Tag Archives: Second Amendment

Alex Jones And The Threat Of A New World Order

An insight into the ideology that drives Alex Jones and members of the Patriot movement.

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Since talk radio personality Alex Jones appeared on the Piers Morgan show on 7 January to discuss gun control, social media platforms have been abuzz, with Jones’ name and website trending on Twitter.  Jones argued the importance of the Second Amendment in American society (a polarizing topic itself), and his rationale behind its necessity were startling to some, hilarious to others, but most importantly it was a wake-up call to Americans on just how diverse political beliefs in our country can be.

I transcribed Jones’ response (that is the polite term) to Morgan’s questions in order to try to understand  further his intentions by coming on Morgan’s show. Instead of offering a play-by-play, I advise readers to take a glimpse at the appearance here.  After transcribing Jones’ response, I used Wordle programming for a visual representation of his beliefs:

Alex Jones transcript

A notable quote from Jones’ appearance:

I’m here to tell you 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms.  It doesn’t matter how many lemmings you get out there in the streets begging for them to have their guns taken, we will not relinquish them, do you understand? That’s why you’re going to fail and the establishment knows no matter how much propaganda that the Republic will rise again if you try to take our guns.  My family in the Texas revolution against Santa Anna, my family was at the core on both sides s.tarting that because Santa Anna came to take the guns at Gonzalez, Texas. Piers don’t try what your ancestors did before.  Why don’t you come to America, I’ll take you out shooting, you can become an American and join the Republic

The interview was the brunt of jokes for days afterwards on national and international news platforms, and while hearing someone yell about the rise of a second revolution may indeed sound over-the-top, Alex Jones is not someone to be ignored.  As fringe as his ideology may seem, he has a broad base of followers.  His radio show has over one million listeners daily (he claims it is closer to 1.5 million), his Youtube Channel  has over 350,000 fans and over 265 million views, and over 350,000 followers on Facebook.

In order to better understand Jones’ behavior and rhetoric, one must try to understand the larger message of the Patriot movement, of which he champions himself to be a leading ideologue.  While this is not all-encompassing (this movement has many factions, subcultures, interpretations within it), I will attempt to give those who have never heard of the movement a succinct overview of the ideology involved.

American Right-Wing Movement in the 1990s

Perhaps the most convenient time to begin a history of Patriot movement in America would be the end of the Cold War.  Right-wing extremists in America noticed an alarming new threat to their security as White Americans.  Globalization, as enacted by organizations such as the United Nations and World Trade Organization, was interpreted as an attempt by minorities to create a ‘New World Order’ (NWO) which would take over all governments and corporations.  Along with this paranoia against those different from themselves, right-wing movements witnessed large amounts of mistrust from within their own ranks.  After 1965 it is estimate that 20% of the membership of the Ku Klux Klan was informants.  Complimenting the threat of a NWO was the realization that citizens were being threatened by the American government, which they believed was now being run by either enemies of the white race, enemies to Christianity, or enemies of Democracy, depending on individual beliefs.  The belief was that NWO infiltrators (often assumed to be Jews) were placed in the government and enacting laws to prevent democracy from flourishing, and, eventually bring socialism in its place.

Two events in the 1992 and 1993 guided the justification of the right-wing struggle against the New World Order for the rest of the decade.  In 1992, Randy Weaver was approached by federal agents to become an informant, in return for removing his sentence for selling illegal weapons.  Weaver, from Ruby Ridge, Idaho, would occasionally attend white supremacist Aryan Nation meetings.  In 1986 he unknowingly sold two sawed-off shotguns to an federal informant.  After refusing to cooperate, he was arrested for the illegal transfer of a firearm.  A mishap with paperwork in the courthouse caused Weaver to miss his court date.  Despite the confusion, the US Marshals Service went to his house to discuss the mix-up and offer him to ‘surrender peacefully’, though the US Attorney’s Office wanted to charge him for his failure to appear in court.  Weaver mistrusted the inconsistency of policy from different agencies, and instead chose to isolate himself and his family in his house, refusing to surrender.  After months of inaction, the US Marshals were sent to his property to survey the situation.  When confronted by Weaver’s 14 year old son and family friend, the Marshals shot and killed Weaver’s son and dogs.  The next day, FBI snipers, who were given orders to kill Weaver, accidentally shot his wife twice, killing her instantly. An additional 10 day stand-off took place, and eventually Weaver and his two daughters surrendered.

In early 1993, federal agents attempted to execute a search warrant at a Branch Davidian property outside of Waco, Texas, where intelligence agencies had been tipped that the compound contained automatic machine guns, and could potentially be modifying other weapons for resale.  Upon entering the property to search it, a gunfight quickly ensued.  Both the federal agents and Branch Davidians claim that the opposing side initiated the gunfight. After two hours, four agents and six Davidians were killed.  After fifty days of standoff, the FBI attempted to enter the property, which ending in an additional 76 deaths.

The events of Ruby Ridge and Waco were a call to arms for some Americans, and Jones himself states that the events in Waco Texas enlightened him to the globalist influence that had overtaken the American government.

Alex Jones and the New World Order

Alex Jones began to gain popularity in the Texas Conservative Radio circuit in the 1990s.  He gained additional supporters when he lead a successful effort to rebuild the Branch Davidian Church in Waco, Texas..  Jones’ documentary on Waco, “America Wake Up or Waco”  also boosted his popularity amongst conspiracy theorists as a leading authority on the NWO. In 1999 he won “Best of Austin” poll as radio host, though; despite this was soon fired from KJFK-FM as the station found his polarizing material made it difficult for them to find sponsors to finance his show.  He continued the show from broadcasts out of his home via the internet.  By 2001 his show was syndicated on approximately 100 stations.  On 25 July 2001, Jones proved his insight into the NWO conspiracy by predicting a government-planned terrorist attack was eminent.  Just as he predicted, the events on September 11th 2001 solidified his argument that a terrorist attack would be used as a cover for the government to further limit the rights of Americans.  Jones involved himself in directing arguably the most popular documentary detailing the NWO’s cover-up in the documentary Loose Change.

Perhaps the most relevant conspiracy theory that is part of the wider NWO web of conspiracies is the  theory that a government mind control program that is being undertaken against citizens who are seen as a threat to their control.  Leaders of this movement, Jones included, are perpetuating idea that antidepressants are engineered by the government to create more violence.  The movie theatre massacre in Aurora, CO is  a red flag for Jones and friends, who believe that James Holmes was brainwashed through drugs as well as an indoctrination program at the US governments Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA).  Dozens of articles and videos have been uploaded on Alex Jones, Info Wars, or Prison Planet (Jones’ forum for fans) on government involvement and planning of the Sandy Hook Massacre.

The Implications of Jones’ Appearance on Piers Morgan

Mere hours after Jones was on the Piers Morgan show, he released this video where he explains his belief that he was being tailed by “(NYC Mayor Michael) Bloomberg’s gangster cops” . Jones details that the NWO has reached ‘total mafia status’, where men with microphones in their sleeves were following him and stating, in an intimidating manner, that they were “huge fans of his show”.  On Thursday 10 January he featured Douglas Hagman on his show, who claimed that, according to his inside sources at the Department of Homeland Security, he was, indeed under surveillance by federal and local agents.  Hagman claimed that DHS aimed to “bumper lock” him, to make their presence known, and treat him with hostility.  Just as Jones had predicted in his video, Hagman confirmed that they were trying to set him up, and that there was “a woman by a Starbucks…they were planning on a physical altercation to make you look violent or unstable”. Hagman goes even further and claimed that his informant state that DHS is going after ‘the mouthpieces of the movement, wants marginalization…to make us look foolish.  Their first targets are the people speaking the truth”.

Further Evidence?

This week, Hagman’s claims of NWO marginalization have been ‘validated’ by two mysterious deaths of high-profile gun advocates within the Patriot movement.  The director of a popular YouTube Channel on exotic guns and gun culture, Keith Ratcliffe, was found dead in his office on January 3rd.  Even more starting to Jones and friends is the death of John Noveske, who died in a car crash on 4 January. On 27 December, he posted on Facebook research he had done into the link between psychotropic drugs and mass shootings, concluding that gun ownership laws could not be held responsible.  Jones is warning that similar attacks will become increasingly common, if more citizens do not awake to the danger.

Backlash

Within forums that are usually sympathetic to Jones’ cause, there have been mixed reactions to his recent surge in popularity.  On one hand, the increase in Google searches on terms such as ‘democide’ ‘false flag’ and ‘government suicide pills’ could be seen as increasing awareness (if not sympathy) to their cause.  Ron Paul, arguably the face of the mainstream libertarian movement, was a guest on the show the day after the Piers Morgan show, which many of his supporters found to be a bad move, politically. They were further incensed when the video of Paul’s appearance on his show was entitled “Ron Paul Warns of 2nd American Revolution if Obama Bans Guns with EO”  which, of course Paul never said.  Glenn Beck wrote an article about Alex Jones this week; their feud has been building for years, as Jones has suggested that Beck may be a straw man for the NWO.

It will be interesting to continue to follow Alex Jones over the next few weeks and look for further evolution of his ideology and fanbase.  One caller on his radio show yesterday detailed the start of a new campaign by a few members of the US Army called ‘We Are the Dead’, named after a Tier 1 officer told the anonymous soldier that he would shoot him dead on the spot if a superior told him to.  As of the release of this article there is no website, Facebook page, or Twitter for the group, only a mention on this forum. Jones did tell listeners to continue to tune in for more information, and time will tell if his threats of globalist domination are reaching a wider fanbase.

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Photo Credit: pasa47

Is ‘Less-Than-Lethal’ Ammunition The Solution?

Fox News published an article today denoting a new form of ammunition about to be sold by a US company. The “Burns Round” (named after the company founder’s deceased cousin: U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Kyle Burns) is fired out of a 12-gauge shotgun and flattens on impact. Resultantly it bruises and stuns the target, hopefully avoiding fatality.

The company is marketing this new ammo specifically at police and other law enforcement officials – the catalyst for its creation was the need for ammo that wouldn’t pierce the skin of a plane in the post-9/11 armed flight marshal world.

Given the on-going debate over the Second Amendment (read mine and Peter Kelly’s thoughts on the matter here), it would be beneficial to push these developments further into the public sphere. Allowing citizenry and police to be armed with “less-than-lethal” ammunition is clearly preferable to, for example, hollow point rounds. Whilst it will not eradicate the problem or the underlying issues, it has the potential to lower the casualty rate of this pandemic.

Of course non-lethal ammunition is nothing new; police have been using rubber bullets for some time now. But it is encouraging that the U.S.’s foremost right-wing gun-toting website is shouting its praises.

Perhaps the NRA would like to join in?

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Photo credit: Keoni Cabral

Controlling The Gun Control Message War

The Second Amendment is vague. An argument can be made for being allowed to own a firearm, but it is absurd to believe that the hazy nature of the Second Amendment does not allow for a debate on what sort of weapons are available, and to whom they are made available.

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Following the unconscionable sunset of the ten-year Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 2004, gun policy assumed a political status of third rail proportions for control advocates. Despite the critical need for a safer, smarter policy direction, the American gun lobby and gun rights activists rendered meaningful legislation all but impossible, and the issue simmered quietly on the lowest lit back burner of the policy stove. Not anymore.

In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, gun policy narratives are exploding in every direction, illuminating the complex, ideology-heavy web that engulfs United States firearm laws and mental health care  as they relate to one another. Unlike previous mass-shootings in Aurora, Blacksburg, Oak Creek, and Tucson, it seems the American public has finally come online, thrusting gun policy back into the political frying pan.

The ensuing political debate is not falling along the typical, post-massacre lines. Gun rights advocates and their friends in Congress are on the defensive. The ever-outspoken National Rifle Association seems to be abiding by a self-imposed gag-order. The group’s Twitter page has gone silent, and the group’s Facebook page seems to have been deactivated. NBC’s David Gregory and CBS’s Bob Schieffer extended invitations to GOP Senators and NRA officials to speak on their respective Sunday morning shows to discuss the incident at Sandy Hook as it relates to the American gun culture. Not a single GOP Senator or NRA representative accepted the invitations. Pro-gun Democrats like Harry Reid, Joe Manchin, and Mark Warner are coming out of their NRA appeasement caves to signal their willingness to march with control advocates toward a smarter, more restrictive gun policy. No word from NRA about these Democratic about-faces.

Rather, it is in the media sphere where the debate is roaring along its usual fault lines. There is the natural split between the pro-gun hardliners and the control advocates. The hardliners are convinced their weapons are not the real issue, and either dodge sideways to discuss only mental health screening or hold the second amendment aloft like a trump card in the face of anyone who suggests that loopholes on background checks should be closed or high capacity magazines and assault weapons should be illegal. The control advocates are coalescing behind a call for stronger restrictions on the types of firearms to be issued and more effective mental health screening procedures for those seeking to obtain them. Many who found themselves on the fence about the language of the second amendment and the human cost of a lax gun culture have made the move leftward, shaken to their senses by the carnage visited upon twenty elementary school kids and their teachers. This progressive shift is being felt across all media forms and markets, as control advocates are finally stepping forward to eviscerate the inevitable gun lobby talking points.

In his response to Anthony Machinski’s pro-gun rights piece “Gun Control: You Can’t Test Irresponsibility”, Tom Hashemi of the The Risky Shift takes dead aim at common pro-gun rights assertions (But gun control won’t stop these tragedies! But I am a responsible gun owner! But what about cars? Cars are dangerous too!). After making mince-meat of Machinski’s anti-deterrence arguments, Hashemi briefly dismisses the Second Amendment argument, and goes on to state that “No matter how much the facts stack up on one side, votes will be matched along these lines of identity, not of rationality. What needs to change is what “freedom” really means: that we should be looking upon it as freedom from death and suffering, not freedom to wield a weapon of your choice to cause it.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt would be proud. This is a strong and convincing appeal. It treats our Constitution, our language, and our citizens like adults, capable of serious change that stays true to the spirit in which our founding document was written. However, for the purposes of capitalizing on the nation’s new-found sense of focus on progressive gun policy reform, the conversation about the meaning of “freedom” might be best saved for a different day. In the immediate aftermath of the incident at Sandy Hook, action must be swift and decisive, or the momentum will recede the way it always does. We will hear the same old arguments against any concerted move to alter American gun culture and law as it stands today. As Hashemi noted, this is tied directly, if misguidedly, to a warped concept of “freedom” and the Second Amendment.  But why waste time arguing over the definition of “freedom” when you don’t have to? The Second Amendment is vague. An argument can be made for being allowed to own a firearm, but it is absurd to believe that the hazy nature of the Second Amendment does not allow  for a debate on what sort of weapons are available, and to whom they are made available. If that were the case, ex-convicts could mount cannons on their roofs, and who could protest?

Recognize this, and the arguments for smarter, more effective gun restrictions become monumentally simple. From now on, if the Second Amendment argument is going to be made by people who are looking backward two hundred years to a law fitted to the extraordinary nature of the time and place in which it was implemented, the response should not trample on that. Why waste your breath? Instead, the response should be simple, clear and cross none of the gun-rights activists’ “freedom” defenses: You have a right to own certain guns, pending the results of your mental health screening and background check. No tyrant will come for those guns. They are yours, and you are free to have them. We are not talking about control or government overreach. We are talking about precaution and prevention.

Update, 4:40 PM: The NRA has released its first statement since Friday’s incident in Newtown. The NRA states that it “is prepared to help make sure this never happens again.” How comforting. I look forward to hearing how they plan to help.

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Photo Credit: taberandrew

The Second Amendment: An Outdated, Ideological Fallacy

This is not about rationality: arguments against gun control are almost entirely constructed and founded on their ideological underpinnings. And as with any devout ideologue, the wider picture and the resultant implications are willfully and purposefully ignored.

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This piece was co-authored by Peter Kelly.

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Anthony Machinski’s recent piece on TRS – “Gun Control: You Can’t Test Irresponsibility” – is, at best, the work of an individual firmly fixated on trying to make reality look like a world in which the Second Amendment is still relevant. At worst, it is one so dedicated to this fantasy as to have dangerous illusions as to the continued relevance of an armed militia concerned with resisting a tyrannous federal government. For that was the purpose and reasoning leading to the Second Amendment.

Machinski’s arguments are based on statistics, but these are either incorrect, invalid, or irrelevant to the matter at hand. Like Machinski we wish to take a moment to remember the lives devastated by this tragedy, however to do so without seeking ways to stop this trend towards such tragedies is a fatal mistake.

If we do not look at the underlying and facilitating factors to Columbine-esque shootings such events will continue to feature: is the post-revolutionary right to bear arms really worth the continuous killings of so many children?

Firstly however, we would like to address some incorrect claims made in the Machinski piece.

1) People will always be able to “get their hands on whatever item they want if they so choose”

Machinski chooses to exemplify this with reference to prohibition and the failure of legislation to tackle drug abuse. These are wholly illegitimate comparisons.

Firstly, there is a huge difference in intent.

The intent of someone who drank alcohol during prohibition was not to be able to maim or kill. Similarly, for one who is recreationally taking illegal drugs the intent is to enjoy themselves.

Irrespective of our respective views on the use of recreational drugs, it is readily apparent that for the vast majority of users the intent is not to commit any violence. With guns, the sourcing of a weapon is for the sole purpose of being able to maim at some point in the future, even if this is under the guise of defence.

Secondly, and more applicably, most killers lack the connections or experience to get hold of illegal weapons (as opposed to gang members).

Reductio ad absurdum: why don’t we just give all mentally unfit persons a firearm? According to Machinksi they are going to get them anyway.

2) The UK “has problems with school shootings”

The factual inaccuracy here is startling. A simple Wikipedia search would have displayed to the author that the only school shooting in the UK in living memory was the Dunblane massacre of 1996.

The Cumbria shootings of 2010 had nothing whatsoever to do with schools or children – as proven by virtue of the fact that all victims were over the age of twenty three. We can further consider that the only other major gun massacre in the UK (again, in living memory) was that which occurred in Hungerford in 1987. Again, nothing to do with a school.

Thus, of the three mass shootings in the last three decades in the UK, only one has taken place in a school.

3) In “no way, shape, or form would gun control laws have helped prevent this tragedy”

Firstly, should the type of guns permitted to be licensed be lower down the “ease-of-use” scale it is highly unlikely that this tragedy would have been as extreme as it is; had the shooter’s only weapon been a handgun it is doubtful that the casualty count would be so high.

The weapon he used was akin to the M16 (as employed by the U.S. Army). Its efficacy in lethality is demonstrated by the short time-frame of the killing spree (the killer shot himself less than ten minutes after the first shot was fired, just as the first police officer entered the school). Less efficient legal weapons would likely result in less deaths per mass killing.

Secondly, legal weapons have been used in approximately seventy five per cent of the sixty two mass killings in America since 1982, thus demonstrating the complete failure of the American licensed weapons system.

A more holistic attempt at ensuring that active weapons do not get into the wrong hands – a greater degree of federal specificity over how guns are stored; the enforced separation of gun from ammunition in storage; the ineligibility of those living with person(s) with mental health issues to possess a weapon, etc. – would indubitably result in less legal weapons being used for illegal purposes.

Such restrictions – gun control laws – would likely have limited (if not put a stop to) this mass murder.

We must also consider arguments which frame the fight against the Second Amendment; this is a debate which cannot be won solely on the defensive.

Outdated

The Second Amendment is archaic and belongs to the time of slavery and the looming threat of the British Empire. In short, a time well before the U.S. could truly have been called a democracy. Now, when federal government depends on votes to remain in power, votes are the weapons every household needs.

There is no need for every man to wield a weapon to warn off a federal army which has its hands tied controlling Afghanistan, let alone the three hundred and ten million citizens of the United States – even were they completely unarmed. Besides which, where is the organised militia such armed citizenry are supposed to belong to?

The Second Amendment is a disastrous carry-on from a past era. The eighteenth century solution (to eighteenth century issues which no longer exist) has created a twenty-first century problem.

The Statistics

The homicide by firearm rate in the U.S. is completely disproportionate to its position as a Western nation. It is only bested by developing countries and the nearest developed countries to it are Liechtenstein and Switzerland (also low gun-restriction countries).

The disproportion is by a rather telling factor of four.

One can point to all kinds of different mitigating statistics to this, but the inescapable line is that lax gun laws equal more gun murders in developed states. In the United States, unless you were to insult the entire populace with the assumption that they are more homicidal than average, a factor of four is simply too large of a difference to be challenged.

Bringing the United Kingdom in hardly helps the case – it has a gun-related homicide rate of approximately forty times smaller. The rate of gun crime has halved in the years since stricter gun laws were enforced and cannot be attributed to a culture of less crime, as the United Kingdom has a slightly higher crime rate.

It also rubbishes the claim that those without guns will find other means, as despite the higher crime rate the UK’s homicide rate is significantly smaller than that of the US, 1.2 per 100,000 against 4.2 respectively.

Conclusion

The fact of the matter is that the strength of the argument for gun control is all but irrelevant. As Sam Leith, writing in today’s Evening Standard, argues, “the issue in the US is a dialogue of the deaf because it’s about identity politics, not harm reduction”. The Second Amendment equates the gun to freedom, and as we are aware, freedom is a big word.

This is not about rationality: arguments against gun control are almost entirely constructed and founded on their ideological underpinnings. And as with any devout ideologue, the wider picture and the resultant implications are willfully and purposefully ignored.

Resultantly debate on this matter is nothing but a formality. No matter how much the facts stack up on one side, votes will be matched along these lines of identity, not of rationality. What needs to change is what “freedom” really means: that we should be looking upon it as freedom from death and suffering, not freedom to wield a weapon of your choice to cause it.

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This piece was co-authored by Peter Kelly.

Peter holds an MSc in International Security from the University of Bristol and a BA in Philosophy and Politics from Durham University. His focus is on security and conflict issues in the western world, Middle East and Africa. He runs the site A Third Opinion.

Photo credit:  Jenn Durfey

Should Citizens Have The Right To Bear Arms?

Is it sensible to allow citizens ‘the right to bear arms’ with little more than a cursory background check? Does an armed populace increase or decrease the murder rate? Do stricter gun-control laws simply prevent dutiful citizens from protecting themselves against potential assailants?

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On Friday 20th July, James Holmes, a 24 year old former neuroscience graduate student at the University of Colorado, Denver, walked in to a midnight screening of the new Batman Film The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora. Holmes casually took his place in the audience, his bright orange hair barely standing out in the theatre full of excited fans. Shortly thereafter, he slipped out the side door and returned a few minutes later dressed for battle. He was armed to the teeth with an AR-15 assault rifle, a Remington 870 shotgun and a 40 caliber glock handgun. He wore a ballistic helmet, gas mask, throat-protector, tactical vest and pants. Holmes proceeded to lob gas canisters into the crowd before opening fire and unleashing a hail of bullets, killing twelve and wounding 58. Holmes was arrested in the cinema car park at 12:45 am, approximately 7 minutes after opening fire, apparently without resistance. He had donned such complete protective gear that responding police officers almost mistook him for a SWAT team member.

Just over two weeks later, on the 5th August, Wade Michael Page, a 40 year old former US Army Sergeant with links to the white power movement, stormed into a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, shooting dead six and injuring three. He was eventually shot dead outside by armed police officers. He was armed with a Springfield 9mm XDM, a 20 round capacity handgun he had purchased just 6 days previously.

These two incidents have understandably re-ignited the gun control debate in America and world-wide. Should citizens have the right to bear arms?

[dropcap]YES[/dropcap]I greatly admire the pro-control crowd; their views come not from a desire to restrict liberties, but to save lives. This is the greatest motivation one can possess, and at first glance their reasoning is concrete: guns are designed only to kill and hold no other purpose, if you prevent more people from having guns, then less people die.This concept however, fails to take into account three important points that I will now address:

1.) The vast majority of gun violence worldwide is committed using illegally obtained firearms.

Do not fool yourself in to thinking that any law on earth can or will stop the appalling amounts of deaths, assaults and suicides we see every day – these simply aren’t committed with the legally obtained guns that gun control would  restrict. By their very nature, illegally obtained firearms cannot be prevented by the creation of laws; such laws only restrict those who choose to obey them and who use guns safely. Illegal gun trafficking is a multi-billion dollar worldwide industry and will continue regardless of what anyone says or does. Where there is a profit, someone will find a way.

2.) Gun-control has absolutely nothing to do with crime rates as a whole.

United Nation studies show that the most important factors that cause high homicide rates rest in the society itself; low levels of development, civil unrest, poverty & crime rates. Restricting people’s access to firearms does not stop them from killing each other; it just stops them doing it with guns. Surely our concern should not be the means of a murder, but the fact a murder has occurred in the first place.

Take Switzerland, otherwise known as the country with a machine gun in every home (see Wiki’s summary here). Despite the breathtaking amount of legally obtained automatic weapons in Switzerland, their homicide rates are less than here in Britain, where most firearms were banned in ’97 (and incidentally, since then gun crime has increased according to Home Office statistics).

To use the recent massacre in Aurora as an example, guns might have played a vital part in the killing, but if someone is truly hell-bent on killing a large group of people, they’re going to find a way regardless of gun-control: black market firearms, homemade explosives, high-jacked planes or mass poisonings. The true tragedy is that the cinema chain where the shooting took place does not allow people to carry their lawful, concealed firearms. If they had, then it’s possible that an individual in the audience (one trained in gun usage and safety like most legal carriers) would have returned fire and prevented many innocent deaths.

3.) Firearms are not just pointless “killing machines”.

Right now firearms are being used to hunt for food. They are used to control pests and protect the livelihood of farmers; as a small majority of the population will desperately attest, and a great deal will automatically and arrogantly disregard. Firearms have featured in the Olympic Games as a sport, bringing pleasure to millions of amateurs and professionals world-wide, never mind the comfort legally-obtained firearms bring to families everywhere as tools of self-defence.  This is not something to take away lightly. Guns exist and no governmental policies will deny that fact. Gun-control will not save lives; it will only restrict the personal liberties of innocent people who have a right to bear arms.

Mark Petit

[dropcap]NO[/dropcap]Some have found it somewhat incongruous that as a self-confessed ‘gun-fan’ and ‘weekend warrior’ with the Territorial Army, I should take the side of pro-control in this debate. So, before I get my teeth into this debate I’d like to make one thing clear – I am not taking an anti-firearm stance, merely a pro-control stance. Guns are fun. They are used in all sorts of legitimate sporting and cultural pursuits, however, this does not change the fact that they are ultimately an instrument of warfare – a tool designed to make killing easy.

This leads me on to my first point. Some may argue that as an inanimate object, murder is hardly the guns fault. It is, after all, the person who pulls the trigger. While this is a fair observation, it misses the critical fact that I just mentioned – namely, that guns are practically the most dangerous ‘inanimate objects’ in existence. Imagine for one moment that you wanted to kill. What method would you choose? Battery? Stabbing? Arson? In reality what could possibly be easier than standing distant from a target and squeezing the trigger, perhaps without them ever even knowing? This is the fundamental reason why guns should be subject to strict control laws – they make killing too easy.

The second argument made against control is that if someone really wants to kill (like James Homes) control measures won’t stop them. They may make things harder, weapons and ammunition more difficult to obtain for instance, but if they really want to kill they will find a way to do it. All you’re really doing is taking weapons out of the hands of responsible citizens who might otherwise constitute a deterrent threat – right?

Although I can see the logic in this argument – overall, allowing the populace to arm itself without restriction makes little sense in the context of modern democratic societies like Britain or America. While you may not be able to eliminate psychopathic killings such as one described above, or the Dunblane massacre in the UK (1996), increased control measures will reduce far more common ‘spur of the moment’ murders. An informative FBI data set shows that in 2010 41.8% of firearm homicide victims were murdered during arguments, and a further 23.1% were slain during ‘felony circumstances’ such as rape, robbery, burglary etc. Obviously taking firearms out of the equation during these arguments / felonies would have dramatically increased the victim’s chances of survival. After all, it takes a split-second of emotion to murder someone with a gun, and the above statistics clearly demonstrate that this ‘moment of madness’ is how homicide/manslaughter by firearm most often unfolds. By the way the same data set shows that private citizens ‘justifiably killed’ 232 people by firearm over the course of the year – just 1.8% of the total homicides.

Furthermore, the self-protection/vigilante argument comes unstuck when you realise that the very idea that you can adequately defend yourself with a firearm is suspect in most cases. Suppose the extremely remote chance of someone trying to kill you comes to pass, most often they have the initiative on you and consequently you don’t have time to respond. Even if you do, producing a gun will undoubtedly increase your chances of being shot. In the remaining remote chance that you successfully regain the initiative, there suddenly becomes a high chance that you will end up committing manslaughter. This argument suggests that there should be an extremely high risk to potential murderers in order to protect against the extremely low risk of murder occurring in modern democratic societies. Obviously, this makes little sense. To add official backing to this argument, consult the UNODC’s global study on homicide which acknowledges that the research literature suggests that “firearm availability predominately represents a risk factor rather than a protective factor for homicide.” (p.43)

A third point I’d like to make is that the statistics that are often cited by anti-control pundits are entirely misleading. For example, in the UK gun crime has supposedly gone up since the 1997 Firearms act, anywhere up to 110% depending on which statistics you read. But ‘gun crime’ stats can easily be manipulated depending on definitions – I suggest that this in fact the main reason for such outlandish figures. If we single out the firearms homicide rate, that has remained relatively constant at around 60-70 deaths per year. If anything, there is a trend downwards.

Finally, I’d like to conclude by acknowledging my rivals point about society. In Switzerland there is an extremely low murder-rate, despite high gun ownership. Equally, I could cite the obvious correlation between gun-ownership and violent death in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Society and culture clearly has a big part to play in this delicate issue, but it is one concerning the extent of the control measures, (which is still up for debate on a country by county basis) not the necessity of them. In the US context, the 2nd amendment harps to a bygone era when the risk to individual travellers was far higher, and is simply not relevant today.

Andrew Totten

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What do you think?