Gun control Dutch Style

It has been a journey of film makers.  I was chatting with these charming Italian film makers a couple days ago in a Dutch bar when 8 phosphorescent yellow dutch police showed up.  They explained in Dutch that they were part of a routine search for hard drugs and weapons that was taking place in the area and that they hoped for our cooperation.  They said it would take less than 15 minutes.  No one objected, tho I think half the crowd did not understand them and they went to work.  They searched my dingy dutch jacket and frisked me.  Women cops frisked the two Italian women in my party.  Perhaps 2 dozen bar customers were searched and it seemed like they found nothing.

I was fascinated by this in light of the raging gun control argument in my home country and I promptly went and interviewed the bartender about these events.  They explained that there had been several stabbings in the area and the police we doing random searches not only on bars, but also at coffeeshops (where the Dutch sell marijuana and hashish) and on the street in random sweeps.   Our bar tenders were absolutely supportive these searches.  There was no concern about the civil rights of their customers and they believed that these types of searches would in fact be effective driving down crime in their region (which was near Oosterpark in Am*dam).  The whole thing took less than 15 minutes before all the police were gone.

What are the limits?

What are the limits?

The bar tenders told me that if these searches had found weapons (which could include knives and knife like objects) or hard drugs they would have taken the offending party to the police station, taken their weapon or hard drugs and fined them.  There was no chance they would end up in jail.  “We have nothing to hide and they are making the neighborhood safe” explained one bartender.

Anyone who wants a gun in the Netherlands can go across the border to Belgium which has gun sale laws almost as liberal as the US and then bring it back over the green boarder (uncontrolled boarder).  But they might well run into a problem with a spot search like this one.

In the US we are fearful of these types of searches and NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s “stop and frisk” policy has shown that these search without cause laws are applied in a highly racist fashion.  Yet in the Dutch culture, where the police are less feared and perhaps more friendly (at least in the large cities) these techniques are stopping people from getting attacked.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

2 responses to “Gun control Dutch Style”

  1. Loran says :

    I love it. Low-key but effective policing, broad community consent, safer neighborhood.

    However there’s a bunch of factors here. The citizens are consenting to be searched randomly by police (only in a bar? or anywhere in public?), there seems broad assurance that the penalties for even hard drugs will be minor, mainly confiscation of said substance.

    Not sure it could work in America. And it would only take one person – even in Amsterdam – to make a huge deal about it, and necessitate the police to take more aggressive actions to carry out the search.

    In America, the probably in my mind is that our culture has a lot of mixed/conflicting signals about guns and citizen’s rights. Example: Most would say you have a right to possess a gun…but that’s not the case in New York and certain other states. We extol individual rights…but also glorify the police. In the end, it is to our credit there are not more disputes than we already have.

  2. paxus says :

    @Loran – wow. Okay. The dutch are strategic in this. The do these searches in places where they want to change the culture – you come from a sleepy place, and you will never get searched. You come from a place which has more crime, and it is more likely. I am not saying this justifies it, but i am saying you can forecast where you will have a forced interaction with the police.

    The other thing is the police have a quite different temperament in the Netherlands. i remember being in a train waiting room and there was a junky in the waiting room – because it was cold outside, shooting up. Which is illegal in the Netherlands (to be clear). A cop came into the waiting room, saw what the junky was doing and said, “Okay, come on, you cant do that here” and the Junky was already tripping and started screaming at the cop and flailing around. The cop gently, patiently escorted the junky out of the waiting room – while the junky was being rude and very ugly in their manner. This is not how this goes down in the US.

    I am not proposing the dutch system for the US, i am just showing what other cultures do to help us int his conversation. I have had a lot of unnecessary negative interaction with the US police for non-violent arrests. i have also had some very reasonable and mostly positive interactions. Every cop has their own agenda.

    i fidn it fascinating that you think we deserve credit for their not being more disputes. i smile thinking that way. THanks for your thoughts.

    Paxus in Boston
    Xmas Eve 2012

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