The Thoughts of Chairfur May...

A collection of opinions and thoughts on various topics by the OzFurry fox himself. Is he wise? Is he foolish? Is he profound? Or just crazy? Either way, you be the judge!

Gun-happy Americans - don't get me started!

The recent shooting at Littleton School in the USA has opened a lot of stuff up about the American appetite for the "right" to own firearms. Being (probably) the only country in the world where owning a firearm is a right, not a privilege, Americans are continually surprised about how much gun related crimes and shootings they have.

First, I have to say, I haven't been to the USA outside of a 9 hour stopover in Los Angeles on the way to Europe. Everything that I have seen on this in the USA has come from the media and the Internet. Also, I'm a New Zealander, a citizen of a country where, while we don't have a much vaulted Constitution and no-one has an automatic right to a gun, nevertheless has a proportionally much lower crime rate with guns.

The first thing that strikes me upon witnessing the debate over gun laws in the US is:

What's with this love affair Americans seem to have with their supposed God given right to arm themselves to the teeth?

Amid all the channel-surfing on cable I've been doing while working in the Philippines, I picked up an item on CNN (or was it CNBC?) where the president of the US NRA was being interviewed over gun control laws after the Littleton school killings. I can't believe that gun-ownership appears to be such a mania over in the USA, or that the NRA felt that a restriction of buying one gun a month was too much of a restriction on the rights of Americans to own guns.

What do they think people need enough guns for a small army for?

To defend against the Canadians?

To stop the British taking over again?

Especially when the USA has the biggest and most capable armed forces on the entire bloody planet!

"This is the beginning of the 21st Century guys, not the 19th!"

In New Zealand the laws on owning guns are pretty tight and you simply cannot carry a loaded pistol in public on your person for example, even for self-defence. Even security guards cannot carry guns in a normal situation - unlike here in the "Wild East" of the Philippines. But even here, Filipinos don't have this seemingly growing problem the USA has of kids going nuts with guns - they just have the usual disagreements and Mindanao insurrection going on...

Here's some common responses to this I've noticed, and my replies.

1. I collect (item). I wouldn't like anyone passing a law that says I can only buy one a month. Why are law abiding citizens forced to pay when evil individuals use guns?

I can appreciate your argument. But, a lot of collectibles are not the same as guns - it'd be pretty difficult to kill someone with them. Using that argument, that guns are just a simple commodity - then what's stopping me for example collecting functional replicas of nuclear weapons and cruise missiles? (Apart from the money involved!) After all, I'm a law-abiding collector, and it's evil people like terrorists who force me to pay the price for being unable to follow my hobby...

I agree with the comments by the NRA that the existing gun laws in the US should be enforced tighter than they are now. And also with the idea that no-one with a criminal record can ever buy guns legally. But then they say that "guns should be cheaper so no-one should be denied buying them" - I'm afraid my mind just boggles at that sort of statement.

2. If you want to stop senseless killings, ban the car!

Certainly, cars kill more people than guns (or airline accidents, etc). The thing is though - and I'm not saying that car deaths etc. are okay, I don't - but there's a difference between car and 'plane deaths and being shot with a weapon. Cars and other means of transportation are not designed to kill and/or destroy as part of their primary function. Guns are designed to kill, or otherwise take out their targets. If used correctly in the designed manner, cars are safe. If used correctly in the designed manner, guns destroy - and if someone's in the path of the bullet, they get killed or injured.

3. You're blaming the gun, not blaming the evil people who use guns. They're responsible, not the hardware.

I'm not blaming the gun, as in "The gun made them do it". I agree that evil people exist regardless of the availability of weapons. But to me, it simply comes down to reducing the potential mayhem they can cause when they do go nuts. For the Littleton shooting, I agree the kids were thoroughly screwed up and are totally responsible for what they did.

I'm simply saying that if there wasn't the easy access to guns most of these shootings wouldn't have happened, as they would only have been able to grab something of lesser killing ability. Also, in a given time-span, you can kill fewer people using a knife than with a gun...

4. What about collectors and hobbyists who like and collect guns?

I have no problem with collectors or target shooters. Or hunters. People who use firearms in a controlled setting for sport or a hobby. But I think there's something wrong with a society where it is considered acceptable to carry deadly force on your person just to stop yourself getting clobbered.

5. It's the principle of equal strength. A criminal isn't likely to attack someone who has the ability to return fire.

Wile this is certainly logical, I find that having to even use this reasoning is a sad indictment on a society. Sad in that people feel they have to carry weapons in order to be protected. I never want to see New Zealand like that. It's bad enough seeing the "No Firearms Please" signs and Valentine's Day ads for pistols in the Philippines.

Wouldn't the ability of the victim to return fire simply encourage the criminal to get his shots in first, to disable retaliation? Is this not encouraging a form of arms race between crims and citizens?

Not to mention that a place like Japan, with very tight gun laws, somehow manages to have a much lower crime rate than countries like the Philippines or the USA that do allow guns.

6. Armed citizens are a defence against the intrusion of government in our lives!

But ummm... you voted for the government you have, right? The USA keeps telling us about this wonderful democracy they have, but some people don't seem to have a lot of confidence in it. Do the people who accept this argument actually participate in political selection of their government by voting? Given that I've seen reports that only around 30% of the eligible US population actually bothered to vote in the last elections (as opposed to 85% in NZ in 1999), I doubt it.

And frankly, I find that the implied message that any country that doesn't allow possession of firearms on the level of the USA is somehow a dictatorship to be offensive and incredibly patronising. I have been to Western countries with fairly strict gun control laws (Australia, Great Britain and Japan), as well as living in one, and if these countries aren't free and open democracies I don't know what is! I certainly don't feel my freedom is being curtailed because I can't go and buy a gun in the same way as a bottle of Coke...

A Final Thought...

One expects to find the need to carry personal weapons in public on a day to day basis in unstable Third World countries like in Africa, parts of Asia and Latin America.

Not in First World countries, especially the worlds last remaining superpower.

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Copyright 1996, 2000 Terry Knight.
Last Updated November 2000
For more information contact: Terry Knight