The Judeo-Christian and constitutionally mandated relationship between government power and individual liberty is not balance. It is bias – a bias in favour of liberty. All presumptions should favour the natural rights of individuals, not the delegated and seized powers of the government. Individual liberty, not government power, is the default position because persons are immortal and created in God’s image, and governments are temporary and based on force.
John Howard is a respected conservative in Australia. Most conservatives look back with fondness on his era of government in Australia. In welcoming President Bush to the Australian Parliament in 2003, Mr Howard indicated that one of the things that bring Australia and the U.S. together, “is the belief that individuals are more important than the State.”
But following the Port Arthur massacre of 1996, the legislation he put through parliament represented a fundamental case of ideological schizophrenia, and a mistaken view of government. I believe it was a massive Prime Ministerial over-reaction to a single, most tragic shooting spree. It led to the confiscation and destruction of millions of firearms belonging to law-abiding individuals (at tax-payer expense), so that now individuals are prevented from purchasing firearms for self-defence. The liberty of the individual and the restraint of government were exchanged for what? The liberty of government to greatly restrict law-abiding individuals.
Why? It goes back partly to Mr Howard’s attitude towards guns. In his autobiography, he expressed his support for the anti-gun cause and his desire to introduce restrictive gun laws long before he became Prime Minister. In a television interview shortly before the tenth anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre, he reaffirmed his stance:
I did not want Australia to go down the American path. There are some things about America I admire and there are some things I don’t. And one of the things I don’t admire about America is their… slavish love of guns. They’re evil.
He also said in 2002, We will find any means we can to further restrict them because I hate guns…ordinary citizens should not have weapons..
Mr Howard’s legislation seems to have been founded on these three assumptions:
a) Guns are evil.
b) Availability of guns for the general population must be heavily restricted through licences and permits, and subject to centralised, government control.
c) Guns (generally) should only be used by police and government employees.
These assumptions have very significant implications. Though the legislation ostensibly was for the protection of innocent people, it removed the ability of many people to actually protect themselves from criminals. Now, because of the black-market, criminals are able to procure more powerful and concealable firearms than law-abiding citizens. This places innocent people at a decided disadvantage in a crisis, and places them at a distinct disadvantage in relation to government in time of some national crisis. The only thing being conserved here, is government power over innocent, law-abiding people. This, our conservative forebears would not have tolerated.
We are now suffering the consequences to this fundamentally ill-conceived legislation.
Mass shootings have taken place around the world. What did the venues have in common? People were generally precluded there from possessing firearms. Think of Port Arthur, Virginia Tech, the Columbine massacres, Dunblane in Scotland, Hoddle St in Melbourne, Strathfield in Sydney, the latest in Norway, and now the theatre shooting in Colorado, where guns were banned from being taken inside. Criminals intent on murder target these places deliberately. Why? There will be no armed people there to stop them.
On a bright sunny day in October of 1991, Suzanna Gratia went to lunch with her parents at Luby’s restaurant in Killeen, Texas. In order to be in compliance with an unconstitutional law that forbade the possession of a concealed weapon, Ms. Gratia compromised and left her .38 calibre pistol in her vehicle. Suddenly, a madman, George Hennard, drove his truck into the cafeteria, got out of the truck and opened fire on those inside.
Ms. Gratia and her father, Al, turned over a table to use as cover. Ms. Gratia stated she reached for her purse to retrieve her .38, but then realized she had left it in her car.
Believing the madman was going to shoot everyone, Al Gratia, exhibited uncommon courage in rushing the killer. Hennard shot him in the chest, an obvious mortal wound. Ms. Gratia spotted a window, broken by another patron trying to escape, told her mother to follow her and then made her escape. Her mother decided she could not leave her wounded husband, sat on the floor and cradled his head in her arms. Hennard would return to where Mrs. Gratia sat and shoot her in the head. The couple had just celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary.
Furthermore, the futility of a registration process for firearms is shown by the fact that “more than 93 percent of firearms used in homicides in 2006-2007 [in Australia] were unlicensed and unregistered.”
(To be continued)