What I learned about American gun culture by watching a British procedural police drama

BBC’s procedural police drama

Let me just preface this by saying: if you haven’t watched Line of Duty yet, you absolutely should. It is truly brilliant. It is a British police drama about an anti corruption unit which is responsible for investigating if police code or any laws have been broken by the British police. That’s the long and short of it. However, it is a really good thriller with amazing twists and turns so once again, I implore you to check it out. It’s available on Netflix.

The third season of the show starts with the anti corruption unit investigating a police officer, who shot a known gangbanger. Let that sink in. A police officer, shot a known gangbanger, a criminal, who was armed, and running away from the police, and the anti corruption unit starts investigating the police officer who shot the gangbanger, because they found “irregularities” in the murder scene. The police officer is suspended and he is tasked with desk duty until the matter can be resolved. The understanding is that if the police officer had shot that known criminal in cold blood, he would be sentenced to jail.

In other parts of the show we find out that even the armed branch of British police does not carry weapons unless they have sought prior written authorization from the higher ups. Again, British police unusually doesn’t carry weapons, and when they do they have to check out the weapons from the armory, along with the ammunition and all of the items checked out are meticulously documented. Then they have to return those weapons to the armory and sign a receipt. In fact, guns are taken so seriously that when a gun is found at a crime scene, a gun specialist has to be called to handle the weapon on the crime scene.

Contrast this to the American system where police forces are being increasingly militarized, and there is systemic indoctrination to even view the most benign of things with alarming suspicion. I am not an American. But I have lived in the USA and I am aware of the gun culture that pervades the US. While watching the show, I couldn’t help but compare and contrast this American fascination with guns. Let’s get one thing absolutely clear: guns are inherently dangerous. They are dangerous when they are in the hands of criminals; they are dangerous when they are in the hands of law enforcement; and they are dangerous when they are in the hands of normal, law abiding citizens.

Now I am no one to tell Americans what they should or shouldn’t do with their guns. But I would like to emphasize that wherever guns have been regulated, gun related violence has decreased dramatically compared to the US. It is important that Americans look to countries like the UK and Australia to see how they’ve been able to tackle gun violence. Maybe they’ll be able to find the silver bullet (pun intended) that’ll make all of the mess unentangle itself.