering processes". A sword blade is Heat Treated to possess characteristics that give it a hardness that would make this impossible without either cracking the blade, or the blade springing back to straight as soon as it came out the roller. This displays the level of ignorance on the subject from both houses have constantly demonstrated during this whole process.

The curve (sori) of a katana is produced during the quench process. The blade is heated when straight with a traditional clay backing, it is then quenched in water and the curve is produced by the transformations in the micro structure of the steel. It is not produced on a roller.

Why don’t you consider actually asking people that know something before spouting off ridiculous inaccuracies?

The using of the term "samurai sword", which seems to be a media favourite, just goes to show the level of ignorance we are dealing with here. Please use the phrase "katana" which is the correct term for swords worn my the samurai class. "samurai sword" means nothing.

So far, both houses have displayed an ignorant, ill informed and uneducated understanding of what a katana is and how it’s made, an ignorance of religious and cultural factors, as well as a general lack of understanding of the causes of violence in society.

The Media and Politicians need to start accepting some responsibility for violence in our society because by using it for cheap publicity and sensationalism, by exaggerating threats and manipulating public fears towards self serving biases, you are actually partly responsible for causing violent crime.

Violence is the physical result of mental processes that begin with fears. If you pump fears in to a society, fears that they have no way of escaping or dealing with, then the outcome is a violent society. The more fear you put in to a society, the more violence you will get back. Hopefully that is a simple enough equation for you to understand. And when you pump up headlines like "ban samurai swords" and make the gullible public believe there are gangs of youths marauding our streets wielding samurai swords, it actually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"If the ban prevents 1 murder and 7 serious woundings a year then this is a benefit to society of £1.74M. However, the ban does not reduce the stock of swords or prevent all sales and so it is possible that no offences will be prevented."

So you are going ahead with it anyway, even though you have reservations as to whether it will have any effect on violent crime. And numerous businesses, individuals, schools & hobbyist blade smiths with ambitions of grandeur are going to suffer another impotent ban and another freedom eroded by a struggling government, lost at sea and fighting to keep it’s head above water. It seems that nothing is safe from the flailing arms of this drowning government.

If the banning of guns, a far more prolific and major item used in violent crime, had no impact upon the figures of handguns used in violent crime, why do you think that an item that is responsible for a fraction of the crimes that guns are involved in is going to make the slightest difference. A person intent on committing a violent crime will do so with whatever item is available, whether it is a katana, an axe, a Sabatier kitchen knife or a baseball bat or a golf club or a rolling pin or a ball point pen.

Why are you so concerned about wording your legislation to not include Sabatier knives when these are by far more prolific when it comes to knife incidents? Maybe you have future plans to implement a law where private homes can only have the plastic knives that are given out on airlines? Maybe I should consider chopping up my knife block now and using it for fire wood? While I’ve still got a tool to chop it up with!!!!

The only people this will affect (hurt) is decent law abiding enthusiasts and collectors. Just the same as the gun ban.

Lord West "I remember reading about krises in the Wizard years ago in a story about a chap in Borneo. They are unpleasant, sharp, double-sided knives.". Does it often occur that legislation is influenced by comic books? Perhaps we should also ban red capes and hoods with pointy ears? And a definite ban on people running around with their pants outside their trousers.

I could probably go on in greater length, but as my last letter was 9 pages long and so far seems to have been ignored (except for a response from Mr Ottaway), it would probably be a further waste of my time.

I feel that there must be some mild form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that is affecting the perceptions and perspectives of many government officials. It can be the only explanation for the distorted view points that have I have become aware of through this piece of legislative drivel.

We don’t need terrorists to terrorise us. Our own politicians and media are doing a far better job of terrorising the public and themselves.

The lunatics are truly running the asylum.

Regards

Simon Attwood

 

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