In 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 ), 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.”