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.