Miles Kington: That old pop-gun could get you into hot water

The Government is all in favour of selling genuine guns. It's only the replica arms trade they're against
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The Independent Online

The Government has announced that it intends to ban replica weapons. How - lots of my more gun-conscious readers want to know - will this affect them and their taste for antique pistols, toy guns, etc? Frankly, I have no idea, so I have called in a weapons expert to help me out, Major Ted Trailer.

Q. You are an arms expert, Major Trailer?

A. Yes. That is, I am a replica arms expert.

Q. Does that mean you are an expert on replica arms, or a bogus expert on all weapons?

A. I am both. On the other hand, I am not a real Major.

Q. So you are a replica Major?

A. Possibly. What you have to remember is that in the arms world nobody is what he seems. If people want to buy arms from a Major, then I am happy to be a Major. Everyone in arms is fake and everyone is real.

Q. That is rather confusing.

A. It's meant to be.

Q. Can we start again, please?

A. Certainly.

Q. Under these new regulations, will it be illegal to buy and sell replica arms?

A. Yes.

Q. Why?

A. Well, a lot of crime has been committed using replica arms. When someone points a gun at you and demands your money, you don't have the time to discover if it's genuine or not.

Q. So what can you do?

A. The best thing to do is have a wad of forged banknotes ready to hand over.

Q. You mean, hand over replica money to a man with a replica gun?

A. Yes. This is Gresham's Law with a vengeance.

Q. Gresham's Law?

A. That's the one that says that bad money drives out good money. And now we have bad guns driving out good.

Q. So the Government is trying to ensure that when a hold-up takes place, a genuine gun is involved, not a fake one?

A. Yes. The British government is the biggest arms dealer in the country. It is all in favour of selling genuine guns. It's only the replica arms trade it's against.

Q. But would the British government ever sell real guns to the wrong people - I mean, to delinquent, psychotic killers?

A. Certainly, as long as they were the heads of state of friendly nations.

Q. Does the Government ever equip people with replica arms?

A. Oh, yes - recently they sent a lot of British soldiers to Iraq with weapons that didn't fire. But that may not be what you are thinking of. In any case, the Government will soon announce a replica arms amnesty, which will enable you to hand in your antique pistols and muskets, cowboy six-shooters etc. The Government will set an example by withdrawing all the cannons and guns at places like the Tower of London.

Q. But surely if you make a thing illegal, you simply drive it underground.

A. That is so.

Q. So we will find ourselves with an illicit replica arms trade!

A. Precisely.

Q. And toy guns exchanging hands at hugely inflated prices on the black market.

A. Just so. Not only that, but you will find the health and safety people getting in on the act.

Q. How so?

A. Rewriting Shakespeare, for a start. All the Bard's careless use of weaponry as metaphor will have to be cleaned up, to protect us. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune will come with a health warning from Hamlet. The stabbing will have to be removed from Julius Caesar's death scene. And Macbeth will have to say: "Is this a dagger that I see before me,/ Or is it just a shoddy replica,/ Made cheaply by poor slaves in far-off China,/ Yet nonetheless a lethal blade withal ..."

Q. Is this all part of Mr Blair's campaign to fight, not crime, but the causes of crime?

A. God bless you, sir, he doesn't intend to do that! That's an old promise, an out-of-date promise, a fake promise - a replica promise, if you like! It was withdrawn years ago, under a New Labour amnesty for dud ideas.

Q. And is this new move another idea due for the scrap-heap by and by?

A. It is not an idea. It is an initiative.

Q. God help us all.

A. Precisely.