Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Logic Failure of Gun Control

One topic that seems to be popping up regularly when we talk with the voting public is the topic of gun control. To be honest, with all the usual noise about abortion, the death penalty, gay marriage and other bedrock issues, I hadn't paid much attention to gun control.

My initial reaction to this issue was influenced by the media, and I suspect that many would feel similarly. There has been new emphasis on increased gun control with every spate of high school attacks in America and certainly that publicity starts to filter through your mindset.

Imagine saying the opposite. Imagine saying that gun control should be reduced and that every man and his dog be equipped with rifles. The image that crosses my mind, and maybe yours, is one of anarchy, of fierce factions empowered to blow each other away whenever their mood goes bad. Back comes policemen killing their girlfriends and all the other folklore attached to the trigger-happy.

Certainly there is a risk that you put guns in the hands of those who don't have the discipline to keep their bullets between the mattresses. The flip side is far worse.

The basic premise of gun control is that you can completely eliminate guns. It assumes that at some point in the near future, you can have total control over the population in your country and that no gun can pass hands without the police seeing it, finding it and eliminating it. It also assumes that the police themselves are perfectly trustworthy and as the only bearer of weapons, if at all, you are completely safe in their hands. If you're a South Africa citizen you'll know this is fantasy.

Here is the reality. Guns get into South Africa across borders, in undisclosed containers on ships, manufactured in backrooms in leafy suburbs and smoky townships. Locals and foreigners organise syndicates that pull off very lucrative robberies using these weapons. They are illegal, traded with little regard for the laws in place, and the good guys in the police and defense force do not have the resources to control them.

Here's the worst part. The government makes a law banning or limiting private firearm ownership, and the citizens most likely to obey the law are the ones least likely to abuse the firearms. The ones most likely to misuse weapons are the ones that are least likely to have their weapons confiscated. And when a murderer walks into a suburban home, ready to steal at any cost, who is the guilty person? Is it the father with a job, his wife of 23 years and his only teenage girl or is it the serial murderer who has killed four already in heists and armed robbery? Who dies now? De-armed by the state, the father is powerless in that moment, the private security companies will never be there in time and the persons who die that day are not the guilty, but the innocent.

What if the father had a gun? What if the criminal knew he might have a gun? If the criminal is shot dead by the father, how is that worse or even the same as the father shooting the criminal dead instead of losing his innocent teenage girl?

The incredible irony is that personal firearm ownership in South Africa will result in fewer deaths and a safer and more peaceful country. For every policeman that shoots his girlfriend over an argument and for every yearly school shooting in America, I'll remind you of the daily deaths in South Africa that no longer make the newspapers. A world without guns is utopia, a dream most of us would love, but reality indicates that the implementation of gun control in South Africa results in exactly the opposite of what we hoped for.

The ACDP supports private firearm ownership, not because we are right wing extremists, but because we want fewer deaths, safer neighbourhoods and families who can rest easy at night. Gun control achieves the opposite.

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