Be prepared for a war of attrition.
These school shootings give them ammunition.
With each one they grow stronger.
Their columns grow longer.
The mob they cajole and condition.
From what I’ve read on the internet lately I think that many people in other countries (the U.S. in particular) are getting the wrong idea about the gun situation in Australia. Australians seem to be painted by the media as anti-gun, or even gun-shy. While this may be true for the usual suspects and the easily led, for many of us it is not the case. Since most of my readers are in America I thought I would put together this brief essay on the true situation pertaining to ownership and use of firearms here in Australia.
As a matter of interest the word “gun” tends to be used now as a generic label for all firearms, but harking back to my army days it was not advisable to call your rifle a gun. A gun was a machine gun or a sub-machine gun. Calling your rifle a gun would earn you a serious arse-kicking.
Handgun ownership in Australia has always been heavily restricted. As an ordinary civilian you had to belong to a gun club to possess a handgun and you had to comply with strict storage rules and so on. Rifle access up until 1996 was largely unregulated and no license was required, and there was no register of firearms (at least in the state of Queensland where I live – there were some minor regulations introduced in some other states following criminal gang “massacres” from 1984 on).
In 1996 there was a mass shooting in Tasmania and politicians of all colours, almost all of whom wish to disarm the public anyway, presented a united front (always a red flag) to legislate for gun control.
Our Prime Minister at the time, little gun-phobic Johnny Howard, possibly the universe’s worst authority on guns and arguably the world’s worst cricket player, championed the legislation and addressed rallies of angry gun owners whilst wearing a bulletproof vest. Feelings were running high but shooters knew they were heavily outnumbered, and, realizing now (too late) that they did not have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms, they caved-in to the inevitable.
Plumbing supply stores started running out of PVC pipe with a diameter large enough to accommodate a rifle. Anecdotes abound about rifles being stored in the pipes, the end caps glued on, and the capsule then buried. No doubt the location of these now illegal weapons was carefully noted by the owners to allow for future retrieval.
The legislation was of course passed in record time and a massive gun (mainly rifle and shotgun) buyback carried out. (this was the carrot to go with the stick) A million firearms bought back from owners were destroyed. It didn’t matter – a single shot .22 or a $150,000 Purdy shotgun – all met with the same fate, and the taxpayer paid heavily for it. Firearms owners who had what the authorities considered legitimate reasons for retaining their firearms (apart from semi-automatics which are now banned) were allowed to register and keep them and also to obtain a license without having to do a firearms course. These people included professional roo shooters, farmers, pest controllers, sporting shooters and gun club members. I was a farmer at the time and kept my rifles and shotgun, but when I ceased farming I had to get permission to shoot on a relative’s property in order to keep them. Many shooters simply surrendered their weapons as it was going to be too difficult for them to justify keeping them.
It is still possible for a licensed shooter to buy new and second hand firearms in Australia, (in fact all of the million destroyed in 1996 have been replaced by new ones – plus some) but the punishment is in the process. As an example I recently acquired an air rifle (yes an air rifle!) from a deceased estate, and it took lots of paperwork and 6 months to get it. On top of that I was charged a $130 registration fee plus a $10 inspection fee. A straight out buy from an individual or gun dealer is quicker, but it is still a nontrivial, drawn-out and expensive matter.
Firearms must be kept in an approved gun-safe (ammunition separate) and the police have the right to inspect an owner’s firearms and storage at any time, although they will normally ring and arrange an inspection time. Australia is, for now, one of the freest and most democratic countries on the planet but, in reflecting on history, it is sobering to think that the police forces of each state have a record of every legally held firearm – its owner and its location. Of course the police have no records of the firearms held by criminals – criminals don’t register their weapons (some have sub-machine guns) and they don’t bother themselves with licenses.
With regard to the number of shooters in both countries, a couple of comparisons may be helpful: The NRA has about 5 million members. That’s about 1 in every 65 Americans. Of course not all American shooters belong to the NRA. Our rough equivalent to the NRA, the SSAA, has 180,000 members, or about 1 in every 132 Australians. It is worth noting here that Australia has a large urbanized population and city dwellers are less likely to own or use firearms. Also there are many shooters in Australia who do not belong to the SSAA. There are estimated to be 300 million guns of all types in America while the Australian estimate is 2 million. I think these figures for both countries are very rubbery. In Australia for instance anecdotal evidence suggests that a lot of rifles were hidden during the buyback and they probably remain hidden.
There is continual lobbying by the noisy anti-gun fanatics and organizations to further restrict gun ownership. Their ultimate aim of course is to remove all firearms from individuals. They will never be satisfied until this is achieved. Their oft-repeated claim that the restrictions on firearm ownership since 1996 have prevented another mass shooting is of course a fallacy. Had the laws been in place prior to the mass shooting it is unlikely they would have changed anything. Of course, studies show that firearm deaths have reduced since 1996 but firearm deaths were on the decrease anyway and it is another fallacy to state that the decrease is due to the new laws. In any case, despite the restrictions, (well in fact because of them) Illegal unregistered firearms are by all accounts readily available on the black market and anyone intent on carrying out a mass shooting could (unfortunately) acquire such a weapon and ammunition. The fact is that mass shootings in Australia are very rare and always have been, and most (non-criminal) gun-related deaths in Australia are accidents or suicides.
It’s interesting to note that motorbikes are actually far more deadly statistically than guns and yet no calls are ever heard to ban them. (no, I’m not saying they should be banned!) And yet a very good case could be put forward to ban motorbikes – they are not necessary (except for the police and postmen) and had they been invented just yesterday they would not be allowed on the road. But that is a logical argument – with guns we are dealing with emotions.
There is another very disturbing effect of this gun-control which is less obvious but seems to become more apparent with each passing year. Whereas most Australians once considered guns and gun ownership quite acceptable, (after all, we protected our liberty on many occasions with guns) now guns and shooters seems to be regarded by many as beyond the pale – there seems to be a sort of mass gun-fear, gun-phobia developing – how sad. This irrational fear is of course stoked by the media. Soon in Australia one will have to be anti-gun to be virtuous.
Australia does not have the equivalent of the U.S. constitution’s 2nd amendment. (In our naiveté we thought we would never need it) An individual’s “right” to own a firearm in Australia is in fact a privilege and not a right. The draconian and tyrannical legislation enacted following the mass shooting in 1996 was a cynical, calculated attack on the rights (sorry, privileges) of law-abiding Australians. It was an act of craven political opportunism and any Australians supporting it then or now should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
My respectful advice to Americans in particular – if you don’t want to fall prey to tyranny then guard your 2nd amendment with your lives – stick to your guns!