At the moment the UK seems to be experiencing a horrible tsunami of knife crimes, some as a result of gang quarrels in the major cities, but with other people being knifed on the streets at random. So far, the death toll in London for this year is 29. Why?
I am not a criminal anthropologist nor a crime specialist, so far be it from me to opine on what the causes of this unprecedented rise might be.
Young people seem to think that because there is a danger of being stabbed, they should carry a knife themselves “for my own protection”, and of course that just escalates the problem.
Britain has long had some hard but sensible laws about the carrying of knives (I know because for 20+ years I was a magistrate in the Inner London Youth Courts, and every day we had cases of young men charged with carrying knives in public).
Actually the law never used the word ‘knife’, it was always referred to as a ‘bladed article’ and that covered everything from a Samurai sword to a kitchen knife taken from home. However the police would only discover that an individual was carrying a knife when they were apprehended for some other reason.
During the 2008 Olympics, concerned about potential violence, China introduced specific legislation about the purchase and carrying of knives for security and safety reasons.
They restricted ‘dangerous knives’ and required purchasers to register with the government when purchasing such knives. These included knives with ‘blood grooves’, any knife with a blade longer than 22cms (8.6 inches), lock-blade knives, cleavers, and any knife with a blade of over 15cms in length which also has a point angle of less than 60 degrees. Carrying such knives was illegal, whether you were Chinese or a foreigner.sized multi-tool such as a ‘Leatherman’ are exempt as far as I understand.
Three or four years ago my son visited us in China, he is a keen cook and so are a couple of his friends, and he wanted to buy two 菜刀 “cai dao” the ubiquitous Chinese cleaver which is the workhorse of every Chinese kitchen, both domestic and commercial.
He had attended some cooking classes here in BJ and been shown how versatile it is and how to use it.
There is a famous old kitchenware shop in south Beijing, known for its range of cook’s knives. So off we set. It is a tiny little place crammed to the rafters with boxes of kitchen knives, cleavers, sieves, mandolins, graters, tongs etc etc. We explained what we wanted to the elderly chap behind the counter, and he brought out a few boxes for us to make a selection. Which we did. But then he produced a large ledger, and asked us for our Beijing address and some photographic ID. We didn’t have our passports with us, but he was satisfied with my UK Driving License. Everything was duly noted in the ledger under the date, and then I had to sign it.
A year later we moved house in BJ, and I decided to re-vamp my kitchen equipment . So my DH and I went off to IKEA, we chucked new tin openers, mixing bowls, frying pans etc into the trolley with gay abandon.
Then I decided I wanted three new knives to join my rather meager range at home. In the knife section, you could see the various knives, but then you had to take up a cardboard token with the details of your chosen knife (you couldn’t take the knife itself) to the checkout. When you paid, you were given another receipt which you then had to take to a special counter where they demanded your ID, copied it, you had to sign – then, and only then, were you given the knife /knives you had bought. So even IKEA is being careful about selling knives.
Obviously there are thousands of knives already in circulation in Beijing and other Chinese cities, but when it comes to trying to control the use of knives for nefarious purposes you have to start somewhere. At the moment it seems it would be easier to buy a gun in the USA then it is to buy a knife in China
In the UK let us start controlling the purchase of knives. The youths who buy and carry knives with intent to use them will not want to be identified by having to provide a valid address and photo ID, and then sign a book
It would be a start..