Gun Control Works–for Pirates
A Common Sense Solution to the Piracy Problem
by Bill Levinson, Instapundit
published December 12, 2008
The recent terrorist rampage by Islamic supremacists in Mumbai shows that India’s strict gun control laws work–for vicious Islamic supremacist terrorists. Even many of India’s police were armed only with lathis, or bamboo sticks, and they learned the hard way that it is a bad idea to bring a bamboo stick to a gunfight.
The epidemic of piracy off the Somali has underscored the same lesson for the world’s merchant marines and passenger cruise lines: gun control works for pirates, corsairs, and buccaneers who freely ignore laws against the possession of destructive devices (like rocket launchers) to prey on unarmed shipping.
Piracy was apparently less of a problem during the age of traditional pirates (16th through early 19th centuries), even though merchant ships could not dial 911 or the equivalent for assistance from the nearest frigate. The reason was that dinghies, rubber boats, or their equivalent (e.g. rowboats) had no chance against even an unescorted merchant ship; the pirates needed a sloop or even a frigate to take, for example, an East Indiaman. This picture (The East Indiaman Repulse (1820) in the East India Dock Basin. Creator: Charles Henry Seaforth, October 1842) makes the reason obvious.East Indiaman
Note the presence of at least ten gun ports (on the lower deck only), which means the ship is at least as well armed as a sloop of war. Portcities London, meanwhile, displays a picture of an East Indiaman of 1690, which carries more than sixty guns. The “weight of metal” per broadside, a typical measure of a ship’s fighting power, probably exceeded that of a contemporary frigate (counterpart of a modern heavy cruiser).
There were of course plenty of pirates during this era, but they did not operate from the equivalent of rubber dinghies or even mother ships because a merchantman of that era would have blown them to bits. A direct hit from a cannonball was not necessary, as the gun could be loaded with grapeshot to kill the exposed rowboat crew. Even if the rowboat managed to come alongside, the merchant seaman had the option of dropping cannon balls that would have gone right through the rowboat’s hull. The pirates therefore needed the counterparts of modern destroyers or cruisers to prey on merchant shipping on the high seas.
We can therefore recommend a simple, common sense solution to the epidemic of piracy off the African coast, and especially that of Somalia. It should be implemented as quickly as possible despite the bleatings of the political Left, Brady Campaign, Million Mom March, and various Kumbaya-singers. Arm merchant ships and passenger cruise ships with weapons ranging from the United States’ excellent 50 caliber machine gun to 35 or 40 millimeter (1-pounder) cannons, and train the crews to use them. (The U.S. could in fact probably earn some money by supplying the weapons and professional training from Navy instructors.)
A punk in a dinghy can menace an unarmed ship with a shoulder-fired rocket because, even though the rocket cannot possibly sink something that displaces 10,000 or more tons, he can continue to fire rockets with impunity. He won’t fire more than one rocket at someone who has a fifty-caliber machine gun, though, because the gun will blow him and his dinghy into unrecognizable fragments before he can reload. A 40-millimeter cannon could probably go further by putting down even the typical mother ship that many pirates use.
This would end the piracy problem quite quickly, because the pirates are unlikely to acquire actual warships that could take on armed merchant ships. The solution is common sense, and political correctness is the only barrier to its implementation.