While our prime minister staggers from Brexit crisis to Brexit crisis, leaving us still, perhaps forever, in a weird limbo with no idea where we will end up, on the other side of the world New Zealand’s prime minister is taking decisive action, albeit in a different area altogether.
Jacinda Adern and her government have banned assault rifles and military style automatic weapons, as well as the various devices which can be bought to convert other weapons into assault rifles and military style weapons.
“I absolutely believe there will be a common view amongst New Zealanders, those who use guns for legitimate purposes, and those who have never touched one, that the time for the mass and easy availability of these weapons must end. And today they will,” said Jacinda Ardern.
She plans to introduce a buy-back scheme to encourage the handing in of banned weapons. This may be more of a problem than introducing a ban because the minister of police says they have no idea how many assault rifles are in circulation. Surely they must have a system of registration for weapon ownership!
I was amazed at how many guns there are in New Zealand. With a population of less that 5 million people, the country has an estimated 1.2 to 1.5 million firearms. That seems like a lot of guns to me, especially as a fair percentage of the population will be children.
This led me to wonder how many guns there are in Australia. Quite a lot! But I did not find any kind of exact number. Maybe I need to look harder.
I did find this information from Factcheck.org:-
“In 1996, Australia passed the National Firearms Agreement after a mass shooting in Tasmania in April of that year. In that incident, a 28-year-old man, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, shot and killed 35 people, and injured 18 others, in what was known as the Port Arthur Massacre.
Under the 1996 law, Australia banned certain semi-automatic, self-loading rifles and shotguns, and imposed stricter licensing and registration requirements. It also instituted a mandatory buyback program for firearms banned by the 1996 law.
During the buyback program, Australians sold 640,000 prohibited firearms to the government, and voluntarily surrendered about 60,000 non-prohibited firearms. In all, more than 700,000 weapons were surrendered, according to a Library of Congress report on Australian gun policy. One study says that the program reduced the number of guns in private hands by 20 percent.
The number of firearm-related homicides also has dropped substantially since the 1996 gun law was enacted.
“The number of homicide incidents involving a firearm decreased by 57 percent between 1989-90 and 2013-14,” the government crime trends report says. “Firearms were used in 13 percent of homicide incidents (n=32) in 2013-14. In 1989-90 it was 24 percent (n=75) of incidents.””
Oddly enough statistics seem to show that gun ownership may have increased recently in Australia. Or rather, the number of guns has gone up while the number of people owning guns has still gone down. Those who own guns are buying more of them. I read that this multi+gun ownership is common in the USA as well.
I can understand, sort of, the compulsion to have the latest model. I can get the same way about handbags or, in a completely different bit of my life, packs of watercolour pencil crayons. But my compulsions are mostly harmless. I have not looked for statistics for people killed with handbags or pencil crayons but I am willing to bet they are very low!
Anyway, getting back to serious commentary again, it seems that gun control measures do work. Reaction from the USA to Jacinda Adern’s action has been interesting.
US senator Bernie Sanders said: “This is what real action to stop gun violence looks like” and called on the US to follow New Zealand’s lead.
Dana Loesch, a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association (NRA) responded to Sanders on Twitter saying: “The US isn’t NZ. While they do not have an inalienable right to bear arms and to self defense, we do.”
There you go! “An inalienable right to bear arms”. Maybe it’s the pioneering spirit that leads to a desire, originally a need, to own a gun. You never know what you will come across when you are exploring a new country. How many gun-owners are still pioneers though?
Now, I can almost get my head around the idea of owning a small gun for personal protection. No! I can’t really get my head around that any more than I can understand the need to carry knives! And I suppose that if you like to go hunting (but quite why you would do that escapes me) you need a hunting rifle.
However, I still cannot understand at all why any ordinary person, someone who gets up and goes to work in the morning, goes to the gym, does some online shopping or banking, takes his or her kids to play in the park, needs an assault rifle!
Do they expect the breakdown of civilisation to occur imminently? And might they not be better just stockpiling foodstuffs?