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Would Scottish Independence Mean the End of UK's Nuclear Arsenal? 375

Posted by samzenpus
from the there-goes-the-boom dept.
Lasrick writes The referendum on Scottish independence on September 18th affects more than just residents of the United Kingdom. All of the UK's nuclear deterrent is located in Scotland, and Alex Salmond and the Scottish government have pledged to safely remove and permanently ban nuclear weapons from Scottish territory within the first term of a newly independent parliament.
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Would Scottish Independence Mean the End of UK's Nuclear Arsenal?

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  • Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2014 @05:44AM (#47727299)

    Nope

    • For two reasons -

      1. Thingumy's law of headlines.
      2. The bombs and subs aren't glued into place.

      They'd just move it all to Portsmouth.

  • No. It would not. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2014 @05:45AM (#47727303)

    They would just move it to England. Or Wales.

    This might be the least intelligent question I've seen on Slashdot.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2014 @05:48AM (#47727313)

      It is still early in the day.

    • by Krymzn (1812686)

      They would just move it to England. Or Wales.

      This might be the least intelligent question I've seen on Slashdot.

      Perhaps you should RTFA; an alternative that is discussed is to move the system to the USA.

      • by nukenerd (172703) on Friday August 22, 2014 @12:09PM (#47730213)

        They would just move it to England. Or Wales.

        This might be the least intelligent question I've seen on Slashdot.

        Perhaps you should RTFA; an alternative that is discussed is to move the system to the USA.

        That is a newspaper article trying to wind up the readers. The article us utter crap; for example :-

        The UK Government is not encouraging the Ministry of Defence to acknowledge or publish a backup plan for independence.... It is almost laughable that the government of one of the most powerful nations on Earth is trying to dismiss its opposition by keeping the fate of some of the most powerful weapons on Earth uncertain.

        I must say I don't get what the "almost laughable" joke is supposed to be. I am an ex-naval officer, and the navy, like any military, has all sorts of plans on paper for all sorts of scenarios. They are mostly hypothetical and done as staff excercises. Many would be politically sensitive. Of course there will be outline plans for the loss of Scottish bases, but to publish them right now would be pre-judging the referendum. Independence is not going to occur the day after the referendum, there will be a vast amount of sorting out to do in which closing a naval base will be a drop in the ocean.

        The "fate of some of the most powerful weapons on Earth" is not at all uncertain. "Fate" is a strong word for moving some submarines along the coast - the journo makes it sound as is they might be given to al Qaeda. No doubt they will be moved to somewhere else on the English or Welsh coast. Milford Haven would be ideal, but that might be politically sensitive, being in Wales. Cumberland more likely. It won't be in a city like Portsmouth or Plymouth unless temporarily.

        FTFA :- "Right now, the choice is clear. Britain must stop playing games and acknowledge or publish a backup plan" No need unless and until the referendum votes for independence. I don't see any games there. This is a journo wishing he had something to wroite about already.

        • by HiThere (15173)

          Charlie Stross predicted that if the independence referendum passed, there would be some military bases leased to Britain (England?) on a long term lease. Of course, he's not a politician, but to me that sounds quite plausible.

    • by Wootery (1087023)

      Or you could actually read the article and learn that they didn't just stupidly fail to think of that [slashdot.org].

      'least intelligent', indeed. You ACs, really.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Archtech (159117)

      Most likely Newcastle-on-Tyne or Barrow-on-Furness. The main reason for siting the base in Scotland was presumably to get it as far away from London as possible.

      Futile, though. Either the Russians decide to take out Britain, or not. (They might as well, since they have plenty of missiles). Half a dozen big warheads should render the entire country uninhabitable - why would they take out the Holy Loch and not finish the job?

      Given the US administration's evident enthusiasm for starting WW3, the UK would be we

      • by Archtech (159117)

        Sod it, I meant "Newcastle-upon-Tyne or Barrow-in-Furness". Too early in the morning... er. afternoon.

        Apologies to citizens of those two noble towns.

      • Re:No. It would not. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Xest (935314) on Friday August 22, 2014 @08:13AM (#47728019)

        No, it's mostly where it is because they wanted to put it somewhere where it's easy to get it out into the deep water of the Atlantic - you can rapidly disperse them to places where they'll be almost impossible to find from the North Western side of the country. Putting it on the East coast like Newcastle isn't ideal because it's much easier for a country like Russia to get it's forces there to start searching, and there's less room for a sub to run.

        So most likely places would, given that Ireland gets in the way to much of the West coast would be Wales, or Cornwall.

        If you look at a depth map of the world's seas then you'll see that the current location gives some of the quickest access to very deep waters that our coasts offer.

        • Re:No. It would not. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Friday August 22, 2014 @11:46AM (#47729975) Homepage

          No, it's mostly where it is because they wanted to put it somewhere where it's easy to get it out into the deep water of the Atlantic - you can rapidly disperse them to places where they'll be almost impossible to find from the North Western side of the country. Putting it on the East coast like Newcastle isn't ideal because it's much easier for a country like Russia to get it's forces there to start searching, and there's less room for a sub to run.

          Not quite. It's mostly because they wanted them in a location where they could reach their operating areas as quickly as possible - and back in the Polaris days when the base was initially sited, those opareas were to the north of England due to the missile's short range. (That the SSBN base itself would also be a target in a counterforce scenario was also a consideration, but it wasn't the only one.) Other than that, Faslane/Coulport sucks as an operating base because you have a long (6-8 hour) surface transit to the dive point and a fairly limited set of narrow exit points... perfectly sited for a hostile gatekeeper to lie in wait. (But, at the time, it was the best of several competing alternatives, and easy access to the US base at Holy Loch also played a role.)
           
          Which is why Portsmouth is under discussion as an alternative - today, because of the range of Trident-II, the opareas lie to the west and southwest of England.
           

          If you look at a depth map of the world's seas then you'll see that the current location gives some of the quickest access to very deep waters that our coasts offer.

          The water doesn't need to particularly deep. I suspect that the Vanguard's can only dive to 1,000 feet or so, and you don't need nearly so much to dive and operate safely and patrol depths will also be shallower. (Patrol depths are limited by the ability of the launcher system to get the bird to the surface, typically in the range of a couple of hundred feet.) What SSBN's typically want is room more than depth, as they rely mostly on stealth and evasion for security. Depth isn't very much use against modern weapons, which can easily dive far deeper than the SSBN can.
           
          But the UK's real problem when it comes to siting a new SSBN operating base is none of these - for safety reasons it's room to site the missile magazines away from both the docks and civilian population. (Which is why the missiles are stored and handled at Coulport and the SSBN's are based and refitted at Faslane.) Once Scotland is taken out of the mix, the UK has a real shortage of deep draft ports that are also isolated enough to provide a safety and security buffer around the missile magazines and (to a lesser extent) around the docks and refit areas.
           
          Disclaimer: Former US SSBN crewman, long time student of SSBN operations.

  • the Ministry of Defence has said that removing Trident to the English coast would be extremely difficult and abhorrently costly. Great Britain has thus staked out its position as having no fallback, arguing that even if one did exist, it would be a logistical and financial nightmare. This would be all well and good—if the Scottish government was not especially clear that it will remove the weapons as quickly and safely as possible after independence. With Scotland at that point an independent state, the remaining United Kingdom would have no legal authority to prevent this from happening.

    Interesting. I would've thought diverse sites would be part of the strategy from the get-go with this sort of thing. Eggs in one basket, and all that

    • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Friday August 22, 2014 @06:01AM (#47727381)

      The article is a load of bollocks, moving the facilities has indeed been looked into but the MoD just hasn't committed to any plan given that no decision on independence has been made yet. The only thing the MoD have ruled out is keeping Faslane as a Sovereign Base Area similar to those on Cyprus.

      And regarding the last sentence - Scotland does not unilaterally inherit the UK's nuclear deterrent simply because it happened to be on Scottish soil, so they do not have unilateral authority get to dispose of them. The will be passed to the rest of the UK post-independence, who will then make the decision about what to do.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday August 22, 2014 @06:31AM (#47727515) Journal
        I don't know what the wacky world of inheriting nukes in state breakups looks like in terms of precedent(given that our only real experience with it is 'making shit up while the Soviet Union crumbled' there may be little more than handwaving); but it wouldn't at all surprise me if both Scotland and the (slightly less)United Kingdom would have a very strong shared incentive to come up with an amicable deal.

        Unless you have the ability(decent strategic air force, missile sub capabilities, or hostile neighbors within easy shooting range) and the desire to wave your nukes around, being a nuclear power is actually kind of a shitty job. Nukes are, well, the nuclear option, so they are of little use except in extreme circumstances; they are expensive and technically demanding to maintain, their PR value is deeply mixed, you have to protect them to avoid proliferation, and they have finite shelf life.

        If Scotland wants to get out of the nuclear game; but the UK wants to hold on to some Global Influence, it would be a very, very, mutually convenient arrangement for Scotland to offer a sweetheart deal(if they have some sort of legal claim, maybe a relatively token payment or concession, otherwise just some handshakes and a photo-op) on the warheads in exchange for the UK packing them up, remediating any especially badly contaminated facilities, and otherwise making them Not Our Problem Anymore.

        The hypothetical Scottish exit would likely be cleaner than that of the former Soviet republics, so they wouldn't be quite as badly situated; but the post-Soviet states that inherited fissile goodies were generally quite happy to accept Russian, American, or any other outside assistance in just getting the stuff off their hands as fast as possible. Having a real nuclear arsenal is expensive and requires commitment. Having a decaying one is just a proliferation clusterfuck waiting to happen.
        • by AHuxley (892839)
          A sweetheart deal may not be something that Scotland wants. They may like the optics and tourist friendly branding of been nuclear weapon free.
          Like with the fall of the Soviet Union all the UK may be asked for is a totally decontaminated site, a museum.
          Why would Scotland risk a second much later negotiation as Scotland would then own a contaminated site that the UK had already negotiated over and risk the UK walking away from as is?
          Better to get the UK cleaning up once, totally moved out and all done wh
        • by Archtech (159117) on Friday August 22, 2014 @07:25AM (#47727771)

          "Nukes are, well, the nuclear option, so they are of little use except in extreme circumstances..."

          Very true. To clarify matters, we might ask ourselves: against which nations are the UK's thermonuclear weapons potentially useful today? (I hope no one is going to suggest that they frighten ISIS, for example).

          Russia? If so, why? Russia's interests do not clash with the UK's anywhere on earth - quite the contrary, it is in our best interests to live in peace with the Russians. Whereas we lived in fear (rightly or wrongly) of the USSR invading Western Europe, Mr Putin has shown supernatural restraint in not even invading Ukraine after 750,000 of its citizens fled to Russia for safety. As for Georgia, he was "in and out quickly", as the saying goes.

          China? Likewise, only if possible even more so. The Chinese are quite extraordinarily pacific (especially compared to other superpowers that shall be nameless), and what's more they are very nearly on the far side of the world.

          India or Pakistan? I don't see it. They're not quite so peaceable, but they have no quarrel with us, and we should make sure that remains the case.

          Israel? Not really - they would probably get in a first strike, and they have far more missiles and warheads.

          And as for France, that's just childish. We should be content just to go on annoying them.

        • by gbjbaanb (229885)

          We do have precedent - Czechoslovakia is now 2 countries, as is Sudan and Yugoslavia.

          I just hope Scottish independance goes better than the latter two.

          Scotland may have some issue if they decide to get out of the nuclear game, mainly because of the number of jobs that will be lost when the base (and supporting businesses) gets closed.

          At that point, Britain will almost certainly move the base to somewhere else in the UK, probably somewhere with lots of unemployed, ex-heavy industrial workers. As a result, th

        • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday August 22, 2014 @08:09AM (#47727995) Homepage Journal

          If Scotland wants to get out of the nuclear game; but the UK wants to hold on to some Global Influence, it would be a very, very, mutually convenient arrangement for Scotland to offer a sweetheart deal

          It's really quite simple. They get all the benefits of having the nukes (MAD) without any of the drawbacks (paying for them) just by having them next door. So yes, they really want them out. There are no drawbacks.

    • by jandersen (462034)

      So, what they are saying, really, is that even after a referendum they will have to use common sense and work out a deal with the Scottish government. Stranger things happen at sea.

  • Mean Russia gave up its nuclear arsenal? This title is a very stupid question. The rest of the UK is not going to give up the nukes because Scotland wants to secede, and Scotland will turn them over if it wants to ever have military cooperation from the rest of the UK, let alone the Five Eyes countries and probably NATO.

  • by Maquis196 (535256) on Friday August 22, 2014 @05:50AM (#47727333)

    I believe Alex has mentioned before that "when" Scotland breaks free, they'll try and use their current position of being British to just seamlessly slot into NATO and the EU. I wonder if theyre allowed to stay Nuclear free zone whilst being in NATO.

    More likely, the threat to remove the Nuclear weapons is a way of renting out the bases from the new English Commonwealth (or whatever us English will end up calling ourselves, most tend to coin the nUK moniker) goverment. Its a great distraction amongst the fact they'll not get a monetary union, Spain will veto their EU plans (over their own want-to-breakaway regions doing the same thing in the future).

    I for one would be interested to see how an independent Scotland fares I wish them all the best, but more then anything, it will mean England finally gets their own parliament as well, kinda stupid that Scotland has power over England but not vice versa. Devo Max (if they vote No) would just make us even more jealous/angry over the whole situation. Maybe the marriage has run it course since our integration. Shame the Tories will be our government forever whilst we lose all the Labour voters north of Hadrians wall...

    This was long then expected!

    • by Njovich (553857)

      Spain will veto their EU plans (over their own want-to-breakaway regions doing the same thing in the future).

      Only England wants to play dirty games against the Scottish, the rest of the EU really doesn't care that much. Spain has already stated they will not veto Scotland. Why would other countries like Netherlands or Germany be interested in keeping Scotland out of the EU? It is a wealthy area, there are many business interest, and the people are *already* EU citizens.

  • No it will not. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Friday August 22, 2014 @05:52AM (#47727343)

    The Government have already looked into moving it and all the jobs related to it from Faslane to Portsmouth or Plymouth - sure, it will cost a few billion to move, but that's peanuts compared to how much Scottish independence will ultimately cost to enact. While the new base is being built and readied for use, the submarines will be homed at a US port already familiar with Trident.

    The real question is what are Scotland going to do about their currency post-independence? Parroting the same old lines about a currency union is getting old, especially as all major UK parties have said it will not happen - sure, Scotland could continue to use the Pound long term without permission from the UK, but they want a say in monetary policy, interest rates and a seat at the table on the Bank of England monetary committee, which is what has been turned down by the UK parties.

    And yet Salmond and his crew keep saying it will happen (their favourite line is quoting an unnamed "senior civil servant" as saying "of course it will happen" - an unnamed source saying it will versus the heads of all major UK parties saying it won't...) and refuse to outline any other plan.

    • by Maquis196 (535256)

      Makes sense though, all parties here saying it wont happen is designed to make it a NO vote, by saying "sure, it could happen" will make a yes much more likely to happen since its one of the biggest issues as you say with the whole thing.

      We'd probably say no to it assuming a yes vote just to prove a point, but if Iceland with its 350k people can have their own currency, I'm sure Scotland can too, what could possibly go wrong.

      Shame on Alex for putting his fingers in his ears and hoping something happens. Nee

    • by Archtech (159117)

      "The real question is what are Scotland going to do about their currency post-independence?"

      Why not use the dollar, like everyone else?

  • Betteridge says no.

    We'll just have to fine somewhere else to stick them.

    Besides, the deterrant actually lives at sea. It's the ones not currently being a deterrent which are berthed.

    I do find the anti-nuke stance naive and a bit pathetic personally. Sure, the world would be a nicer place without nukes. However, it's late 1940s tech and people who don't like you also have them.

    If one wants to be all "nice" and "give them up" you're implicitly asking the US, UK/England and France to basically step in if somet

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Alioth (221270)

      What threats against Scotland would British nuclear weapons prevent?

      • Re:Betteridge (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rapiddescent (572442) on Friday August 22, 2014 @06:49AM (#47727611)

        Scotland has only been invaded by, erm, one country, many times as it happens, in the last 1000 years.

        • Re:Betteridge (Score:5, Informative)

          by Archtech (159117) on Friday August 22, 2014 @07:35AM (#47727813)

          "Scotland has only been invaded by, erm, one country, many times as it happens, in the last 1000 years".

          Nice try, and I agree with the spirit of your post. But have you forgotten Norway?

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B... [wikipedia.org]

          Although the Scots gave back as good as they got:

          http://www.scotsman.com/lifest... [scotsman.com]

        • by Pax681 (1002592)
          Scoitland has been invaded by many groups of people and generally fended them all off from the Romans to the Vikings to the English.
          however in 1706/7 from when the act of union was passed(in an illegally convened parliament btw ) GREED and corruption was used to sway the vote. the people of the time certainly didn't want the union as the riots all over Scotland from Dumfries,to ayr,Edinburgh,Glasgow,Aberdeen,Dundee.. all over testify.
          Scotland was pout in a vulnerable position by naval blockade which ,apa
  • Hope So (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JRiddell (216337) on Friday August 22, 2014 @05:56AM (#47727363) Homepage

    I hope it does mean the end of the weapons of mass destruction we have north of Glasgow, removing Trident is one of the major reasons for voting yes to independence next month. It's a shame this is the only issue that has caused it to be brought up on Slashdot.

    In reality the submarines can be housed in England but politically many people in England don't want nuclear bombs next to one of their major cities. That London based politicians think it's fine to put them next to one of Scotland's major cities shows why we need this referendum.

    • Re:Hope So (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Friday August 22, 2014 @06:08AM (#47727405)

      You realise the reason Faslane is there is because Scottish MPs wanted the investment and jobs in Scotland?

      • Re:Hope So (Score:4, Informative)

        by rapiddescent (572442) on Friday August 22, 2014 @06:41AM (#47727575)

        that is not true. It was chosen in the 60's (opened in the mid 70's) because of it's geography - deep water, protected harbour and faces west to the Atlantic. Only 520 jobs [nuclearinfo.org] rely on the nuclear deterrent side of the operation.

        While important for the Coul peninsula, the proposals are to base Scotland new navy at Faslane and so these jobs would be transferred.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I hope it does mean the end of the weapons of mass destruction we have north of Glasgow

      You're going to close the pubs in Glasgow?

    • by Dupple (1016592)

      Sorry but that's mostly rubbish. It's a tactical thing that has more to do with intercepting the Soviet Arctic Fleet and its submersibles, before it can get in the Atlantic as well as what the other replies have stated

  • close to population (Score:5, Informative)

    by rapiddescent (572442) on Friday August 22, 2014 @06:25AM (#47727481)

    It should be noted that the nuclear armoury is based only 15 miles from Scotland's most populous area [streetmap.co.uk], the city of Glasgow -- which in the politics of the union is totally fine so long as it's nowhere near English cities. The system has had multiple failures and there have been attempted coverups [ardentinny.org] of accidents at Coulport (where the weapons are stored). The Royal Navy also stores the decrepit and rusting nuclear submarines at Rosyth [streetmap.co.uk], a mere 10 miles from Edinburgh, our capital city. Again the thought of storing these at Southampton or Portsmouth would not be considered because it's too close to English who don't want rusting nuclear vessels in their backyard.

    Senior MOD officials have been on the back foot in this debate even though most UK military assets have already been removed from Scotland (airbases have been shut and army decimated). Rather like in a divorce where one party tries to remove as many assets as possible before a possible split. The problem with the nuclear armoury is that none of the other areas of the UK want it and it would be political suicide for an English MP to accept into their area.

    Scotland, if the vote is YES next month, would be a small country and it would not be right to have nuclear arms. Scotland wants to set an example by not having them on our soil. Scotland has only been invaded by one country in the last 1000 years, it's a country to our south. Scots like the English (this is not an anti-English referendum) - we just don't like the arseholes in Westminster telling us what to do (neither does large areas of England as it happens)

    To learn more about the Scottish independence, see The Wee Blue Book [wingsoverscotland.com]

  • by Alioth (221270)

    The whole UK nuclear deterrent is a colossal waste of money anyway. It would be far better to get rid of them (who do they deter? who would we use them against? And in the case of a global thermonuclear war it wouldn't even make a difference anyway) and spend the money on conventional forces that we can actually use and probably are more of a deterrent to potential enemies.

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      The whole UK nuclear deterrent is a colossal waste of money anyway. It would be far better to get rid of them (who do they deter? .

      With Pakistan having nuclear weapons and Iran working on them I think it would be good to keep them.

    • by Xest (935314)

      I used to think that, but then I saw the price tag of HS2. We could triple our nuclear deterrent for the price of that and what does it give us? 20 minutes faster journeys to new stations that are 20 minutes from the outskirts of the handful of cities you can visit giving no actual benefit in practice anyway and with no doubt much higher fares to use it on top?

      Trident is an absolute bargain compared to some of the wastes of money our government has a love affair with.

      Even the handful of trains themselves ar

      • by Alioth (221270)

        20 minutes faster journey up north is infinitely more useful to me and millions of others than nuclear annihilation. The HS2 infrastructure is something (well, barring the aforementioned nuclear annihilation) that will be around in a century's time. Trident won't be useful at all and won't have that long of a service life.

  • Surely this will be a decision to be made by the first independent government. Alex Salmond may not be the majority leader. The SNP may not get a single vote (I can't think why anyone would want to vote for them afterwards).

    If Independent Scotland chooses to ban nuclear weapons then that is theiur right as an independent state. If they choose not to that is also their right. But whether they actually do or not is a matter of national party politics, and notpart of the independdence movement. The fact that
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > Salmond seems to think the referendum is bout electing him Scotland's president.

      It's not just him, it's Labour too: this survey [labour.org.uk] asks if participants will be voting for Salmond on September 18th. Personally, I'm not because I'll be too busy voting Yes in a referendum that only offers "Yes" or "No" as the options. Never voted SNP, never voted for Salmond, never plan to. Mind you, I do intend to ignore the thinly-veiled propaganda trying to make this about the current First Minister - from whatever side i

  • by maroberts (15852) on Friday August 22, 2014 @07:04AM (#47727679) Homepage Journal

    I am delighted to confirm that we have made plans to resite our Nuclear Deterrent. After much consultation and with the agreement of the Legislative Assembly, I am pleased to announce that in the event of a Referendum "yes" vote, the UK will be breaking ground on a new facility in the Falkland Islands.

    This is an immensely popular decision that has the full support of all our inhabitants, stated the Chief Executive of the Legislative Assembly.

    On hearing this announcement Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of Argentina, wept before exploding into flames.

    • by Xest (935314)

      I think Kirchner is too busy ruining her nation's economy to worry about that now. She seems to have dropped that topic now she's realised that it's no longer effective at distracting her populace from the fact that she's making them lose all their jobs and rapidly pushing them to a point where they wont even be able to afford things like bread.

  • Currently estimated to cost 50 billion pounds. This will be straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. And not for the first time. In the late 1970's the UK seriously considered abandoning its nuclear force since it was unaffordable and the country was broke. So there's a good chance that if their option is to spend all that money building a new submarine base, which would take years and years before it's operational then they may decide to toss all of it. They're not thrilled with leaving France as the

  • by Nyder (754090) on Friday August 22, 2014 @08:49AM (#47728229) Journal

    There is a problem with nuclear bombs these days. It's not that any of the countries that have them are going to use them, in all honesty, it seems like the places that have them have no desire to use them.

    So pissing off the countries that don't have them, means that if they can find a way to get them, they will use them on us. Why? Because No countries that have them will use them in retaliation.

    So in all honesty, the best bet would be to get rid of them all, so no one can get their hand on them and use them.

    They aren't protecting us anymore, they aren't protecting anyone anymore.

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