Home > Oz Politics > Time to ban guns

Time to ban guns

December 16th, 2012

The horrific shootings in the US may or may not produce some restrictions on the gun culture there, but they provide a renewed warning of the dangers here. Australia has experienced a substantial reduction in gun deaths since John Howard bravely introduced severe restrictions in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre. But the gun nuts, aided and abetted by people like Campbell Newman, have been chipping away at those restrictions ever since.

It’s time to take a clear stand on this. There’s no reason why anyone should be allowed to own a handgun. Their sole purpose is to kill people. Those who need handguns for their work (like police officers[1] and armored car guards) should have them checked out at the beginning of each shift, checked back in at the end, and kept securely locked away when not in use. Farmers and professional shooters need rifles and shotguns, but anyone else who wants to use deadly weapons like these should seek psychiatric treatment. Anyone outside these categories found with a weapon designed to kill people should be assumed to have that end in mind and locked away from the rest of us until they can show that it is safe to let them out. And, obviously, military weapons should be confined to the military.

Undoubtedly, criminals will ignore the law – that’s why they’re criminals. But in a situation where only outlaws (and police) have guns, the possession of a gun will permit an easy conviction in cases where crims might otherwise get off.

fn1. As UK experience shows, there’s no reason for the majority of police to carry guns. That should be limited to trained specialists.

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  1. iain
    December 16th, 2012 at 21:21 | #1

    Even the case for farmers owning guns is weak.

    I have livestock and own a gun, and use it occasionally but could easily do without it, if good systems were in place.

    As mentioned on the other thread:

    Where there are more guns there is more homicide.


    Across high-income nations, more guns = more homicide.
    In the US, across states, more guns = more homicide.
    In the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.

  2. Fran Barlow
    December 16th, 2012 at 22:12 | #2

    These seem like sensible constraints PrQ. As a matter of interest, there’s a statistically significant corellation between domestic violence leading to a killing with a gun in the US and being a police or prison officer.

    There’s no reason for anyone to carry a gun, outside of work in the security business, or possibly, a farmer or professional shooter, in some circumstances.

  3. Fran Barlow
    December 16th, 2012 at 22:14 | #3

    oops: correlation

  4. Uncle Milton
    December 16th, 2012 at 22:48 | #4

    Who, besides police and armed guards, is presently allowed to possess handguns anyway?

  5. Ikonoclast
    December 16th, 2012 at 23:12 | #5

    I agree for the most part. I would probably allow for sports shooting (target shooting), some very limited rural gun ownership (farmers) and professional shooters who go after feral animals. The latter two groups need only long guns not hand guns.

    I am not a target shooter but I would not proscribe target shooting. However, target shooting hand guns and long guns should be strictly limited in design, fire rate and magazine capacity. In addition all target shooting guns should be kept in locked facilities at safe locations and require dual unlocking by two keys held by separate persons. Indeed, more restrictions might be necessary. In addition, it should be a crime to keep a gun at any residence, carry a gun in public or take a gun to any place of work, education or care or to any park, reserve or national park. Farmers would lock their gun in a safe-cabinet in a shed or barn.

    I’m not entirely sure why I would not ban target shooting. I think I just accept that afficiandos of a discipline, who practice it properly, ought to be able to follow their passion. After all, would we ban archery and fencing?

  6. Ikonoclast
    December 16th, 2012 at 23:13 | #6

    @Uncle Milton

    Any nutcase in America.

  7. iain
    December 16th, 2012 at 23:15 | #7

    Uncle Milton, in Australia, lots of people can get firearm ownership. Primary producers, “sports” shooters, certified business people, collectors etc.

    There are still lots of unnecessary words in Australian legislation, which (studies indicate) leads to unnecessary homicides.

  8. Jen Cluse
    December 16th, 2012 at 23:28 | #8

    An an old target shooter here ~~ think Olympics ~~ the establisher of a ‘small bore rifle club’, a contestant in the Queens Shoot, the child of a inveterate hunter (rabbits, foxes, goats – Sth Aust 1950’s – I hated it at the time but see the value now), I loath ‘guns’ in the hands of *anyone who is outside of a highly disciplined environment.

    Consider the trigger for these posts:

    One of the versions of the US Constitution states in full;

    “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”

    (As ratified by the States, and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State.
    Wikipedia ~~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution)

    I feel that the (US) National Rifle Association (NRA), and, by association, the US Supreme Court, has assumed a very twisted take on this text. The importantly conditionalising lead-in to that oft-quoted text, “the right . . (to) . . bear arms shall not be infringed” . . is the opening phrase “A well regulated militia being necessary . . “.

    Having any nut-case able to gain possession of a potentially appallingly destructive fire-arm is not my interpretation of a “regulated militia”. Ask any ex- or current military person for their opinion on this matter!

    One of the three things I give Australia’s Prime Minister Howard credit for was for his introduction of firearms control legislation, after Australians experienced the horror of a troubled person having been able to lay hands on fire-power that must ONLY be in the hands of a ‘well regulated militia’, or an Army. Like ours. (Such control. Such discipline. Such *intelligence.)

    Can the current US President echo our exemplar, Mr Howard?

    President Obama was a fine lawyer, and seems a fine person. Let’s hope for ‘their’ sake that he can make firm the US’s move in the direction of community rationality, the move that only one other in that benighted country has had the guts to attempt to make, President Clinton, et al. To restrict firearms by all means possible, and with no sunset clause.

    And let’s pray that our fine men continue to express their natural aggression, aggression fundamentally expressed as the ability to defend their brood at all cost, by one-on-one clean contestation between (almost) physical equals, so that only they get hurt, and so that hurt can be a mark of honour, not a reason for those men to be in the slammer for the rest of their lives.

    I hope. Earnestly.

  9. Uncle Milton
    December 16th, 2012 at 23:37 | #9


    Yes, but I asked about handguns in particular. I’m happy to be corrected if wrong, but I don’t think any member of the public can simply buy a handgun at their nearest Walmart (equivalent).

  10. Ben
    December 16th, 2012 at 23:43 | #10

    I hadn’t heard that General Disaster is siding with the gun nuts in Qld. That suggests that the chances of gun reform here (to undo those bad changes) are slim.

    But Prof Krugman suggests that the Democratic Party coalition is so strong now that it can beat the National Rifle Association in the US.

    He argues that rural whites who would never side with a supposedly Kenyan socialist atheist Islamist anyway have been, well, “outgunned”:


    Wishful thinking?

  11. Jordan
    December 17th, 2012 at 03:23 | #11

    @Uncle Milton
    Only at Walmart Supercenter, not all nearest Wallmarts are Supercenter. Every third Wallmart is.

  12. rog
    December 17th, 2012 at 03:52 | #12

    @Jen Cluse That Bill of Rights and 2nd amendment has been a hindrance to America. What was once appropriate given a certain set of circumstances has been used inappropriately by succeeding generations in different circumstances. Whole sections of the community have been stuck in a time warp having their lives constrained by fears held by the forebears hundreds of years ago. It really is time for them to move on.

  13. Katz
    December 17th, 2012 at 05:54 | #13

    As Adam Winkler shows:


    After the rise of civil rights agitation and black nationalism in the 1960s, the NRA was strongly in favour of stringent gun control.

    The collapse of the Black Panthers in the 1970s encouraged the radical wing of the NRA to wrest control of the organisation in the very same cause of anti-government self defence as the black Panthers. In othe words, the NRA became the White Black Panthers!

    I wonder if the real Black Black Panthers were to re-form, America would get a raft of gun control.

    This eventuality would be a powerful test of whether and to what degree the US is really “post-racial”.

  14. Gerard Nicol
    December 17th, 2012 at 06:19 | #14

    In NSW you can not just go out and buy a handgun. If you want one you need to go through a very long process and surrender a lot of rights such as allowing the police to enter your home without a search warrant.

    The current reports indicate that most (if not all) the people shot in the recent US event were shot with an automatic assault riffle.

    If you are white skinned you are only half as likely to be murdered by a gun in Australia than you are in the United States.

  15. Libertarian Woman
    December 17th, 2012 at 06:21 | #15

    Quiggin you need to check your facts before writing such drivel.


    In every country where guns are banned violence has increased.

  16. Libertarian Woman
    December 17th, 2012 at 06:23 | #16

    A “hindrance”?? Who do you think you are? That bill of rights is the only thing that has kept the socialists from destroying our republic. Australia seems could benefit from a dose of freedom if this is the way you people think.

  17. scott
    December 17th, 2012 at 06:34 | #17

    how refreshing to see people that dont live here discussing how we should live. remember that chicago,newyork and a slew of other places have very stringent gun policies. guess what? “gun homicides” and violent crime are statisticly worse there by far. while tradgedy is going happen no matter what i dont blame the tool i blame the user. since this forum is made of people that already have a anti gun agenda i most likely wont be back to see if this posts or how badly you try to prove me wrong by posting pretty graphs or stats.
    have a nice day! its a fine snowy day here in northern arizona where i still have the right to defend myself, use a gun to target practice or collect investments. goodday sheeple


  18. John Quiggin
    December 17th, 2012 at 06:48 | #18

    “how refreshing to see people that dont live here discussing how we should live. ”

    Umm, you appear to be describing yourself and “Libertarian woman”, since you claim to live in Arizona and you are commenting on a post about Australian gun laws.

  19. rog
    December 17th, 2012 at 06:58 | #19

    @Libertarian Woman The right to shoot wont stop people thinking and acting like socialists.

  20. TerjeP
    December 17th, 2012 at 07:46 | #20

    I think we should closely scrutinise people who buy matches and petrol. Did you know that in Australia you can buy petrol without ID or any background checks or any meaningful limits on the quantity or frequency of purchases. Nobody even asks what you are going to do with it. The same with matches. You can get them even in supermarkets. Some places even sell matches and petrol. It’s a joke!

  21. Katz
    December 17th, 2012 at 07:55 | #21

    So “Libertarian Woman” would have opposed Ronald Reagan’s disarming of the Black Panthers?

  22. Will
    December 17th, 2012 at 08:04 | #22

    @ Lolbertarian Woman

    At first I was sympathetic and approached your article with an open mind. That was changed when I started reaching the bottom, which is all categorically wrong. And I quote:

    “The Australian experience and the other historical facts above prove it. While the law-abiding citizens turned them in, the criminals did not, and criminals still possess their guns. Criminals in Australia now are guaranteed that their prey is unarmed. Guns in the hands of honest citizens save lives and property and, yes, gun-control laws ONLY adversely affect only the law-abiding citizens.

    Take note my fellow Americans, before it’s too late! The next time someone talks in favor of gun control, please remind them of this history lesson. With guns, we are ‘citizens’. Without them, we are ‘subjects’.

    One final statistic…

    Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 170 million ”

    You’re a kook. That is rubbish. “Gun control” did not cause 170 million deaths. Criminals will not “always” arm themselves with guns; they will do so in America where there are a lot of lazy, negligent gun owners and there are ample pickings.

    For the first part, with the pretty graphs and statistics, Australia has a much smaller population than the US, laws change all the time, the data was in an upward trend before the gun “ban”, etc etc. I just wish you clods would remove the hyperbolic “freedom rah rah rah” BS so that the data could stand on it’s own merits (which as I have said, is not great).

  23. Ikonoclast
    December 17th, 2012 at 08:07 | #23

    Libertarian Woman :
    Quiggin you need to check your facts before writing such drivel.
    In every country where guns are banned violence has increased.

    “Libertarian Lunatic” would be a more appropriate tag.

    Loony Libertarians;

    (1) Lie.
    (2) Make up statistics.
    (3) Deny empirical evidence.
    (4) Take all their spurious “facts” from the Murdoch Press, Fox, shock jocks and hate jocks.
    (5) Have no idea about disciplines like science, maths and statistics.
    (6) Derive ethics via solipsism (only the self exists).

    Loony Libertarians cannot be reasoned with. They do not respond to science or logic. They do not understand that morality requires regard of the other as well as regard of the self.

    Don’t waste your time. Deride and ostracise is the only approach to be used with the more flagrant Loony Libertarians like SATP and Libertarian Woman. It’s best to summarily dismiss these loonies and get on with educating those who are actually educable.

    Note: I don’t regard TerjeP as a Loony Libertarian. Part of the reason is that TerjeP’s politics clearly proceed from a different and better spirit than that of the Loony Libertarians.

  24. Katz
    December 17th, 2012 at 08:17 | #24


    Errm yairs.

    What right does the government have to prevent me from purchasing 300kg of ammoni*m n*trate to fertilise my small but sadly barren inner suburban back yard?

    It’s a disgrace.

  25. Ikonoclast
    December 17th, 2012 at 08:31 | #25


    Many objects and substances can be purchased which are dangerous and destructive or can be put to such uses. The list is endless. A screwdriver, a kitchen knife, a baseball bat, a shovel, a lump of wood, a bottle of acid or a plastic bag with a drawstring can all be used to harm or kill. A car can be used to harm or kill by design, negligence or other malfeasance. Notice how difficult it is to get a car licence now. It requires one hundred hours of tuition and then a comprehensive test and then years on a provisional licence. But all of these goods have valid and useful purposes.

    In practical terms and at law, certain goods are regarded as too dangerous to be freely purchased. In most cases this is because these goods have no purpose other than to take human life. I suspect even you do not want to see high powered automatic weapons, grenades, rocket launchers, APCs, and tanks made available for free public purchase. Or even large quantities of detonators and high explosives for that matter.

    So it is clear even you would draw the line at some point. The argument is thus not about whether to restrict some goods. The argument is about where to draw the line. The clearest line is between goods with a legitimate peaceful purpose and goods with no legitimate peaceful purpose. (In some cases, guns and explosives have legitimate peaceful purposes but their use is highly controlled – e.g. mining explosives.)

    On the grounds of logical discrimination for peaceful purpose your point is invalid.

  26. John Quiggin
    December 17th, 2012 at 08:53 | #26

    I don’t think it’s worth responding seriously to glibertarian snarks like the one Terje posted.

  27. wilful
    December 17th, 2012 at 09:43 | #27

    I speak as a farmer and son of farmers, with no mystique for me about the proper ownership and use of firearms, and I mostly agree with you. Single shot rifles are a necessary tool of the trade for farmers for humane destruction of stock and vermin control, and the public land/outback hunting community mostly do little harm, sometimes do some good (though mostly vastly overstated) in controlling feral pigs, goats, foxes and dogs. They only need bolt action rifles for this. Shotguns are for killing ducks and birds and I have a problem with this, but accept that my views aren’t supreme, people do seem to enjoy it without massive harm. Semi-automatic and automatic weapons and all handguns have one design purpose, and that is to kill people. They should all be banned outright – but in effect they mostly are, the gain from this move wouldn’t be great. Still worthwhile though.

  28. moz shoots pest animals
    December 17th, 2012 at 09:46 | #28

    If by “farmer” you mean “rural landowner”, then yes, full support.

    I don’t know the detail of Oz gun laws, because I’ve only owned guns in NZ. There, you’re not allowed to fire a gun within 200m of a dwelling unless you’re in a rifle range. Which makes it pretty much impossible to fire one in an urban area. But NZ is full of pest animals and some of them really need guns to control (experience talking, I don’t like guns but didn’t feel I had much choice).

    What they do have in NZ is rental gun lockers at police stations. You pay an annual fee, the cops look after your gun. If you want it, you wander down and show ID etc, they hand it over, you bring if back afterwards. In a 24 hour manned station, that’s available 24 hours (hunting often takes place at unsocial hours). I love that system, because it means I don’t have to fork out for a proper gun safe, and it makes owning a gun and living in rental accommodation much easier. And I don’t have to worry about gun theft.

    The hassle is that manned cop shops in rural areas can be few and far between. But if, like me, you’re travelling to the property from a city, you’re bound to go through a town on the way that has a cop shop.

    If you want to control dangerous equipment, I think starting at the top of the death toll is the place to start. Motor vehicles, specifically. Kill someone while using one, even accidentally, and we should deal with the driver more vigorously than saying “oh no, you must feel awful”. “Show cause” would be an excellent thing.

  29. Ikonoclast
    December 17th, 2012 at 09:47 | #29

    John Quiggin :
    I don’t think it’s worth responding seriously to glibertarian snarks like the one Terje posted.

    True. I only did it because TerjeP has some ideas worth engaging on in other areas. Oh, and the other reason is that it is amusing to see how easy it is to logically refute such snarks.

  30. BilB
    December 17th, 2012 at 09:57 | #30

    Well the difference there Terje, is that you cannot burn down twenty eight houses in just a few minutes with a can of petrol and a box of matches. And one cannot be a “sniper aresenist” picking off houses from a thousand feet away. It is also very difficult to conceal can of accelerant in ones pocket. This is not a parallel risk.

    Yes people are killed by arsenists and that is also evil.

  31. Sporting Shooter
    December 17th, 2012 at 11:09 | #31

    As a Sporting Shooter, and former police employee, does John Quiggan have qualifications that deem I need psychiatric treatment ??

    Tell that to the members of the Australian Olympic and Paralymic Shooting Teams.

    Should they, by John Quiggans assessment of their Sporting choices deem to be committed ??

    I think a lot of the people making comments on gun Control need to take a deep breath, and to look at the current firearms legislation, and the requirements that LICENSED Sporting Shooters like myself have to comply with, BEFORE making uninformed commentary.

    ie: Gun Registration
    Firearms Licencing
    Firearms Safekeeping

    etc etc etc

    Once you understand fully what a Licenced Shooter has to go through, then you will be in a position to place sensible commentary.

    PS 1: Unlicensed Shooters and holders of Unregistered Firearms will not be worried about any
    “gun control”.

    PS 2: I understand if this comment does not appear, or does so in a highly edited manner, due to
    my views differing from the blog owner.

    PS 3: Funny how Economists have views on everything as well as Economics.

    Ross Garnaut – Climate Change
    Tim Flannery – Climate Change
    John Quiggan – Climate Change and Gun Control

  32. Jim Birch
    December 17th, 2012 at 11:13 | #32

    You’re being grandiose and silly again. If it became fashionable and legal for young men to carry tactical nuclear warheads on their hips we might expect you and even some of more serious libertarian nut jobs to go rushing into the weapon control camp after a couple of adverse events. Yes? No?

    It’s all a cost-benefit trade-off. In this case, the negative effect of allowing access to weapons that allow efficient killing of people is matched against the “right” to own anything. And if people started fire-bombing schoolrooms full of children we would reasonably expect the “right” to bear petrol containers to be looked at too.

    People become so habituated to their own talk of rights that they come to believe that they are “out here” properties of the world rather than what might more accurately be referred to as group hallucinations, commonly believed narratives, or by that sweet French expression folie à plusieurs (madness of many). This is not to dismiss shared narratives, they have clearly had radical impacts on human welfare – and indeed may the basis of our species’ wild successes and failings – but to argue that their value lies not in the intensity of their habituation or emotional resonance with particular groups of individuals but in the benefits they bring to human welfare. If this line is correct, then the real argument should be that periodically sacrificing a few dozen school kids is fair value for the utility and pleasure of assault rifle ownership. For some reason, this is an argument I haven’t heard bandied about with much intensity, or even at all, it all comes down to these fantastic “rights”.

    (Sorry, John.)

  33. December 17th, 2012 at 11:19 | #33

    Personally, I find that the act of beating someone unconscious so I can pour petrol on them satifies my urge to kill.

  34. scott
    December 17th, 2012 at 11:33 | #34

    ah yes you have a point JQ but when you use the USA as a talking point it is my right to chime in on your rant. no? you as a self professed leftist (socialist-democrat) are following in the footsteps of mau zedong, pol pot and hitler himself. does that not disturb you? if the world didnt have evil tyranical people i would gladly give up my arms but since it isnt all butterflies and rainbows i will keep my arms. make me fear for my life or anothers and i will unzip em faster than you can say liberal/communist/socialist.
    a thinking man can do just as much damage without a gun. believe me.

  35. Will
    December 17th, 2012 at 12:22 | #35

    OK, now here’s the latest moronic drivel from the RW zealot media. Some other nutbar apparently wanted to shoot up a mall in Portland but he was challenged by a concealed carry holder and another crisis was averted. Therefore, guns save lives. This is the kind of stuff that makes you wonder whether half the population has been secretly drinking turpentine.

    It’s the old “heads I win, tails you lose” game. Criminals will always commit murders so you can have that one, but guns also provide freedom, that one’s for me. So society is say 20 people better off according to their reckoning while their opponents is the cause of the 27 killed the other day.

    “What about gun control leading to no massacres? Why can’t I claim that none of these incidents have occurred due to legislation? Society will therefore be 27 + 20 (say) people better off?”



  36. NickR
    December 17th, 2012 at 12:27 | #36

    @Jim Birch
    “It’s all a cost-benefit trade-off”

    Exactly. I don’t like imposing on gun owners, but I dislike gun violence a lot more.

    It seems to me that the main advantage of gun control is that it reduces the scope for accidents and impulse killings, rather than premeditated shooting rampages.

    However I did read an argument that having guns widely available ‘primes’ people for violence, making the idea of shooting someone more psychologically accessible.

  37. David Irving (no relation)
    December 17th, 2012 at 12:49 | #37

    Uncle Milton @ 4 & 9, it’s possible (although not easy) to legally own handguns in Australia. (I only know about SA in detail, but the other states have broadly similar restrictions.)

    To be licensed to own (or even shoot) any kind of firearm, you have to do a course in gun safety then, on passing it, wait for at least 14 days to get approval from the police to get a license. They do a pretty stringent check.

    To be allowed to own handguns, you need to join a gun club, do a further safety course (usually through the club), then, on passing it, spend the next 6 months as an active club member before being able to apply for a permit to acquire a handgun. This will be limited in calibre to .22 (or an air pistol). After another 6 months as an active club member, you can buy bigger guns, although there are further restrictions on calibres greater than 9 mm. Handguns can only be used at an approved range, and must be kept in a gun safe at all other times.

    Every time you want to buy a gun of any sort, you have to apply for a permit to acquire, which takes at least 14 days to approve so the police can check you all over again.

    So, the only people who can be bothered are those who (like me) enjoy target shooting.

  38. TerjeP
    December 17th, 2012 at 12:50 | #38

    Will – most massacre style events end because some other party with a firearm arrives to either terminate the perpetrator or to pursued them to stand down or suicide. Sometimes it is the police, sometimes it is a member of the public. Either way it is to be warmly welcomed. When it is a member of the public who is already on hand the body count tends to be vastly lower than when police are the final solution. The police simply can’t be everywhere. We ought to deputise lots of people in society with life saving skills. Sometimes that will mean giving CPR before the ambulance arrives, sometimes it will mean stopping a criminal before the cops arrive.

  39. John Quiggin
    December 17th, 2012 at 12:59 | #39

    My view that the law needs further tightening largely reflects this case in which a delusional paranoid legally acquired six guns, which he used to kill or wound a number of fellow-students at Monash University. Although the law was tightened in the immediate aftermath, it’s been relaxed in various ways since then


  40. David Irving (no relation)
    December 17th, 2012 at 13:05 | #40

    Terje @ 38, you’re just making s**t up. These massacres usually end when the police arrive (if the killer hasn’t already topped himself), sure, but police officers are trained to shoot.

    I know from personal experience that it’s quite difficult to hit a stationary target at a known range with a handgun, let alone a target that’s moving around and shooting back. I guarantee that if an armed member of the public returned fire, the death toll would be higher, not lower.

  41. Peterm
    December 17th, 2012 at 13:23 | #41

    I’ve notice no one mentions the Swiss and Scandinavian situation with respect to an armed population. Marksmanship is one of the national sports o the Swiss going back to the time of William Tell. Mind you every Swiss male is expected to undertake the necessary military training on the use of their firearms and to keep their state issued rifle ready to defend the country. Much of the original USA constitution was sourced from the Swiss so the current Swiss situation was probably what the second amendment was hoping to achieve. It seems to have gone of the rails somewhere along the line and the well regulated clause has been forgotten.

    Mind you, both the Swiss and the Norwegians have had mass shootings in recent years so there is a still a price to be payed in innocent lives for having a well regulated militia.

  42. Katz
    December 17th, 2012 at 13:32 | #42

    @Libertarian Woman

    Your link quotes John Steinbeck approvingly.

    Are you aware that John Steinbeck was a member of several communist front organisations?

  43. Ikonoclast
    December 17th, 2012 at 13:59 | #43

    @Sporting Shooter

    You will note;

    1. Prof. J.Q. did not censor your post.
    2. Sporting shooters are not in serious danger of losing that pastime.
    3. Many advocates of gun control (like myself at post 5) do not want a ban on target shooting.

    In fact, apart from defined occupations and maybe collectors with weapons rendered inoperational, all other members of the public wishing to own a gun should be compelled to join a registered shooters club, undergo vetting by club members, the police and criminal and medical checks. Then undergo a licenced training and gun safety program before applying for a gun licence. Further limits should be placed on where the gun is permitted to be stored.

    If “Economists have views on everything as well as Economics” then that means they are just like the rest of us. In fact, being an informed citizen means having views on a wide range of topics in order to make an informed choice at election time and at public meetings, forums etc.

  44. Fran Barlow
    December 17th, 2012 at 14:40 | #44

    It’s true that the United States does not have the highest firearms-related death rate in the world. Here are some countries that do worse than the US in this respect:

    South Africa, Philippines, Mexico, Panama, Brazil, Colombia, Swaziland, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, El Salvador. (NB: Not a complete list of countries as not all report)

    Interestingly, Canada — a substantially English-speaking country with an advanced economy in close contact with the US — has about half the death-rate per 100,000 (4.76 v 9.00) as the US, and of this half, about 77% (3.72/4.78) are suicides. A little more than 63% of the US rate are suicides (5.75/9.00)

  45. Will
    December 17th, 2012 at 15:16 | #45

    Final thought of the day:

    Looking into my crystal ball in the wake of the Newtown tragedy and Obama’s address, I can forecast guns and ammo being sold out all across the US of A as nutbars of all varieties once again stock up before Obama implements his “upcoming gun ban” to lead the States into a Maoist dictatorship, or whatever. Interesting to note that the most vocal about arming themselves to escape government tyranny are also keen on a lot of other loony ideas, such as the gold standard, anti-vaccination and birtherism. The Newtown gunman’s mother was one of those Doomsday whackos. Given the self-reinforcing nature (crisis leads to paranoia and gun ownership) of this particular worldview I sadly do not expect the rate of these incidents to decrease.

  46. Sam
    December 17th, 2012 at 15:51 | #46

    I’m pretty happy with the way gun laws are at the moment in Australia. I’m not sure tightening them further would do anything to reduce our already low rate of gun-related homicide. I certainly wouldn’t argue relaxing them though.

    In the US at the very least they should reinstate the assault weapons ban. It’s appalling such things are legal.

    Having said that, there are times an armed civilian uprising against a totalitarian state is justified, and it’s naive and complacent to pretend otherwise. The chance of such a government coming to power is low, but they havoc they wreak when they do is so extreme that it can’t be ignored. You might think the days when we had to worry about this sort of thing are over, but the chaos in southern Europe at the moment says otherwise. If the political party Golden Dawn looked like it had a real shot at power in Greece, I would totally support a paramilitary decapitory strike in the middle of the night on all of its leaders by Jewish partisan groups.

  47. David Irving (no relation)
    December 17th, 2012 at 15:51 | #47

    Will (and others), there were ammunition shortages (particularly in handgun and medium-sized rifle calibres) in Australia just after Obama’s first election – the US manufacturers were looking after their primary market, who were apparently terrified by the thought of a man of colour in the White House …

    I think there was also a fenzy of gun’n’ammo purchase leading up to the recent election.

  48. Fran Barlow
    December 17th, 2012 at 16:03 | #48

    oops … accidentally posted.

    The homicide rate with a firearm in the US is roughly four times that of Canada (0.76 v 2.98)

    When one divides the number of privately owned small firearms by the number of residents, the US has 88.8 per resident and Canada 30.8. There’s no really good correlation between guns per individual and homicides using firearms though. Some developing countries have very high mortality rates and quite low gun ownership within the population. Finland has slightly higher gun ownership rates than canada but about 1/3 the mortality of Canada and 1/12 that of the US.

    Plainly, gun homicides are multi-factorial. Plainly, homicides by the police count in the figures so in substantial part the nature of policing is an issue. Crime associated with the distribution of drugs is lower in Finland and Canada than the US and control of turf is enforced in the US with guns. One suspects that this is a factor in some developing countries too. Of course, wide availability of guns does make gun-based violence more technically feasible. This may not simply reflect lax gun laws in the US, but the comparative ease with which contraband can be moved across the borders of the US.

    Firearms rules are far stricter than in the US. Gun registration is of longstanding and so are gun safes. Semi-Automatic weapons must be stored in the gun safe in an inoperable condition and with the firing bolt stored in a separate secure place.

    The rules in Finland are similar and also one has to have legitimate reason to own a gun (apart from “self-defence”) sports or hobby shooting, a professional need, etc and the applicant must prove that he or she is actually using firearms for the stated purpose.

    Many of spree killings (not just those in the US) appear to be an elaborate attempt at stylised suicide — the “blaze of glory” exit — hence the combat gear and other accessories. Commonly, there are elements of the “family annihilator” (to use the US term). Spree killers often start their sprees by killing parents and other close relatives. This strongly recommends family and general social dysfunction as a significant predisposing factor. Paranoia and persecution complexes are also a persistent theme, and again, it’s easy to see how the mythology of the US — born out of the struggle against tyranny, and founded on the rights of the individual creates a template for those suffering from existential or socio-spatial angst to become criminally delusional. The 2nd Amendment is close to a cultural credo for angst about the government and the community more broadly. In a country that does so poorly in education, the welfare of individuals in school and at work and in mental health more generally, easy access to guns simply opens the door to random violence. Yes, people are the killers of people, but people with guns have an advantage in killing people over those who don’t. Suicides are imulsive acts. Guns should not be in the hands of people who are inclined to act on impulse and who feel threatened by others.

  49. Fran Barlow
    December 17th, 2012 at 16:12 | #49


    Having said that, there are times an armed civilian uprising against a totalitarian state is justified, and it’s naive and complacent to pretend otherwise.

    Well yes, but that is not what we are discussing here. An armed uprising against a totalitarian state would be justified, but seriously difficult. Totaliatarianism arises in circumstances where the opposition is atomised. Putting together an armed uprising would be hard because whether there were guns about to be had or not, organising would be very difficult. Armed uprisings against a well-entrenched state power are a desperate thing, attempted when nothing else is plasuible and this too is improbable.

    In any event, these “autogenic massacres” are not “political” in the usual sense of the term but manifestations of rage combined with a willingness to self-harm and often associated too with narcissism and megalomania.

  50. December 17th, 2012 at 16:24 | #50

    The odd thing is, a large number of US citizens who are very vocal about needing freedom of gun ownership to protect their nation from tyranny are often also quite vocal about insisting that they already live under tyrannical government, which rather undermines their point as obviously their freedom of gun ownership did nothing to prevent it.

  51. BilB
    December 17th, 2012 at 16:37 | #51

    I think that it is time to trot out the Magpul FMG-9 video again


    Just think about the sentiments and ideas displayed in this video. The selling point that you would want to have one of these in your back pocket when you put out the trash, or check the mail box. Just in case you might need to……..

    “….get down to business!”

    The other notion here is that Magpul have absolutely no intention of manufacturing this “thinking out loud” weapon. It is just an idea. Now have a look and see just how much excitement it has created. How long will it be before you can buy it on line?

    This whole thing is out of control.

  52. TerjeP
    December 17th, 2012 at 16:37 | #52

    David Irving – you’re making s##t up. The police sometimes stop the massacre and sometimes it is stopped by civilians. For example the Monash University Shooting was stopped by two civilians, one of whom was a martial arts practitioner. It was not stopped by police.

    In terms of massacres being stopped by armed civilians there are plenty of accounts from the US. The following blog post outlines many:-


  53. Sam
    December 17th, 2012 at 16:48 | #53

    @Fran Barlow
    I agree with your first paragraph. The time for an armed uprising is just before the totalitarians rise to power. At the moment it doesn’t look likely for Greece, but that could change very quickly. The Nazis (Sorry, Godwin I know, but we all knew it would happen!) never had more than a plurality of votes. The display of base thuggery they put on by Golden Dawn during a live TV interview, when even the leader couldn’t restrain himself from physically attacking female members of the opposition, convinces me that the only sane thing to do with these people is to kill them in their beds before they do it to us.

    I’m not sure what “autogenic” means. Self good? My point was that total disarmament of the civilian uprising makes it much more difficult to carry out these very occasionally necessary prophylactic measures.

  54. TerjeP
    December 17th, 2012 at 17:00 | #54

    My view that the law needs further tightening largely reflects this case in which a delusional paranoid legally acquired six guns, which he used to kill or wound a number of fellow-students at Monash University.

    JQ – I don’t know anybody who would argue with that logic. Unless your starting point is to assume that all people who want to buy guns are delusional paranoids. If you look at pro-firearm organisations like the NRA in the US or the LDP in Australia they support licensing regimes for shooters because the evidence is pretty clear that some people should not have firearms. Of course the difficulty is in categorising people effectively and having a regime that doesn’t leak. Preferably without unnecessarily inconveniencing people who are in the good guy category but with due regard to the risk of category errors. A total ban on firearms will create a class of people opposed to the regime. It will create a ready market for illegal firearms. Like drug prohibition it will have unintended consequences. If you want good will from the community of shooters in Australia a good starting point would be to show good will towards them. If you want to create a criminal class and drive shooting underground then be prepared to own the consequences.

  55. TerjeP
    December 17th, 2012 at 17:07 | #55

    A good licensing regime should be:-

    a) as simple as possible for all involved.
    b) ensure those that are licensed are competent with firearms.
    c) ensure those that are licensed don’t pose an unacceptable risk to others by virtue of being licensed.

    Point c) should be in the context of our risk tolerance in all areas of public policy. For instance licensing a motor vehicle owner also entails some risks to others. Letting people buy matches entails some risks as per the Childers backpacker killing.

  56. Katz
    December 17th, 2012 at 17:26 | #56

    One of the arguments against easy access to firearms is the number of accidental deaths, especially children.

    In 2008 there were 680 accidental firearms deaths of all causes in the US

    In 2010 there were 56 accidental firearms deaths of all causes in Australia.

    The population of the US is approx 15x larger than the Aust pop.

    Yet US deaths are only 12x larger.

    Given the huge proliferation of firearms in the US, the record of gun safety in the US impressive.

  57. TerjeP
    December 17th, 2012 at 18:07 | #57

    Yet Australia generally has much tougher firearm storage laws.

  58. Katz
    December 17th, 2012 at 18:12 | #58


    Looks like Australia’s gun culture is dangerous.

  59. Sam
    December 17th, 2012 at 18:26 | #59

    Should be “The base thuggery displayed by Golden Dawn..”

  60. Fran Barlow
    December 17th, 2012 at 18:28 | #60


    I’m not sure what “autogenic” means.

    Self-generating. The output comes from within rather than being prompted from without. cf: anthopogenic — generated/caused by humans {climate change}

    The display of base thuggery they put on by Golden Dawn during a live TV interview, when even the leader couldn’t restrain himself from physically attacking female members of the opposition, convinces me that the only sane thing to do with these people is to kill them in their beds before they do it to us.

    If your fear is an autocracy based around the impulses of extra-state thugs then the last thing you want to do is to create a natural alliance between the state and their putative thugs. I’m sure you will recall that the Trotskyists advocated mass intimidation, dispersion and humiliation of these groups whenever the balance of forces was in favour of the working people and their allies. Murder or even potentially lethal or substitutionist violence was never proposed.

  61. Sam
    December 17th, 2012 at 18:47 | #61

    @Fran Barlow
    My fear is that thugs become the state, and that the unquestionable monopoly on violence enjoyed by state security forces are placed in their service. If this looked likely, it would be justified to carry out extra-state killing to prevent it. It would be harder to do this with an outright ban on guns.

  62. ChrisPer
    December 17th, 2012 at 19:35 | #62

    So shooting hobbyists are now not merely to be denied the benefit of our good reputation, but forced into psychiatric treatment after our valued property is stolen? JQ, this sounds like a nasty totalitarian society indeed. Perhaps its a natural next step after the push for Media control, in a crowd desperate for political cover over their failed economic ideas and a deeply incompetent government.

    I hesitate to launch this discussion in a climate clearly hostile to non-emotional arguments, but perhaps the good Doctor would tell us the murder and accident rates in Austrlalia per 100,000 licenced shooters, and tabulate it against the murder rates per 100,000 ordinary citizens, or even by ethnic group where the persons identify with such a group?
    What is startling about the figures is how little effect the laws had in many ways. The downtrend in gun murder and gun suicide ran since the late eighties or early nineties, and each legislative change appears to not correlate with inflection points or step changes at all. A simple before and after average of gun suicides has been used to claim benefits; but in the presence of a constant downtrend is an obvious false positive for ‘interested’ parties to hang their hats on. There was a clear rise in hanging suicides starting slightly before and exactly matching in rate a downtrend in firearm suicides.

    Of course, it takes a special level of intellectual dishonesty to pretend that removing ‘automatic and semi-automatic weapons’ is going to reduce suicides, when they have been substituted almost one for one by manual repeating or single shot firearms.

    It is far more likely that fashion effects are in play, and making shoting deeply unpopular also made shooting suicide unattractive.

    May I ask if you have any opinion on the effect of imitative behaviours? For suicide there are clear reporting guidelines in place that, when broken, create a rash of copycat suicides. Gun massacres have been called ‘para-suicide events’ by criminologists.

    In Australia, there was a prime-time teaching seminar on how to get illegal guns on national television six months before Port Arthur , and that killer bought his AR15 ‘about five months’ ago’ before the massacre. He launched his killings as the media craze over the Dunblane murders subsided.

    Lee Rhiannon spent a huge effort after the 1997 buyback going on national media to alert the public how they could get semi-automatic handguns, which very likely roused the interest of a certain foreign student. After weeks of crazed media attention on the Washington snipers, that man acted out his paranoid delusions and shot seven people at Monash University, killing two.

    It is possible that safe storage and background checks have contributed to a slight increase in community safety. It is extremely doubtful that the buybacks did any good whatever, except to make smug, self-righteous people very proud that they joined a lynch mob against the people who did not commit any crime.

  63. Jim Rose
    December 17th, 2012 at 19:35 | #63

    gun control is easy in australia because there is a low-gun equilibrium. Gun crime is low.
    see http://www.harryrclarke.com/2012/12/16/gun-control-in-the-us-will-fail/#comments where HC points out that
    “the political popularity of guns is strengthened by Prisoner’s Dilemma disincentives for individuals to retreat from high levels of gun ownership. Accepting a gun buyback would be unattractive to citizens who would recognize high levels of overall gun ownership in the community and, hence, their own personal increased vulnerability if those with criminal intent acted rationally and kept their weapons.”

    I agree with HC. It is hard to get out of an arms race. wishful thinking will not help. there is no arms race in australia, so there are far more options.

  64. John Quiggin
    December 17th, 2012 at 20:00 | #64

    @Katz. Unless you have good evidence, I’d be inclined to suggest problems with inconsistent measurement. This source suggests that firearms accident deaths have generally been lower than the number you quote for 2010


  65. Jordan
    December 17th, 2012 at 20:32 | #65

    I would like to trow in a wild theory about mass shootings that i have been carrying arround for a while now. And a prediction; there will be few more shootings in next 5 days, and then slow down.
    My wild theory is that mass shooters truly believe in comming apocalypse and think, “what does it matter if i kill few people when apocalypse will kill billions prety soon”.

  66. Katz
    December 17th, 2012 at 20:34 | #66

    Here ya go JQ

    http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/[email protected]/Lookup/145E222CF0CADBC0CA257410000FC26C?opendocument

    These are ABS figures from 2006.

    Evidently, things deteriorated after 2001, the last date in your link.

  67. John Hubbard
    December 18th, 2012 at 05:26 | #67

    The problem with Fran’s postulation is that if you wait for the totalitarians to amass power you will find they have taken your guns away and you are now rotting in prison.

  68. Sam
    December 18th, 2012 at 07:58 | #68

    @John Hubbard
    That’s true, so you should launch your paramilitary operation before it gets to that point, but after it looks very likely to happen.

  69. Ikonoclast
    December 18th, 2012 at 08:26 | #69

    One thing people should remember is that under enough pressure anyone can “go postal”. It is not necessarily the case that paranoics have low impulse and anger control. It is quite likely that full-blown paranioa imposes enormous stresses and pressures on the rest of the personality and all its regulating mechanisms. Reality checking is also compromised. If you put people in the normal psychological range under enough stress you will get behaviour equivalent to paranoic and psychotic behaviour.

    Thus if a government creates a large, disposessed and alienated underclass it is multiplying the probability of these “random” events not to mention riot and violent revolution. Riot and violent revolution, at least in their more spontaneous forms are just bunches of people “going postal” in concert. The easily apparent shift in the group norm re the acceptability and supposed utility of violence facilitates that shift in individuals.

  70. Tom
    December 18th, 2012 at 09:07 | #70


    While knowing what your trying to argue here, your argument is very weak. With the modern military power, if a government turns totalitarian, a gun is simply not enough to do any paramilitary operation other than maybe assassination. So to make your argument viable, you have to argue for RPGs, Anti-Air Missiles, Land Mines, Remote Explosives, and perhaps tactical nuclear warheads etc. to be available for sale on the market.

  71. Fran Barlow
    December 18th, 2012 at 09:27 | #71


    That’s true of course, and it’s not merely military power in the orthodox sense that is in their asset column. Unlike the 19th century, modern transport and comms infrastructure accords states tremendous tactical advantages over relatively disorganised citizens. This advantage imposes a very high personal cost on anyone contemplating armed revolt and argues against organising one except in the most dire of circumstances — i.e where the cause would likely be hopeless but the stakes are so high and so certain to materialise that the downside risk is negligible.

    There’s no way that a civilian insurgency could command airspace, or rapidly move offensive forces possessed of the firepower needed to defeat a unit of the regular military or even the paramilitaries on a regular basis. Your only real hope is to divide the armed forces and paralyse it from within — but for that you need not guns but effective political insurgency. The idea of an armed revolt succeeding against any but a state in at least partial decomposition (and that only with external assistance from a militarily well-resourced external entity) is a romantic fantasy. Typically, in these cases, totalitarianism* is threatened by agents peripheral to the state rather than the state as a whole, and so splitting the armed forces becomes a plausible scenario.

    That is not to deny that here and there, possession of weapons by those allied with the resisters, and who are competent in their deployment may prove useful. To do so however, there must at least be the prospect of a serious contest for power between putative authoritarians and those opposed to it.

    *totalitarianism probably should be reserved for states such as Pol Pot’s Kampuchea, or the DPRK, or perhaps Turkmenistan. States like Russia and China are probably better described as coercive or authoritarian as open dissent attracts a degree of toleration.

  72. Katz
    December 18th, 2012 at 10:15 | #72

    Armed revolts alone have never been effective against a modern state (let us say, a nation state based on Napoleonic or post-Napoleonic principles.

    Even the highly successful Parliamentary forces of the English Civil War were defeated by a crisis of legitimacy. Remarkably, apart from that factor, the Protectorate was running quite smoothly. For example, it suffered no tax revolt and its finances were in sound order.

    Modern states, whether blatantly coercive or not, in addition to broad tacit consent of their populations, rely for survival upon complex and intricate systems. These systems are particularly vulnerable to various forms of sabotage and compromise. Personal weaponry of the kind imagined by the most liberal reading of the US Second Amendment can be an adjunct in such a struggle. When the state decides to coerce openly its agents must face a credible threat to life and limb. But sometimes the will of the state to fight evaporates.

    Some modern examples:

    Despite denials, the Thatcher government had been negotiating with the IRA since 1990. The Bishopsgate bomb of 1993 threatened to destroy London’s status as a world financial centre. The IRA wrested huge concessions from the Major government. None of this would have been possible but for the existence of an armed guerrilla force.

    In 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed from with hardly a shot fired. There was no armed insurgency. However, the armed forces of the Soviet Union including, incredibly, the shock troops of the KGB, refused to follow orders to suppress civilian demonstrations, including encirclement of the Lubyanka and the removal of the giant statue of Iron Feliks. Communist loyalists recognised that from that moment their cause was lost.

  73. Sam
    December 18th, 2012 at 10:48 | #73

    @Fran Barlow @Tom
    Targeted assassination – especially of people who aren’t yet heads of state – is still possible without tanks and rpgs though. A hundred semi-trained people with bolt action guns could take out the entire leadership of Golden Dawn in one “night of the long knives”-style event. And new technology can often help disorganized groups as well as governments. Terrorists seem to make good use of cell phones, encryption, and the internet.

    I should emphasise that this should only be done in extreme cases, where a genocidal political party looks likely to take power. It should go without saying that there is no political figure anywhere in Australia with more than 1% of the vote who would merit this type of action, and nor has there ever been to my knowledge. Joh Bjelke-Peterson comes the closest, running a heavily gerrymandered government based on corruption, illegalization of protest, and implicit support of police brutality, but even then his actions were not in my view extreme enough to warrant “second-amendment measures.”

  74. Ikonoclast
    December 18th, 2012 at 12:46 | #74

    I agree with Fran and Katz. Being a redneck with a hunting rifle is not going to enable you to overthrow a totalitarian regime with modern command and control and a modern army. The civil service, police and army all need to be split and a good part of it side with the people.

  75. TerjeP
    December 18th, 2012 at 16:31 | #75

    With enough guns in the population you can force the military to have to make a clear decision between staying loyal to the regime or else taking casualties and killing civilians. The right pressure applied at the right time can change history. That said I wouldn’t rely too heavily on this argument to oppose all gun control. I would use it however as part of an argument to oppose the sort of blanket ban proposed by John Quiggin. A position I find to be extremist and totalitarian.

    My view of “rights” is that however they come into existance they ought to be removed by governments only on a case by case basis and only via a transparent procedure based on evidence. As such the government can deprive you of liberty (put you in prison) only after a fair trial. I personally believe we should regard the ownership of personal weapons of defence in the same manner (ie as a right). However we should allow governments to remove that right on a case by case basis following a transparent procedure based on evidence. So for instance we could (and in my view should) prevent people with a history of violent crime from having firearms. We should stop people with certain mental conditions or impairments from having a firearms. Such procedures should however be transparent and open to appeal. I think banning guns on a blanket basis without any assessment procedure or appeal process is totalitarian and warrants active resistance.

  76. TerjeP
    December 18th, 2012 at 16:35 | #76

    * As an atheist I don’t subscribed to the view that rights are god given. They are in my view a human construct. However I see their origin as being natural and common law not government.

    p.s. if you think that rights come from government then you are left with the question regarding the origins of the right to govern.

  77. TerjeP
    December 18th, 2012 at 16:39 | #77

    p.s. I note that prior to the recent challenges to the regime in Syria they had very tight gun control and low rates of gun ownership amongst civilians. One could argue that this didn’t stop rebellion or you could argue that rebellion would have happened a lot sooner without these controls.

  78. Jim Birch
    December 18th, 2012 at 17:31 | #78

    America has done a pretty good job of handing power to the plutocracy despite guns and democracy. IIRC narry a shot was fired and voting continued.

    This suggests to me that arming the citizenry isn’t a very good strategy for protecting the will of the people.

    Hey, maybe that suggests that democracy isn’t a very good strategy either…

  79. Katz
    December 18th, 2012 at 18:06 | #79


    Not true.

    In the late 1970s and 1980s the Islamic Brotherhood mounted a determined and bloody insurgency. There were plenty of arms, whether legal or not.


    Moreover, since Bush’s disaster in Iraq, doubtless Syria’s porous borders with that country have been crossed by Sunni Islamists and others bearing many weapons.

    Footage of the Syrian Civil War demonstrates the ubiquity of AKs and Soviet-style RPGs that comprise a more or less unfettered trade from Afghanistan to the Congo, including Syria.

  80. Fran Barlow
    December 18th, 2012 at 19:18 | #80

    @Jim Birch

    And one could also argue that the widespread ownership of guns during the Civil War ensured that is took more lives than would otherwise have been the case and that the rebellion was reactionary — aimed at propping up slavery.


    One could argue that this didn’t stop rebellion (against the Assad regime in Syria) or you could argue that rebellion would have happened a lot sooner without these controls.

    Of course, if the regime had not been an autocracy, rebellion might not have been necessary, making the regime’s attitudes to guns entirely moot. Then again, it seems that the rebellion is not an entirely endogenous affair and may well reflect the intersection of salafists with more general discontent amongst non-Alawites and non-Christians and to some extent Kurdish separatists/proponents of autonomy.

  81. Jim Rose
    December 18th, 2012 at 20:12 | #81

    arms races have been known in virtually all recorded history.

    Gun control is like nuclear arms control. Success depends on both sides pulling back.

    The rational course for citizens to arm because criminals cannot make credible commitment to disarm and not rearm again

    Aumann’s theory of repeated games is about repeated interaction in long time frames.

    Many conflicts originate in a lack of information coming from infrequent contact between the parties and the pressures and freedoms that come with short-term interactions.

    We have short-term interactions and few repeat interactions with criminals dangerous enough to want a gun and to use it.

    Schelling suggested that relationships between parties could improve if negotiations are split up into many small steps.

    Gun control introduced in small slices is better? ban both assult rifles and those gun free zones that spree killers love.

  82. Doug
    December 18th, 2012 at 20:58 | #82

    Responding to the thread about needing arms to overthrow tyrannical regimes – a study of regime change in the twentieth century with respect to effectiveness of functioning after the change would suggest that non-violence is likely to be a better route to take.

  83. rog
    December 18th, 2012 at 21:28 | #83

    People (normal people that is) don’t think that for democracy to exist citizens need to have flame throwers, TNT, nuclear bombs or other life taking devices so how does owning guns escape the mix?

    Logically a society that advocates gun ownership should also allow for euthanasia (both represent personal control of ones life) however logic doesn’t sem to play a role in this debate.

  84. rog
    December 18th, 2012 at 21:54 | #84

    Japan seems to have dealt with the gun issue well, murders are down to sfa with no evidence of corresponding loss of personal freedoms http://m.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/07/a-land-without-guns-how-japan-has-virtually-eliminated-shooting-deaths/260189/

  85. Patrickb
    December 18th, 2012 at 23:15 | #85

    Do you have any examples where a member of the public bearing arms has prevented or greatly curtailed a person engaged on a shooting rampage? I can’t think of one and it’s my hunch that, if any such cases do exist, they are the exception rather than the rule.
    Interestingly in the 2011 Tuson killings the assailant was brought down with a folding chair. A person with pistol did arrive but the action was over.
    TerjeP has a somewhat Hollywood view on the matter in my opinion. He has a vision of a Dirty Harry like character calmly walking through the cordite laden atmosphere dispatching baddies with a large calible weapon. And who can blame him? A folding chair doesn’t make for great visuals. And you can put Scott and the crazy libertarian person and the US gun lobby in the same category.

  86. Nathan
    December 18th, 2012 at 23:37 | #86

    What a curious coincidence that you specifically chose to compare 2006 (although you first claimed it was 2008 and 2010). Funnily enough if we take those other years you mention the Australian picture is a bit different with 2008 (5 deaths) and 2010 (10 deaths) putting a little whole in the ‘deterioration post 2001’ theory.

    The resolution to all this is clear if you simply eyeball a graph over those years [1] which shows extreme variability in the Australian unintentional firearm death rate, I suspect due to changing classifications of accidental vs intentional suicide. Some salient advice from the wiki page on firearm related deaths by country: “The death rate is also sensitive to fluctuation if the absolute number of incidents is small and for countries with relatively small population”.

    [1] http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/compareyears/10/number_of_unintentional_gun_deaths

    PS If you were going to cherry pick a year you should have gone with ’07, that was a doozy.

  87. December 18th, 2012 at 23:42 | #87

    Armed private citizens have shot or stopped people who were firing on innocents. However, if a privately owned gun in the US is used to shoot someone, that person is most likely to the owner, a family member, or a friend, rather than an unknown assailant. So statisically speaking, owning a gun is a bad idea. Unfortunately, as our own gambling industry demonstrates, generally human beings are not very good at thinking about probability.

  88. Jordan
    December 19th, 2012 at 00:26 | #88


    Armed revolts alone have never been effective against a modern state (let us say, a nation state based on Napoleonic or post-Napoleonic principles.

    What about Spanish Civil War? That was armed rebellion against state that succeded.
    British in Grece in 1950s also succeded.
    Every military coup is armed revolt alone. The reson for revolt is less of an issue in your statement.

    Fran Barllow at #21
    What about armed insurgency without air power and modern military that did not succed? there is only two in the world since 1941; IRA in Northern Ireland and Kosovo. In Iraq, insurgency won by being included into government. Kosovo insurgency have lost totaly but saved by NATO.
    Afganistan is still in the game.
    But there is another way to prevent insurgency, that this article doesn’t mention.
    When Serbs took over control of over half of the Bosnia in 1992, in order to prevent insurgency they removed all nationalities that could start insurgency, hence ethnic cleansing.
    Knowing how succesfull insurgency was in Yugoslavia in WWII, Yugoslavian (Serb) military was afraid of having insurgency in teritory they occupied and expelled all opposition that could grow and support it.
    Only way that was possible to do was by torture, mass killing and forcing the women and children out. They tried to kill all military able man, but that was a huge number to kill with very small number of people that were able and willing to do such inhumane acts, so they concentrated on inteligencia mostly. By fear they forced out everyone. They did that in Croatia, then Bosnia and in Kosovo. That was very succesfull prevention of insurgency by totalitarian regimes.
    Giving that insurgency can spread only if there is enough of desperate people, but in modern countries where people still enjoy great comforts, there is barely such desperation. Considering Parreto principle you need over 4% of really desperate people that have nothing to loose by figthing and dying.

  89. Jordan
    December 19th, 2012 at 00:35 | #89

    Tucson assailant was taken down when he had to change clips, and person with a pistol tought of shooting the person that jumped on the assailant. He tought initially that jumper was shooter. He could have killed an inocent man, which shows how helpfull arming the untrained citizens would create even more chaos. I lived in Tucson at the time.
    Case in Chicago from last year was that police tought of shooting an armed citizen who came to help and attack the shooter, but he trew the gun away as soon as they pointed gun at him.

  90. Will
    December 19th, 2012 at 06:44 | #90

    Having read a couple of peer reviewed articles, I can conclusively say that, for those who are pro-gun, possession of a gun simply does not make one safer as defined by the firearm homicide rate. (To be fair, owning a gun is not as dangerous as the anti-side make it out to be, the risk being 2 – 3x the unarmed rate). It’s one of those conclusions that may seem counterintuitive, but to repeat myself for the umpteenth time, when guns are hard to come by criminals will use knives and other hand to hand weapons. When guns are in abundance, they will choose to arm themselves with those, and you can assume that even the petty thugs will be so armed with even a cheap stolen pistol. Thugs with the likely advantages of location, initiative and numbers.

    Now, at this point, you are already worse off. It’s a prisoner’s dilemma where rational actions by both sides lead to you personally suffering reduced quality outcomes. If he has a gun you risk copping a bullet no matter what you are armed with. He doesn’t need to get within arm’s reach and you can’t outrun a bullet. If you draw you run the very real risk of being shot over some petty possessions.

    As for the security against the encroaching state thing (despite the fact that gun control in a democracy was never ever remotely a cause of a dictatorship). Well, there are many options rather than just handing firearms out with fewer restrictions than a driver’s licence. Besides, don’t you just need one firearm in that case instead of a literal small arsenal? You would have to do some pretty serious talking to convince a listener that a community of people with bolt action Lee-Enfields each supplied with 50 rounds, for instance, was any less safe and had more potential for abuse than a survivalist’s wet dream stockpile.

  91. TerjeP
    December 19th, 2012 at 07:17 | #91

    Patrickb – I have a friend that when we were young used a knife to deter a mugger. In terms of firearms being used to halt rampage killings there are some on the following list:-


  92. TerjeP
    December 19th, 2012 at 07:19 | #92

    An argument against increased gun control:-


  93. Ikonoclast
    December 19th, 2012 at 07:45 | #93

    I am intrigued that glibertarian-neocon* “logic” is all three of counter-intuitive, counter-logical and counter-empirical. Here is a sample;

    More prisons will make you free;
    More inequality will make you happier;
    More guns will make you safer;
    More pollution will make you breathe easier;
    More selfishness will lead to more public good;
    More false statistics you make you see the truth; and
    More anecdotes will make you objective.

    *Note: If I may misquote John Dryden;

    “Great Glibs are sure to Neocons allied,
    And thin partitions do their thoughts divide.”

  94. Patrickb
    December 19th, 2012 at 08:32 | #94

    Sorry Terje, but you’re trying to wriggle off the hook. No evidence to support your ideological position? Oh well, wouldn’t be the first time. A quick scan of your blog link shows that were the assailant has been stopped by a member of the public it is rarely if ever a result of the member of the public drawing a gun and shooting the assailant. This is possibly the weakest and most disingenuous reason for advocating the carrying of guns. Untrained member of the public enforcing the law with firearms. Good luck with your libertarian values in that society.

  95. Katz
    December 19th, 2012 at 09:18 | #95


    Yes. Given that the author of TerjeP’s link had every incentive to adduce compelling evidence for his pro-gun position, it is remarkable just how sparse and weak is his examples are.

    Doubtless, occasionally, a gun-toting civilian is effective. The trouble is that this expectation, whether rational or not, is factored into the decision making of a malefactor. This expectation of lethal violence can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Innocent people die needlessly.

    But it is clear that gunmen who commit school massacres expect and probably intend to die. They want to make their exits as grievous and as memorable as possible. Whether they kill twenty or just two before they themselves are killed is probably irrelevant to their decision making. The possibility that a teacher may have a pistol stashed in her locked desk (surely that schoolroom desk drawer MUST be locked) will not deter the suicidal gunman. Instead, the gunman will simply kill the teacher first.

  96. Fran Barlow
    December 19th, 2012 at 09:21 | #96


    I’m sure Orwell had cant of the kind Terje offers when composing 1984 and later, his essay Politics and the English Language.

  97. Jim Birch
    December 19th, 2012 at 10:31 | #97

    Individual reports of spree killer being taken out by armed members of the public are not critical evidence for the gun debate. It is bound to happen sooner or later if everyone is armed. The important question would be whether we have more or less killings with more or less weapons.

    The “favourite stories” approach is a crazy, distracted way to argue anything about net public welfare, and is virtually certain to produce bad policy. It’s medieval, isn’t it?

  98. Ikonoclast
    December 19th, 2012 at 10:37 | #98

    @Fran Barlow

    I get your point Fran and I get Orwell’s points. Even so, I find some of the essay English of the inter-war writers to be poor. If we go back to a writer like Austen we find that “presently” in context means “now”. “I will do it presently,” means I will do it now, in the present. When did “presently” come to mean “soon” or “in a little while”. How is that logical or even a useful nuance? A perfectly good word is already available. It is “soon”.

  99. Will
    December 19th, 2012 at 10:52 | #99

    Jim Birch :
    Individual reports of spree killer being taken out by armed members of the public are not critical evidence for the gun debate. It is bound to happen sooner or later if everyone is armed. The important question would be whether we have more or less killings with more or less weapons.
    The “favourite stories” approach is a crazy, distracted way to argue anything about net public welfare, and is virtually certain to produce bad policy. It’s medieval, isn’t it?

    Exactly. I have previously written on this thread concerning the general topic of gun advocates blindly rejecting the likelihood of negative externalities exceeding the positive externalities. I have also stated the maxim that people will tend to arm themselves with whatever is effective and readily available, be it guns, knives or lead pipes. It must be said that firearms are more effective and less psychologically taxing to use than other weapons. More guns in the hands of the public means more murder/suicides at the hands of the mentally ill, more jilted spouses killing their partner, more accidental deaths, heated arguments getting out of control…. Sure, in a best case scenario more guns could mean fewer massacres and lower rates of some categories of crime, but that needs to be balanced out with the extremely likely potential for a higher death rate overall.

  100. December 19th, 2012 at 12:20 | #100

    I’ll mention that using a gun or a knife to fend off a mugger is not self defence. It is self endangerment. If self defence is defined as keeping one’s self safe, then the safest thing to do during a mugging is to hand over your wallet, iPhone, etc. This is because pulling a weapon dramatically increases the chance that that the mugger will shoot, stab, or otherwise attack you. Also, not pulling a gun reduces to zero the chance that you will shoot someone who you thought was a huge mugger with a gun in his pocket but will turn out in retrospect to have been a slightly built 15 year old with an asthma inhaler in his coat pocket who was begging for money. And while most of us are certain we’d never make such a mistake, I’ll point out that most of us are also certain we’re better than average drivers. Human beings just aren’t good at assigning probabilities to these sort of events. So if we include self defence as including avoiding a murder or manslaughter charge and keeping one’s self out of prison, then that just makes using a gun or knife to attempt to prevent a mugging an even worse idea than it already is.

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