Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Stephen Mulholland on Gun Control

I have got to admit, when I first saw that Stephen Mulholland had penned an article on gun control, I expected the usual dogma. But, it seems, even the diehard liberals cannot ignore the glaring statistics. Mulholland's article, although no watershed moment, is definitely a move in the right direction (pardon the pun). But I do not labour under any illusion that the ANC will never reverse the damage it has done to gun ownership. The issue was never crime reduction, but rather the disarmament of the white population, despite there being no evidence of any white uprisings. The ANC clearly moved to consolidate power, so as to ensure they rule until the second coming of Christ.

IT WAS as a lowly recruit in the United States Army Armour Training Corps in 1960 in Fort Knox, Kentucky that I had my only proper experience in the use and handling of guns.

We fired many thousands of rounds during six months of active duty under the watchful gaze of hardened veterans of the Korean and other conflicts in which the US has been engaged.

The thing about guns is that once the trigger is pulled there is no calling back the bullet. Once it is on its way, the die is cast. The muzzle velocity of a typical modern infantry rifle is more than 800m a second.

This is among the reasons that I have never owned a gun. They scare me. Their destructive power is something that I would not want in my hands.

But, of course, millions of decent people all over the world take a different stance. For them a gun is part of the recreational pursuit of hunting or perhaps target shooting. For others, particularly those living in countries like ours, with high rates of violent crime, guns are an essential form of protection.

This is particularly the case in South Africa where corrupt policeman sell guns and ammunition to criminals, arms are shipped easily across our porous borders from regions where armed conflict has been common, such as Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Also, criminals with combat training illegally enter our country and young gangsters in our townships seek self identity and esteem through possession of lethal weapons.

In our rural areas farmers and their families are preyed upon by armed, dangerously aggressive and desperate criminals who will kill without a second thought. Who can blame farmers for arming themselves? Who can blame them for wishing to protect their lives and to prevent their womenfolk from being raped and murdered?

We who live in suburbia have the protection of private security, paid for out of after-tax money as the State fails in its duty of protecting the citizens. And we usually have close neighbours to call upon, whereas farmers no longer have the comfort of the old commando system where citizens volunteered to maintain security in their communities.

Recently a resident of Alberton rescued his neighbours from probable murder and rape at the hands of three criminals, one of whom he shot dead. Had he not been armed would he have been wise to enter the house?

In the United States the Second Amendment gives citizens the right to bear arms. It is a right which the majority of Americans endorse. As a result, there are some 200 million guns owned by little more than 300 million Americans.

It can be argued that such wide gun ownership is responsible for the relatively high rates of violent crime and of suicide by gunshot in many parts of the USA. On the other hand, it is in rural areas, where crime rates are generally lower, that the gun ownership is highest.

Finland, a nation of 5.3 million, has a long tradition of hunting and ranks among the top five nations in the world in civilian gun ownership. It has 1.6 million firearms in private hands, mostly rifles for hunting. It has an extremely low level of gun violence and a recent shooting of four victims in a love spat was by a Kosovian with a criminal record.

John Lott, a highly regarded American economist, argues that there is solid evidence that where law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry concealed firearms, crime rates decline. (Indeed, but it surprises me that people still believe the issue was about crime. It never was.)

On January 11 South Africa will embark on yet another gun amnesty in an effort to reduce the number of guns in private hands.

One wishes the police well but the evidence suggests that if criminals know that citizens might carry the means to defend themselves they will react logically, to the benefit of all.

Source: Dispatch Online

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