Time to ban guns

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.

145 thoughts on “Time to ban guns

  1. Sorry if I gave the impression I was offended, Tim. I wasn’t offended at all. But I think you and perhaps another person have concluded that rather than me recommending that people act in a way that will minimize their chance of being killed or injured, I am recommending that people always submit to an agressor. And that’s just weird because it’s not what I wrote at all. Just because I pointed out that the most rational thing to do in a mugging is to give the mugger what he or she wants doesn’t mean that I think that if someone wants to break your legs it’s a good idea to give them what they want.

  2. @Ronald Brak

    Fran, are you saying that if I was threatened by a person with a knife and I ran away, that wouldn’t be self defence as I didn’t attempt to refute a challenge to my interests?

    Certainly, running away is a way of evading a harm, and in many cases, perhaps most, might well be the best option for capping the harm that one could suffer. I suppose though whether it amounts to self-defence depends on what harm one suffers as a result of fleeing the scene. Perhaps you won’t escape. Perhaps the knife wielder is also a good knife thrower, or has confederates blocking your escape. Or perhaps you will escape but someone will inflict a harm on you as great or greater than you would in practice have suffered by trying a more active defensive response.

    Don’t get me wrong. I reagrd it as quite likely in practice that in most circumstances where someone is bailed up by someone with a weapon, compliance or escape are probably going to be the wisest courses. The attacker has come armed and presumably has some expertise in deploying the weapon. He or she may well be willing to take large risks and has the element of surprise. However, there are uncertainties attached to this course and provided one is confident and competent and the stakes high — (a serious criminal offence rather than a mere shakedown for example), having a weapon may well be plausible.

    I never carry one, because I wouldn’t be confident or competent, and would hate to ever think it necessary. In days that are now long gone, I drove taxis at night. I had very few problems. I was confronted on one occasion by a knife-wielding passenger who got into my cab at Taylor Square and required me to drive around to Moore Park Rd so that he could rob me. I had long before that made up my mind that I would surrender any money I had without a struggle. I reached for the taxi-bag to hand the fellow the contents, but he must have decided I meant him harm and jabbed at me from the passenger seat.

    Luckily for me, the vehicle was one of those older-style holdens and had a console in the middle with a raised arm rest. I managed to trap his arm with the arm rest so that the point of the knife merely inflicted a minor injury just above my left hip. Reaching for the wheel brace at my driver’s door I then hit him in the face with it quite firmly, forcibly ejected him from the car and then drove up to casualty at St Vinnies to get a couple of stitches and ring the police. Sometimes there isn’t a lot of time to calculate how to defend yourself.

    I never did hear what happened to him. I hope he wasn’t too badly hurt.

  3. Pr Q said:

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

    I am a big fan of the use of non-lethal weapons, that stun, irritate or disable the suspect.

    Most police are not psychologically equipped to kill people, most people are not so equipped, so thats not surprising. When they do gun someone down in the course of duty, even if it was justified, they suffer adverse psychological consequences. Not to mention the suspect whose body gets riddled with bullets.

    I dont like the idea of killing people, if it is at all avoidable. It would be great if nations could fight wars without killing people. Sort of giant war games using paintballs, lasers or some such. The winning nation could then tax the loser to pay for the cost of the war plus goods equal to the value of whatever the fight was about.

    I am also against capital punishment. Although not corporal punishment. Singapore has public caning and things run pretty smoothly there.

    In general punishment is good since it is a cheap way of modifying behaviour. But death is bad since it extinguishes behaviour.

    Bring back the lash!

  4. @Fran Barlow

    I hope he was badly hurt. I have no sympathy for;

    (a) muggers in general;
    (b) people who initiate violence (exacerbated by weapon use); and
    (c) men who attack women.

    That doesn’t mean I support taxi drivers having guns but having a tyre lever handy by luck or design equates to self defence by proportionate force.

  5. @Jack Strocchi

    I remember a science fiction story where advanced nations had rationalised war to computerised war games. After a virtual “war”, the fighting nations would implement their own casualties by mutual agreement by sending the required count of their own citizens to the death chambers. The idea was to avoid damage to infrastructure and capital equipment. (Only people were expendable apparently.) Better not spread this idea too far. The neocon mentality would love it.

  6. A problem with gun control regulation, indeed with all social regulation, is that it runs into the knee-jerk post-modern liberal obsession with individual rights over institutional duties. This obsession afflicts both sides of politics and deforms all public debates, most notably the attempt to constrain greenhouse gas pollution. Ross Douhat, as usual, penetrates the underlying truth to see the big picture:

    A second factor driving declining support for gun control, meanwhile, is a trend in our politics, inherent to American life but particularly potent since the social revolutions of the 1960s, for rights-based arguments to carry the day over more communitarian appeals.

    This tendency cuts across the usual lines of left and right. We tend to associate gun control with social liberalism, but the same trends that have buoyed public support for gay marriage and marijuana legalization have also encouraged a more expansive reading of the Second Amendment.

    The common thread is our increasing individualism, and the triumph of rights-talk over other forms of moral and political argument. The gun-rights movement talks about the rights of “law-abiding citizens” the way the gay rights movement talks about the freedoms of “consenting adults,” and while the arguments play to different audiences they have a very American premise in common.

    In this sense, the gun control debate offers liberals a chance to experience something that social conservatives often feel: The mix of confusion and alienation that comes with sensing that your country has somehow slipped away from you, and that your convictions don’t have a place in the unfolding of the American idea.

    The global solution to climate pollution may involve some kind of benevolent authoritarianism, which has already been explored by the PRC, the worlds smartest and best managed polity. Although ever sensible Australians have managed to avoid the siren calls of rights-mongers without handing over too much power to Leviathan.

    In retrospect the irruption of modernist liberalism in the aftermath of World War II contained the seeds of self-destruction as it mutated into post-modernist liberalism. The dialectic of autonomy and authority is eternal.

  7. The global solution to climate pollution may involve some kind of benevolent authoritarianism, which has already been explored by the PRC, the worlds smartest and best managed polity.

    You heard it here first. According to Jack Strocchi, the Communist-ruled People’s Republic of China, ranked at 80 in Transparency International’s global corruption index, plagued by sporadic outbreaks of civil unrest caused by unlawful mass evictions, environmental pollution crises, endemic corruption and the suppression of ethnic minorities, is the world’s smartest and best managed polity. Wow. You must think the world’s in real trouble, Jack.

  8. @Ikonoclast The story is from star trek. Hardly a fountain of neocon ideas because they also abolished money on star trek and everyone worked for the greater good.

    The Ferengi and their rules of acquisition were a satire on capitalism. The Ferengi were originally to replace the Klingons as the Federation’s arch-rival but they were too comical.

    Steven Cheung’s criticisms of communism as a class-ridden apply to star trek. Everyone’s class and access to resources are defined by a party membership card and their party rank.

    In star trek, higher ranked officer had larger cabins and most of all they always beam back from the planet. Anyone who beamed down with captain kirk who was dressed in one of those red tops were expendables. Death and accommodation were class based in star trek.

  9. @Ikonoclast

    [I have no sympathy for;

    (a) muggers in general;
    (b) people who initiate violence (exacerbated by weapon use); and
    (c) men who attack women.]

    Nor I. It is reprehensible conduct. It was mere chance that I suffered nothing but a small scar. On the other hand, I would have taken no pleasure at all in his pain. He looked like a man desperate for some narcotic. His pain couldn’t have healed me, and all I really wanted when I hit him was to be sure that he couldn’t harm me further. I handed his knife over to the police with his fingerprints on it and gave them a description. As the cab was moving when I forced him out, I imagine he wouldn’t have been hurrying off anywhere.

    That doesn’t mean I support taxi drivers having guns but having a tyre lever handy by luck or design equates to self defence by proportionate force.

    Absolutely. Driving at night, I allowed myself that resource as a last resort for those unwilling to refrain from arbitrary violence. I feel glad that in 15 years of night driving, I only used it as a weapon once.

  10. @Ronald Brak

    Thanks. Oddly, at the time, I wasn’t that shaken — probably the adrenaline. I kept on driving and finished my shift. The casualty unit was overcrowded and so I ran into the chemist, got some physohex (now banned as carcinogenic I hear!) and some gauze, made a quick visit to the police station and then kept going.

    I felt pretty horrible the next day though.

  11. None of the serious gun control proposals to date go beyond assault rifles and even then with many exceptions.

    Dopey old Joe Biden is leading for administration. He is not known for building successful coalitions on complex issues even with fellow liberals.

    Serious issues are put in the hands of competent political leaders with gravitas, who have something to lose if they fail, and a long enough career ahead of them to reward and punish those who did and did not join with their coalition

  12. An earlier link mentioned the large number of deaths in the United States from accidental discharge. A relative of mine has some stories about these kind of accidents from his time in the army. He was on a bus with other soldiers when one of them manged to shoot himself through the chest with a pistol. The person who shot himself made a good recovery, but the person sitting behind him was sleeping with his head against the seat and he never woke up. In another incident a soldier was resting his arms on a table and as another solider put his weapon on the table it fired and shot the first solider through both elbows. These soldiers were all well trained in gun use but still couldn’t manage to not accidently shoot themselves and each other. If Australia was armed like the United States and had the same accident rate perhaps we could expect 30 or so extra accidental gun deaths a year. So about as many as were killed at Port Arthur, each year.

  13. I notice the Chief of Police of Baltimore wants all magazines bigger than 10 shot banned. That would be a start but they have to go much further.

    But overall, I think the US is a lost cause re gun control. Currently semi-automatic assault rifles and 30 shot magazines (and higher) are flying off the shelves so fast many gun shops are sold out.

    The Federal Govt will have a big problem once poverty, climate change and resource shortages kick in. The US could have the mother of all insurgency problems with its own populace. Then it will need all its predator drones to control its own population. The Pakis and Waziris will appreciate the irony.

  14. It occurs to me that it wouldn’t be too difficult to make devices for target shooting that simulate the feel and recoil of firing a gun without actually being a gun. They could even make a bang noise and give off a smell of smokeless powder. Millitaries have been mucking around with these sorts of things for a while for safety reasons and to save money on training and ammunition costs. These simulated guns could allow target shooters to continue their sport without the risk of using devices that propel pieces of metal at high speed.

  15. Target shooting with simulated weapons would also help weed out those who are only attracted to the sport because of the role guns play in dominance fantasies in our society.

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