Lessons on Gun Control from ‘Down Under’

johnhowardIn these days following the initial presentation of President Obama’s encouraging agenda to help curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the form of firearms, there is a lot of talk about the pros and cons, the challenges and the need to make this sort of change happen. Today’s New York Times includes a guest op-ed piece by the former Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, who — in what I think is a humble and generous way — offers the United States a model to consider while moving forward in the discussion about the banning of assault weapons.

As a Christian, this is a “no-brainer.” Nobody has a right to an assault weapon. Period. Furthermore, as the Roman Catholic Church has continually expressed in recent decades (see, for example, my essay: “Catholic Church on Gun Control: No Firearms for Civilians!” in the book Franciscan Spirituality for the 21st Century: Selected Reflections from the Dating God Blog and Other Essays [2013]), individual citizens should not have access to instruments of murder. Yes, there are circumstances for which a hunter’s rifle, a far cry from assault weapons or handguns which are only used to kill other people, can be justified for the purposes of survival. However, other weapons have no such claim and secondary justifications, such as “for collecting purposes,” remain wholly specious.

Prime Minister Howard offers some interesting observations and commentary, noting along the way the unique hurdles that makes similar change in the US particularly challenging. Nevertheless, it is worth exploring this experience in Australia so that, eventually, we too might be able to say about our nation what the Australians say about their experience of banning assault weapons. Or, as Prime Minister Howard puts it: “Few Australians would deny that their country is safer today as a consequence of gun control.”

To read the op-ed piece, go to: “I Went After Guns. Obama Can, Too.”

Photo: Wire
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5 Responses to “Lessons on Gun Control from ‘Down Under’”

  1. Removing guns from the hands of civilians would
    significantly enhance the power of the state. Without weapons, we
    are defenseless against future tyranny.

    • I’ve heard this argument occasionally and cannot take such ‘concerns’ seriously. Do you really think guns in the hands of citizens would really prevent the potential ‘tyranny’ of a nation that has drones, nuclear weapons, and the most technologically advanced military on the planet? Your fear is an irrational one. Guns in the hands of citizens just results in the likelihood of more fatalities.

      • The same country that struggles against the Taliban in Afghanistan? With tens of millions of Americans armed, we would have a good chance. Also, it is doubtful that a tyrant would use nuclear weapons on his own homeland.

        My liberal friends often tell me not to worry about some future tyranny- that is, when they aren’t telling me about how much they want to kill George W. Bush, beat up priests, and blow up racists using drones.

        Finally, many writers about democracy have expressed concern over it devolving into tyranny, such as Plato in The Republic. Do you think that such concerns are irrational on their face or simply in our own situation?

      • I think the concerns are irrational as a justification for the ownership of guns by private citizens.

  2. Mexico serves as an example of why lack of guns can be problematic for citizens. Many in the southern part of the country are forming self defense forces for their villages and communities because the government is either too weak or corrupt to protect them. Irrational or not this is happening and God help them they can only resort to single shot shotguns and some ancient looking bolt action .22s while the drug gangs/cartels have the so called assault weapons at hand to use. There is more then one form of tyranny to guard against.

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