Captain Downey’s Dilemma

“Sir, what are we to do about all this crime?” asked Captain John Downey, Melbourne’s Chief of Police, to the Australian Minister of Security, Percy Sumner.

Captain Downey, tall, forty years old, square shoulders, close-cropped hair, and brown eyes, was speaking to the Minister in his huge office overlooking Melbourne Harbor in Australia. Minister Sumner was fifty years old, a short, heavy-set man, with a red, round face, brown hair, round eyes, and a small mouth.

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One wall of the office had a huge map of Melbourne, with yellow, red, and blue pins stuck on the map at the locations of recent crimes. The yellow was for burglary, red for rape, blue for murder. Alongside this map was a chart showing crime rates for each of the three crime categories. The chart showed a definite pattern — crime rates had been increasing in Melbourne over the last five years.

Captain Downey said, “I don’t know what to do anymore, sir. No matter how many police we put on the streets, no matter how much we increase prison sentences, the crime rates keep going up. I don’t understand it, sir. I don’t know how to stop it.”

Minister Sumner tightened his little mouth. He said, “It’s all those guns out there on the streets, Captain Downey, that’s the problem. We’ve forced every gun owner in Melbourne to register every gun and rifle they own. We’ve planted our agents at gun shows. We’ve started suing the gun manufacturers. It’s those damn guns. If so many Aussies didn’t own guns, the crime rate would plummet. I’ve been discussing this issue seriously with the Prime Minister, Captain. We have agreed that the only solution is gun confiscation. Confiscate every gun in Melbourne and the crime will stop. No guns, no crime, right Downey? That sounds like common sense, doesn’t it?”

“Yes sir,” Captain Downey said eagerly, “that’s what I’ve been suggesting to you for the last year. Another reason we want to confiscate the guns is that when we make drug raids without warrants, sometimes our men get shot as intruders. Some homeowners actually have the gall to try to defend their homes against our boys, who are just doing their duty. I don’t want any homeowner with a gun in his house. We should also make it a crime for a homeowner to use a gun to defend himself in his home against a burglar. If we let him have that right, you never know when he might use that same gun against one of our men who break down his door on a drug raid.”

“The same goes for women. We can’t allow them to carry a gun, either in their home or on the streets. If they think a mugger is threatening them or might rape them, they should contact the police. We’ll be there within an hour. What if the woman-owned a gun and didn’t know how to use it? You know how stupid women are with guns, Minister. We can’t trust them with a gun. And women are so careless, they’ll leave the gun lying around the house where children can find them. It’s worth confiscating everyone’s guns, just so one child doesn’t die from a gun accident.”

Minister Sumner nodded his round head vigorously in agreement. He said, “Good ideas, Downey, I’ll suggest them to the Prime Minister. I think we’ll be able to get the confiscation laws passed in about a month. Thank you for your time, sir. I’ll talk to you again in about four months. By that time, our wall charts should start showing a big decrease in crime. Good day, sir.”

“Good day, Minister. Thank you for your help in this matter. We’ll put a dent in the crime, wait and see.” With that, Captain Downey confidently walked out of the Minister’s office.


In the same office. Outside the window, the late afternoon sky was dark and cloudy, and the two men were having another heated conversation.

“Look at the charts, Captain Downey. By God, look at them!” said Minister Sumner. “The graphs are going straight up, they’re going off the wall! What in blazes is going on? Our crime rate is double what it was four months ago. Didn’t you confiscate all the guns in Melbourne, Captain? What the hell is going on?”

“Yes, sir, we did confiscate the guns,” replied Captain Downey, pacing nervously in front of the Minister’s desk. “I just don’t understand it. We put out the confiscation order the day after we spoke at our last meeting. It was in all the newspapers. We thought that all law-abiding Melbourne citizens would comply. Our local police stations report that over 30,000 registered guns were handed in.”

“Thirty thousand, did you say?” asked the Minister. “I thought our gun-registration rolls showed 200,000 register guns in Melbourne. Why only thirty thousand handed in? What is going on? Didn’t you state on your confiscation orders and newspaper ads that anyone not handing in their guns would be subject to prosecution and five years in prison?”

“Yes, sir, we did,” stammered Captain Downey. “But all of a sudden, every owner we contacted said they had lost their gun, so couldn’t hand it in. What are we going to do sir, get search warrants to search the homes and back yards of 170,000 gun owners? If they’re hiding their guns, we probably won’t ever find them.”

“Not only that, sir, as usual, the criminals are not paying attention to our confiscation laws. They get their guns illegally like they always have. We’ve caught a few house burglars and interrogated them, sir. They have been going on a rampage. They used to hit a few houses a week. Now they are hitting dozens a week, sir. We were puzzled. We asked them why? They just looked at our interrogators with contempt, like our men were idiots. What do you think they said, sir?”

“What?” asked Minister Sumner?

“They thanked me, sir.”

“Thanked you, Captain? What the devil do you mean? Why did they thank you?”

“Because, sir, they thanked me for the new gun confiscation laws, and the laws forbidding home-owners from owning or using a gun for self-defense. They thanked me for making their job so safe and easy. They said they now just knock on the mark’s door, pretend to be the gas man, barge into the house with their guns drawn, and loot the house. They said they’re not afraid of getting shot anymore by the homeowner. Some of them had the effrontery to tell me to thank you personally, sir,” Captain Downey said with outrage.

“They did, did they?” Minister Sumner screamed, getting red in the face. “We’ll see about that! I’m going to suggest to the Prime Minister some new gun-control laws. I want him to give us the power to make random searches without warrants in every house and apartment in Melbourne. I want him to increase the prison terms for gun possession to thirty years without chance of parole. I want him to forbid all gun clubs and gun shows  — that’s probably where the burglars and murderers get their guns. I’ll also ask him for the power to confiscate anyone’s car, home, or bank account who is caught with a gun. That will solve the problem, by God!”

“But sir,” Captain Downey protested meekly, “we’re already getting hundreds of loud complaints about the increasing, heavy-handed tactics of our goon, I mean, gun squads. There have been some nasty newspaper articles mentioning our Constitution, ‘rights of the people,’ and all that crap.”

“The hell with that,” Captain. “What do we care about so-called ‘rights?’ Do Aussies think this is America? We have a crime spree. It’s an emergency. Our efforts must not be thwarted by silly notions about rights and Constitutions. Guns are killing people every day. That’s all that matters.”

Captain Downey said, “Yes, sir. I hope you’re right. I surely do. I am just a little afraid of civil unrest, sir, that’s all.”

“To hell with civil unrest, Captain said Minister Sumner. “That’s what our riot police and prisons are for. We know best how to solve this problem, and we won’t let a bunch of agitators stop us. I will ask the Prime Minister to put my new suggestions into place immediately. You’ll see quick results.”

“Yes, sir. I hope you’re right, sir. Please let me know when the new laws are in place, sir, so my men can start enforcing them.”

“Very good, Captain. I will do so. I will then meet with you in another four months. Good day, Captain.”

“Good day, Minister.”

Of course, four months later, in that same office, the charts were now going ballistic. Crime rates were soaring. Australia had gained the international distinction of having the second-highest crime rate in the world (after England, who had also confiscated it’s citizens’ guns).

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