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Home > Culture and Society

Blight of the wrong knives

12 November 2004

The News of the World has a 'No To Knives' campaign. Why? Doesn't really matter why. The fact is they do. They say 'no' to knives. This week they told of how they had procured a 15-year-old boy and forced him to buy numerous lethal killing instruments of death and torture, including a Chinese sword with a 14-inch blade that 'can cut off your head in a stroke.' The boy was as shocked as anyone as he posed for a photo which would later be captioned: 'Boy wields chilling weapon.' He said: 'It was as easy as buying a bag of sweets.' From a baby, he might have added. But he didn't.

The News of the World is quite rightly concerned by the apparent rise in knife crime, particularly amongst school-children, and the accompanying ease with which young people are able to buy weapons of localised destruction over a shop counter. They are therefore campaigning for the tightening of existing knife legislation. 'Lax laws are inadequate,' they point out, irrefutably.

'There is no legitimate use for these blades. And no legitimate dealer should be selling them. To adults OR children.' Furthermore they want to see 'airport-style X-ray scanners in schools to keep weapons out of the classroom', like in America, after Columbine.

But the point is, you can also kill someone with a fork. Or a spoon. Or a rolling pin. And you can't legislate against rolling pins. It would be silly. But it points up a fundamental flaw in the whole banning argument. Airport security is equally bewildering and equally ultimately flawed. Earlier this week, this TFT correspondent was not allowed to take a guitar stand onto a aeroplane back from Italy. I even had it mimed to me by an Italian airport policeman exactly how I could pose a terrorist threat with said stand. By holding it over my head apparently, and bringing it down over someone else's. If the policeman had a point, then it seemed odd that I was then allowed to board with two long, thin, almost truncheon-shaped bottles of grappa, a cigarette lighter and a can of deodorant. Surely, if personal damage was my intention, I could have done a much better job with what I was allowed. Or in other words, you can also kill someone with a fork. Or a spoon. Or a rolling pin.

If airport security is to be absolutely 100% terror-proof, then all passengers will have to be stripped and strapped in tight for the duration of the trip. Similarly, if the News of the World is really going to neutralise the threat of young people with aggression issues, they are going to have to do a lot more than stop them buying knives.

Which is not to say children should be encouraged to cut each other up. Of course they shouldn't. Not even for fun. But surely the answer lies not in restricting what weapons they have access to, but rather in resolving what it is that's making them all so vicious and stabby in the first place.

It really is time we thought of the children. If we're not very careful, they could become tomorrow' s insurgents. And then we'd have to kill them.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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