28 June 2016 – A PhD student with links to the discredited Gun Control Network pressure group has been writing academic articles about firearms regulation in the UK, presenting her distorted and untruthful claims as neutral and objective fact.
Helen Williamson is currently in her second year of researching a PhD in ‘criminal armourers and illegal firearm supply in the UK’. A week or so ago she wrote an article for The Conversation, a dull website aimed at academics who want to kid themselves that research which is too niche or uninteresting to be picked up by the popular press is actually being read by the great unwashed.
Somewhat ironically, a UKSN reader spotted it and forwarded it on.
The article itself is full of misleading and selectively quoted statistics. Her second sentence, for example, reads: “This strict firearm legislation, enacted chiefly through the Firearms Act 1968 and amendments following the 1987 Hungerford mass shooting and 1996 Dunblane mass shoting [sic], has reduced the number of purpose-made firearms in circulation.”
Meanwhile, the GOV.UK page on firearms in circulation in 2015 states, unequivocally: “There were 153,603 firearm certificates on issue as at 31 March 2015… the highest number since 1988,” and “there were 525,125 firearms covered by such certificates… the highest number since these figures first became available in 1995.”
Williamson’s top line assertions, having been written in June 2016, are therefore … well, let’s be polite: not supported by any evidence from published, official sources.
It continues. In her third sentence Williamson states that firearms offences fell between 2004 and 2015. Is she right?
This graph from the Office of National Statistics seems to support her…
… but what happens if we zoom out a bit and consider data from a decade or two previous to 2003, to get the full picture? That’s exactly what this chart, prepared by BBC News, shows:
What happened in 2004-05? That’s right, reader, that was a historical peak in firearms crime which has never since been reached again. Williamson has cherry-picked her data range to start from the highest ever recorded level so the information she presents fits her chosen hypothesis in a clear attempt to mislead the casual reader. From 1997/8 onwards – when the Firearms (Amendment) Acts came into force and banned most pistols from lawful ownership – we can see that gun crime spiked to double its previous level within 9 years, a fact which completely skewers Williamson’s claim that banning things reduces firearms crimes.
So it goes on. It would be tedious to dismantle every single one of Williamson’s ridiculously one-sided claims – among other things, she says UK-spec deactivated firearms are easily reactivated, citing as proof criminal cases that long predate the 2010 ‘new spec’ deactivation regulations specifically passed to make those types of reactivations impossible – and so I present to you the most troubling aspect of her ‘research’.
Member of a shooting club? Ex-squaddie? Agree with Tory policy? You’re a criminal armourer
Williamson has produced a poster (PDF) in which she claims to have identified seven types of criminal armourer; that is, someone who supplies guns to gangs and terrorists. Let’s quote from a few of her descriptions:
“Personal interest in shooting and firearms (gun club member). Visits antique/firearms fairs.”
“Registered firearm or antique dealer. Interprets firearm legislation to their benefit/belief.”
“Passion for firearms (enthusiastic collector or military expert).”
“Right-wing point of view … potential links to the military”
And so it continues. The common thread in the poster is that in Williamson’s view, 5 of the 7 categories she identifies are ordinary members of the licensed firearms community. Put bluntly, this academic believes you and I, dear reader, are no different from the sort of scum who illegally armed the Islamist murderers that went on to slaughter tens of innocents in Paris last November.
Do you want to know the really alarming thing? That poster carries a NABIS seal of approval.
Indeed, Williamson’s author profile page on the Conversation website states: “I will be working alongside the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) obtaining statistical and operational information from their database which will be built on with case studies relating to successful operations and interviews with the police officers involved.”
As regular UK Shooting News readers know, NABIS is the police-funded ballistics laboratory leading the police campaign for more bans on lawfully-owned firearms. The lab was instrumental in persuading the Home Office to enact further controls on antique firearms, despite repeatedly refusing to reveal to Parliament precise figures on the number of antique firearms that have been misused by criminals. Despite this, a government document quietly admitted that the number of lives saved by further bans on ownership of antique firearms would be a theoretical one per year.
Williamson’s PhD supervisor is none other than Peter Squires, one of the four members of the Gun Control Network pressure group. With people like these feeding their skewed poison directly into NABIS and wider policing, no wonder the licensed firearms community is treated with contempt by the police.