Welcome to Quadrant Online | Login/ Register Cart (0) $0 View Cart
February 26th 2018 print

Peter Smith

The Strange Logic of Gun ‘Control’

Whenever a lunatic perpetrates a mass shooting the calls for additional gun control are immediate and the consequences predictable: more restrictions on law-abiding owners, who don't need them, while homicidal types ignore and defy the law as they always do and will

gunsOne week after the Florida high school killings CNN hosted a “stacked” Town Hall meeting. This is Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, at the meeting, berating Dana Loesch a spokeswoman for the NRA. “You just told this group of people that you are standing up for them. You’re not standing up for them, until you say I want less weapons.” Interruption follows for cheering and loud applause.

Proverbs 26:11 comes to mind: “As a dog returns to his vomit. So a fool [the typical bleeding-heart Democrat in this case] repeats his folly.” Luckily and fortunately, Americans have President Trump, who I will come to.

What the Sheriff didn’t say, because it hadn’t yet leaked out, was that one of his deputies, Scot Peterson, who served as the ‘armed resource officer’, had remained sheltered from harm outside of the school while the shooting was going on. Another three of his deputies who arrived on the scene stayed crouched behind their police vehicle. Peterson was suspended and has since resigned.

Sheriff Israel was also at pains to deflect attention from the FBI’s failure to follow up specific warnings passed on them and his own department’s failure to do anything about Nikolas Cruz despite receiving many complaints. Only one person was to blame he intoned. Really? Then what is the point of him and his fainthearted deputies?

One message from this episode, as if we didn’t know, is that the police cannot be relied upon to protect us or our families.

I was once attacked by a no-good, estranged boyfriend of one of my daughters outside of my house. I tried ineptly, as best as I could, to fight him off and was lucky that an ex-truck driver neighbor intervened to help me out. In the meantime, my wife at the time had called the police. They arrived too late for the main event. He had long since run off threatening to set a gang on me.

For a while I carried a tightly rolled-up newspaper in my briefcase to ward off potential attackers. I don’t exactly recall, but I might have seen this used effectively by James Bond. How effective it would have been in my hands I will leave you to guess.

Most of us are protected because of where we live and the people we mix with. There is another, less safe world on our doorsteps but, to a large extent, the two worlds do not intersect. Watch out if and when they do. Then you will have no protection worth spit.

America is a gun-owning society, as is Switzerland. According to the latest UNODC figures, the homicide rate in America is over seven times that in Switzerland. And, as point of interest, five times that in non-gun-owning Australia. America is a more dangerous place to live – particularly in some places, in some cities. Would you like to have a gun to protect yourself and your family? Or, are you content to rely on the police arriving in the nick of time?

Let me test the proposition a little further. The homicide rate in South Africa is close to fifty times the rate in Switzerland. Would you still feel safe unarmed in your bed at night or walking down a dark street? Well, would you, punk?

One of the things we are learning about Trump is his common sense. This stands out these days because it is so rare among the great and good. Another is his determination to actually do things as distinct from empty rhetoric – Obama’s healing the planet and lowering sea levels is a soaring example of the latter.

He has three proposals on the table. One is to strengthen the background checks required for gun purchases, another is to consider how best to exclude those with mental illnesses from owning guns, a third is to make schools harder targets. Among other security measures, he suggests arming a small proportion of teachers and other school staff, selected and trained, with concealed weapons.

The left hates the idea of arming school staff. More guns you see, not less. But it has worked on airlines. In any event, Trump wants schools to cease being gun-free zones and, thus, soft targets. That seems sensible to me. And, importantly, it might actually work.

Originally, he also suggested increasing the permissible age to buy a rifle from eighteen years to twenty-one. He seems to have backed off. Again, that apparent reflection on his part, seems sensible to me unless you implement a tighter age limit with a lot of carve outs. For example, do you deny a single nineteen or twenty-year-old woman living alone in a rough neighborhood the means to defend herself? Apropos, it might just have something to do with armed women that the reported rape rate in non-violent Australia is a little higher than in America.

Do you prevent an eighteen-year old serviceman on leave from Afghanistan, where he wields an automatic weapon, from buying a gun? How about a young man or woman on a rural property? And, by the way, is it about buying a gun or possessing a gun? The two are not the same. Once you get into the weeds of many proposal they start falling apart.

Unlike Trump, typical Democrats don’t care if their proposals are workable or effective provided their moral superiority is on show. It is disingenuous and it is dangerous for all those in potentially vulnerable circumstances.

Self-defense is a basic right. Only pussies think otherwise. Americans steadfastly guard their right to the means to defend themselves. And us: Meow!

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics

Comments [42]

  1. Peter says:

    I have since learnt that Trump has returned to an age limit proposal. This won’t fly for the reasons I give. I think he will realise that.

  2. Bran Dee says:

    This insightful piece Peter is a good extension of your earlier Trigger Warning. However I am not persuaded by the NRA that military style assault weapons are necessary for citizens like myself or my neighbours be they 18 or 80.

    It seems a good thing that Trump seems to be banning bump-stock conversions that turn single shot weapons to automatics. Incidently, it was possibly a bump-stock idea that Ion Idriess proposed to authorities from the trenches of Gallipoli to convert the bolt action .303 to automatic fire. His drawings have been lost and the military interviewed him but in their wisdom did not adopt his idea and he went back to the trenches as a spotter for our famous sniper Billy Sing.

    As you say Trump displays so much common sense. If only MT could catch Trump’s enthusiasm for wonderful clean coal or just for anything conservative.

  3. Rob Brighton says:

    Having been confronted on my front step by a number of clearly drugged young men (16~20yr olds x 6) I am very aware of the uselessness of phoning the cops. Especially as the local station is shut at night and on weekends, the nearest police station is some 50klm away.
    That said, I do not own weapons and have no desire to own weapons, does that make me “a pussy”?
    I bluffed them down, it was touch and go, I told them I expected to be in the hospital when this was done and asked which one of them wanted to be in the bed next to me.
    Truth be told I would have been given a hiding, one old bloke has no chance against 6 young blokes even if they are off their beans on ice but having a gun would only have made that situation worse. I might have shot someone or had the weapon taken from me and be shot myself.
    Happily, I live in AU and so, do not have to deal with 6 x 16~20-year-olds off their gourds on the ice and holding pistols instead fence palings ripped of my fence. A hiding is one thing, being shot is another altogether.
    That’s a big difference and why I squirm in shame every time Howard’s gun buyback is mooted as a resolution to the problem. What worked for us won’t work for them.

    • Mohsen says:

      No, Rob, that doesn’t make you a “pussy”; the tractable complacency in and of surrendering one’s rights, including the basic right of self defense, will make one a pussy!

      In your story you should have replaced the six guys on your front step with the Genghis Khan army to make your argument stronger and more convincing! (Just kidding, sir; no disrespect!)

      If bluffing down worked in that situation, what makes you believe it wouldn’t work with guns present: All you have to do is replace hospital and bed in your bluff with cemetery and grave respectively!

      They were there to kill you or not: If they were to kill you, then you definitely would have been ended up dead, regardless. But you would have wanted guns involved (your death would have been least painful, and more quick; and by killing a couple of them in the action, you would have made it a bit of fun as well!). But if they weren’t to kill you, they would have done their best to insure they didn’t kill you, because their situation became completely different becoming murderers (as it is the case—not having guns—with them giving you a hiding and not killing you), but with one difference: Your intention on the other hand is to kill, which gives you an edge (you’re a self-defending individual with a gun who is supported by the law for his action!)

      With gun in one’s hands, one will have 50% chance defending himself against another individual when he too has a gun (even if he’s a crazy on a suicide mission); but even more, since one is motivated to shoot (and kill, if that’s the result), but the other’s likely not: The other’s a burglar, a thief.

    • Jody says:

      When I lived in Vienna I cannot remember firearms ever being a problem or resulting in crime. One night while I was at a concert my husband said he heard the sound of a gunshot and everybody came out of their apartments to see what was happening but nobody was any the wiser. So, some countries can life without the fear of death by guns. American isn’t one of these and is an increasingly dangerous and undesirable place to live. 100 years of cinema where the gun is glorified has come back to haunt them.

      • LBLoveday says:

        Way back, before the Stuart Highway was paved, I rode a motorbike from Adelaide to Alice, with a loaded pump action 12g shotgun in a scabbard tied to the bike, like you see with cowboys and their horses.
        Parked outside bars and doss houses along the way and in Alice with not a comment.
        Dropped in at Merryvale Station, where I knew the teachers, and rode to Fink Hotel and back, shot a couple of ducks for Aborigine kids, who split them open with rocks to gut them and cooked them unplucked on the embers of an open fire. No-one scared, not even surprised.
        Decided to put the bike on the Ghan and fly back, and checked the shotgun (in a soft vinyl case) as luggage. The check-in woman asked what was in the case, then whether it was loaded. Oops, took the gun out of the case, ejected the shells onto the floor (you could not just take them out like you see in a break-action gun), put the gun back in the case, picked the shells up and gave them and the gun to the check-in.
        Imagine what would happen today! I’m glad I lived my youthful life in the good old days, not today, and I’m very glad I’m near the end, not at the start.

  4. rosross says:

    The fact that the US has a school shooting every 60 hours and a rate of gun deaths more than ten times higher than any other developed nation, all of them well regulated, and that only in the US can a child buy a military assault weapon and only in the US do toddlers kill themselves and others with guns, makes it pretty clear that the US has it very wrong when it comes to guns.

    Guns kill. And as more than one medical professional has said after the last massacre, these guns are designed to explode organs and saving them is impossible. Guns kill. These sorts of weapons which should never be in the hands of citizens, kill even more effectively.

    It is however too late for the US to save itself. The country is mired in delusional fantasies of Constitutional law and mythology and a fear and hatred of Government unknown in any other developed nation. With more than 300 million guns for 318 million people, there can never be a buyback scheme and it is impossible to diminish currently held numbers.

    All the Americans can do, and probably won’t, is make the sale of these hideous weapons illegal and all sales to children illegal.

    • Guido Negraszus says:

      Guns don’t kill, people do. It will always remain a fundamental fact. If you put a gun on your kitchen table and nobody ever touches it that gun will never kill anyone or anything.

    • Doubting Thomas says:

      ” The country is mired in delusional fantasies of Constitutional law and mythology and a fear and hatred of Government unknown in any other developed nation. ”


      • Jody says:

        I actually agree with this statement. Except for the armed forces; they seem to be the only American patriots.

        • Doubting Thomas says:

          I actually know quite a few Americans and they are nothing like the ridiculous stereotypes our media loves to mock. One American friend of mine put it neatly when he said that the best way to envisage the US is to think of it as 50 different countries. Generalising from selected instances is fraught. In my opinion, the one criticism that cannot validly be made is that they are mired in delusional fantasies of Constitutional law. To them, the Constitution is very real, and it is those realities that have led to the extremes of bitter competition for the power to appoint Supreme Court Justices. I seriously doubt that fear and hatred of Government is as widespread as claimed. Their conservatives certainly have a lively suspicion of government (as all sensible people have) and, given their historical origins as a nation, any such suspicion is well justified. In modern terms, Ruby Ridge and Waco clearly demonstrated that government over-reach is still a real and present danger.

    • LBLoveday says:

      “..rate of gun deaths more than ten times higher than any other developed nation”.
      Tosh – many developed countries are far higher than 1/10th the USA’s rate – reliable sources are scarce, but Finland, Switzerland, France, Austria and Israel are examples cited as >1/5th of the USA’s rate.
      Firearm deaths by suicide and accident will be higher when firearms are more readily available, but if they are not, many of the suicides by firearms would surely be done by another method. If I were to suicide, I’d choose a gun, as men so often do, but if none were available, I’d chose the next best.
      It’s the number of murders, in my opinion that matter, not the means of killing – Russia is, I presume, included as a “developed nation”, and has a homicide rate >twice that of the USA.

    • Mohsen says:

      As was pointed out above, America is a gun-owning society, as is Switzerland. The implication likely is that guns are not the problems. In fact the question is how significant are the problems accompanying having guns. It appears there’s not much of a problem in Switzerland! It’s the individuals who kill not guns. Over 50% of people killed by guns in America are apparently suicides. But I wonder what the percentage of the remaining are the shooting of the “bad” guys, like burglars, robbers, gangsters killing one another, police killing the bad guys. If most of them are the bad guys, well perhaps it may not be considered that big a problem in America either!

      But whatever the response to that, people must have the right to self defense, and if concomitant problems result from that right being respected, then so be it. The solution to those problems cannot and should not include and involve removing that right!

    • en passant says:

      Wonderful statistics you quote. 146 school shootings or massacres or shootings a year are there?
      “… gun deaths more than ten times higher than any other developed nation, all of them well regulated, and that only in the US can a child buy a military assault weapon …” Really?
      I suppose it would be unfair to include the Baraclan Massacre in France as that would ruin your story. Or South Africa – are they developed? – or anywhere that does not fit the ‘guns are the problem’ narrative?

      Tell us the one again about the wonders of gun-free Chicago, or Detroit, or living and working in or near the ‘no-go’ areas in France, Sweden, Germany, England and some parts of Sydney or Melbourne.

      Did you see the cartoon about the ‘school-shooter’ choosing his target. He has a choice between a ‘gun-free school’ and ‘armed teachers on duty’. Eeny-meeny-….

      As for gun-control measures: Cruz passed the background checks despite his record – something Sheriff Israel needs to explain.

  5. Guido Negraszus says:

    I’m also tired of people saying that Australia’s gun laws are so great. They aren’t. We now have more guns in Australia then before the Howard nanny state law. Except most are illegal. Was that the idea? That criminals have more guns and decent citizen have none? I somehow doubt that.

  6. whitelaughter says:

    If you’d step out of your echo chamber, you’d know that the advantage of gun laws is that it gives the police the ability to arrest criminals *before* they kill anyone.
    The murder rate in the USA sits those of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, by percentage, and on sheer numbers, is 8th worst in the world. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

    • ianl says:

      That first sentence is nonsensical – police do not have psychic abilities.

      The second sentence is so ungrammatical it is also nonsense.


      • whitelaughter says:

        a better example of nonsense would be the idea that the police need psychic abilities to detect a gun.

        the 2nd sentence does need the word ‘between’ after ‘sits’ but Quadrant’s lack of an edit function is hardly my fault. Heck, there are multiple web hosts that Quadrant could use, if fixing this site is too hard.

  7. Matt says:

    American solution to gun massacres: MORE GUNS!
    Yeah right…

  8. Doubting Thomas says:

    Take out the black on black killings, which are mostly handguns of one sort or another, and the US murder rate comes down dramatically. Chicago has some of the tightest gun laws in the country, which do little or nothing to prevent the slaughter there. Read Heather Mac Donald’s “The War on Cops”.

  9. Jody says:

    I’m intrigued by the American spelling of ‘neighbour’ (neighbor) in this essay.

    • LBLoveday says:

      Mitigates TFCC.

      • Mohsen says:

        Actually, neighbor, color, etc. apparently are standard Australian English usage (less common than -our, nevertheless!), according to the Macquarie Dictionary; as is the case with organize, prioritize, etc. rather than with -ise ( Actually -ize is what the OED “prefers”, with -ise given as well).


        • Jody says:

          Oh, OK; everything I taught as an English teacher with regard to spelling is now up in the air.

          • Mohsen says:

            :-D :-D
            Not at all, Jody!
            But as you know the grammar, spelling and usage being in use following the school which are reflected in the descriptive OED, Merriam-Webster, and Macquarie dictionaries don’t strictly square with the prescriptive ones taught at schools. An English teacher (is an English teacher a teacher from England or a teacher who teaches English language?) strictly teaches the prescriptive form of the language as you know better. (All my understanding only; otherwise me know no nothing, honestly!)

  10. Jody says:

    Any society where children being in schools are seen as soft targets for nutjobs with guns is a sick society indeed. America is desperately ill because it cannot find a way to keep its children safe and well. This is civil liberties for you; nobody would encroach on the right of the disturbed individual’s liberty; ergo, the FBI won’t bother getting involved for fear of being howled down as repressive. If you stretch liberties out like slightly uncooked toffee you get the problem America has now – the most terrifying people have rights. There’s your problem.

  11. PT says:

    The point about Switzerland is the pertinent one. Every adult male has a military rifle. These aren’t .22 rabbit guns, but weapons designed to kill people. Surely we should look at what is different in Switzerland. It proves that the number of legal firearms alone isn’t enough. Which is why it’s never mentioned.

    • Geoffrey Luck says:

      I had a .303 rifle when I joined a rifle club. It cost two pounds from the Australian Army (because the Army then supported rifle clubs and thought it a good idea that someone in the community could shoot straight). An Army armourer set it up for me, and I bought a Parker Hale sight so I could lay off accurately for windage. After I left the club and the town, I took the rifle with me as I travelled in Australia and overseas. I kept it beside the bed in Port Moresby in 1957 when murderers escaped from Bomana prison and terrorised the town. The only time I fired was when it was necessary to put down a rabid cat (do cats contract rabies? this one seemed to have). With the rifle went bandoliers with 100 rounds of ammunition. All passed in and out of Customs without question in our personal belongings. When I had no foreseeble use for the rifle, I sold it and the ammo to a Sydney gun dealer. Just as well, as after Howard I would have had a problem. Today’s hysterical attitude to guns, engendered by people who have never used or handled them has created a national pacifism which would make it nearly impossible to create a militia for defence in time of need. Worse, it’s setting the country up for a mindset of surrender.

    • LBLoveday says:

      As I wrote above, reliable data are scarce, but a Wikipedia table gives the USA as 1.0 firearm per person, 4 times that of Switzerland AND Australia.

      • Doubting Thomas says:

        And of that total of over 300 million weapons, no more than a few hundreds will ever be used in a major shooting incident. Oh, the hysteria.

      • Peter says:

        This is misleading in that guns in Switzerland are more widely spread among the population. The figure of firearms per person in the US has to be seen in the light of many people owning large numbers of guns.

        • Jody says:

          Well, that’s perfectly true – but don’t you think their gun culture as depicted in 100 years of cinema is a major part of the problem? Take a look at this from the 1930s, before the “Hays Code”: completely without music, glamorization or sentimentality.


          • Jody says:

            This excerpt from a documentary describes the difference between sound film gangsters (and guns) and the ‘talkie’ depictions. The fact that violence can be sentimentalized at all, via silent film, and then exemplified by ‘sympathetic’ outlaws such as Cagney and Robinson demonstrates American ambivalence towards guns and violence. Later in the 30′s/early 40s Raoul Walsh would dramatize the human effects of exposure to violence which morphed into film noir. In short, American cinema can be characterized as a theme and variations on violence with guns:


          • Peter says:

            Their gun culture Jody has been part of building a nation of people willing and able to stand between us and the barbarians.

  12. Jody says:

    @Peter: not so much “us” and the barbarians as between the pioneers and the outlaws – glorified and sentimentalized in film and taken as lore for American people. It WAS part of nation-building but that was more than 150 years ago. And, of course, they’ve had a civil war. That last fact is very significant. I remain steadfast in my belief in the role played by popular culture in fostering a national gun fetish. “Annie Get Your Gun”!! A musical, for god’s sake.

  13. LBLoveday says:

    “The Strange Logic of Gun ‘Control’”

    An example of the logic:

    Lawrence O’Donnell is a (USA cable TV) MSNBC news show host.
    Lawrence: A bullet fired from an AR-15 travels 3x faster than one from a handgun. And yet the president and the NRA think giving teachers guns will stop a school shooter
    It may or not be wise to arm teachers, but muzzle velocities have zero to do with it; maybe this moron thinks The Matrix is real life.

  14. Jody says:

    I don’t agree with Ben Shapiro on ‘the right to bear arms’, but this man is a future US President: