The Dark Background to Gun Legislation (2)

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.”

Mr Howard’s ideological position was in stark contrast with that of Adolf Hitler. Hitler claimed that

The individual should finally come to realise that his own ego is of no importance in comparison with the existence of his nation; that the position of the individual ego is conditioned solely by the interests of the nation as whole…that above all the unity of a nation’s spirit and will are worth far more than the freedom of the spirit and will of an individual.[1]

But following the Port Arthur massacre of 1996, the legislation Mr Howard put through parliament significantly restricted private firearm ownership. In my view this represented a significant ideological contradiction, and a mistaken view of government. I believe it was an  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-payers’ expense, so that now individuals are prevented in Australia by law, 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. Hitler’s ideology triumphed in Australia, though we had an ostensibly conservative prime minister.

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:

  1. Guns are evil.
  2. Availability of guns for the general population must be heavily restricted through licences and permits, and subject to centralised, government control.
  3. Guns (generally) should only be used by police and the armed forces: 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 history shows us it places them at a distinct disadvantage in relation to government in a time of national crisis. The only thing being conserved here, is government power to control innocent, law-abiding people.

One does not have to be in favour of death camps or wars of conquest to be a tyrant. The only requirement is that one has to believe in the primacy of the state over individual rights.[2]

We are now suffering the consequences to this fundamentally ill-conceived legislation.

Mass shootings have taken place around the world. What did these tragedies have in common?  Law abiding people are 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, the theatre shooting in Colorado, where guns were banned from being taken inside, and now Christchurch. Criminals intent on murder target these places deliberately. Why? There won’t be 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.[3]

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.”[4]

The Lindt café shootings at Martin Place in Sydney, Australia in 2014, were a most disturbing example of how restrictive gun legislation doesn’t protect the innocent. The Coroner’s report (delivered in May, 2017), chronicled an astonishing number of bungles that took place within different ranks of the police agencies involved. Firstly, the criminal who subsequently died on the scene, Man Haron Monis, was on bail for being an accessory to the murder of his wife, and also for a number of sexual assaults of children. Why was he out on the street?

Secondly, the state’s only negotiation truck that was equipped with everything police negotiators needed to operate, was unavailable during the siege. The inquest heard it was never replaced after it fell into disrepair in 2011.[5]

Thirdly, the police strategy to “contain and negotiate” clearly failed. While this strategy to negotiate was in place, the police bungled their communications with the hostage-taker, so that four times his attempts to communicate by phone went unanswered.

Fourth, the police were consistently ill-advised by a psychologist who misread the nature of the terrorist’s demands, believing he was merely “grandstanding.” Thus they were prepared to wait out a crisis, which actually required their urgent intervention.

Fifth, when the Police finally intervened, the two officers who fired their weapons clearly overreacted, inexplicably firing between 17 and 22 rifle rounds at short range at Monis, who was hit 13 times and died instantly. This was despite the fact that the Police knew there were hostages close by, who would clearly be in danger from their rifle bullets ricocheting in the concrete building. Unfortunately, at least one of these rounds (in fragment form) struck and killed the hostage, Katrina Dawson at the scene. Three other hostages were wounded, but survived. Monis had earlier murdered the Café manager, Tori Johnson, with a shotgun.

And you thought that the police were there to protect the public from criminals? After the siege, Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull indicated that

Australians should be reassured by the way our law enforcement and security agencies responded to this brush with terrorism.

Well Malcolm, what should we be reassured about? A law abiding person with a hand gun in the café, could have shot and killed Monis, as soon as he began to brandish his shotgun, threatening people. But Australian law does not permit this liberty, so this is the political fact:

The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire (Robert A. Heinlein, 1907–1988).


When massacres occur, and political leaders suddenly conclude there is a need from legislative change to protect from further catastrophes, they are generally guilty of a serious over-reaction, and an emotional response that overlooks significant facts.

I therefore conclude that restrictive gun legislation, limiting the capacity of law-abiding individuals to purchase the firearm of their choice, represents an ideological contradiction in a free society. Furthermore, in practical terms it is an invitation for armed criminal behaviour, because criminals appreciate it when their potential victims are disarmed by their own government. Without change, the fruits of such laws both promise and continue to be bitter ones.

Why? Because for a law-abiding individual in a crisis, in public or private,

A gun in the hand is better than a cop on the phone.

[1] Hitler at Buckenburg, October 7, 1933; “The Speeches of Adolf Hitler,” 1929-1939, ed. by N.H Baynes, 1942. Quoted by Leonard Peikoff, “The Ominous Parallels,” 1982, p.3. found in Gary Demar, “Ruler of the Nations,”1987, p.7.

[2] Walter Williams, “Liberals, Progressives and Socialists,”, 8/8/2012.

   [3] Mike Gaddy, “The Bitter Fruits of Compromise,”, 12/1/2009.

[4] Jack Dearden and Warwick Jones, Australian Institute of Criminology, 2008, quoted in “Australian Shooter,” December 2010, p.58.

[5], “Lindt Cafe Siege: Why it all went Wrong,” August 18, 2016.