[Marxism] Progressives and Gun Control

DCQ deeseekyou at comcast.net
Fri Dec 8 05:32:13 MST 2006

Here are the substantive excerpts from that old email debate in my 
family. The debate was started by my father forwarding some absurd 
right-wing rant about crime in Australia "skyrocketing" after the 
government instituted some mild gun control measures. I usually ignore 
these attempts to bait me from my father, but (for some silly reason) 
decided to respond this time. I've cut out some personal stuff. I'll 
include the original email at the bottom for reference.

It's an old piece of writing, written for a personal audience that is 
generally older and on the conservative edge of things. So take it for 
what it's worth.

> <sigh>
> Well, since I was brought (unwilling) into this conversation as both a 
> straw man and a rhetorical whipping boy, I'll throw my two cents in. 
> But that's all, since I find the issue of gun control to be one of the 
> least substantive and least rewarding on the scale of American 
> politics (and that's saying a lot), falling right below stem-cell 
> research, but several notches above Bill Clinton's penis.
> I've gotta say, though, this exchange is why I find political debate 
> in this country so mindnumbing... nobody cares about what the real 
> facts are, and both Democrats and Republicans (to use broad 
> generalizations) are far too quick to believe anything that supports 
> their position, whether it's actually true or not. A few minutes of 
> research yielded the following:
> First, this email is a piece of fiction. It stinks of spam, and, in 
> fact, it is. What little truth is in it, is about a decade old.
> Since the Australian federal government has no power to regulate guns 
> (only importation), the eight states convened a conference in 1997 to 
> coordinate how to deal with the problem of gun massacres. Several 
> large-scale massacres had occurred throughout the late 80s and 
> early-to-mid 90s, the most famous being the 1996 Port Arthur massacre 
> in which 35 people were killed and an additional 20 got serious 
> injuries. The states worked together to come up with broadly similar 
> laws (for easier enforcement) banning high-capacity assault rifles 
> (kalashnikovs, etc) and high-capacity pump-action shot-guns (the kinds 
> used in the big-profile massacres).
> In 1997, owners of these types of guns (about a million out of the 
> over 4 million guns in Australia) were required to turn these guns 
> over in exchange for $500 (Australian), slightly above the market 
> price. About 640,000 were collected (this is one of the almost-truths 
> in that email). However, there were many loopholes, the most glaring 
> being that, while these types of guns were now illegal, the states 
> pretty much promised not to come looking for them. Thus the program 
> set aside $500 million for the buy-back, but because not everyone 
> complied, the total cost was around $320 million. The money was taken 
> from a medical expenses fund, and the excess was returned to the fund.
> This all took place under the administration of a conservative 
> government and prime minister.
> The "statistics" in the email are pure fiction. Crime statistics are 
> readily available on the Australian government's Institute of 
> Criminology, and the stats show none of the outrageous increases in 
> crime cited in the email. There are slight variations up and down for 
> various street crimes, but the major trend has been for crime to go 
> down since 1969. There are upticks here and there for various reasons: 
> Murder rates spiked in some years because of the large scale gun 
> massacres that occurred in 1987, 1991, and 1996. There was a large 
> uptick in "assault" in 1997 of about 30%; 70% of those assaults were 
> unarmed--and it seems that a large portion of that is due to labor 
> unrest and a dockworkers' strike. 2004's stats for assault are nearly 
> equal to 1996's.
> Handguns, rifles, and several types of shotguns are all still 
> perfectly legal in Australia.
> The "scholarly study" cited in the intro to your first email is ridden 
> with mathematical errors and double-speak. It is not a  "scholarly 
> study," but the personal views of a far-right-wing gun-enthusiast 
> writing for a right-wing website, with a smattering a highly selective 
> and highly massaged statistics. Plus, it's just horribly written. My 
> guess is that the article would be laughed out of any genuine, 
> peer-reviewed scholarly journal of criminology.
> Street crime is a complicated phenomenon, but statistics show beyond 
> dispute that there is a high correlation between poverty (and 
> concentrations of poverty) and street crime. There is almost no 
> correlation between gun ownership rates and crime rates--either 
> positively or negatively. (Also, by the way, note that "crime" 
> statistics don't include corporate crimes like embezzling and 
> workplace injuries and deaths due to managerial negligence. Corporate 
> crime costs more money, injures more people, and causes more deaths 
> than street crime.)
> [Removed personal comment...That] is simply standard Republican Party 
> dogma. You paint a picture of gun control advocates being well-to-do, 
> suburban do-gooding liberals controlling the media and the government 
> ("in a position to influence attitudes and legislation"). The fact is 
> that "the suburbs," broadly speaking are overwhelmingly conservative, 
> and gun control laws are extremely unpopular in suburbs and rural 
> areas. On the other hand, gun control legislation is incredibly 
> popular in inner city neighborhoods. And as far as the media and the 
> government go...well, the government is pretty solidly Republican last 
> time I checked. And while you may like to fantasize that the media is 
> dominated by liberal terrorist-supporting fifth-columnist 
> crypto-communists, I tend to think that "the media" is dominated by a 
> handful of greedy, multinational scumbag corporations who will do or 
> say just about anything to sell more ads, in order to sell more crap. 
> To each his own... :)
> Also note that the most ardent gun control advocates are often cops 
> and police organizations, not usually known for being touchy-feeling 
> bleeding-heart types. And the fact remains that the first modern gun 
> control laws in this country were not the brainchild of some 
> power-tripping Greater-Good-doing hippy; they were passed in the late 
> 1960s in California at the behest of then-governor Ronald Reagan. Why? 
> (It might have something to do with shot-gun wielding Black Panthers 
> marching on the Capitol steps in Sacramento demanding an end to police 
> brutality and racism in their neighborhoods.)
> While I'm at it, I might as well toss in my opinion on the matter of 
> gun control, so that those of you who care know where I'm coming from. 
> Briefly, I do not, nor have I ever supported gun control laws. I don't 
> own a gun either, and don't plan on owning one any time soon. I've 
> shot a shotgun, rifle, and handgun; apparently, I'm a pretty decent 
> shot too, but I don't get all worked up over it. I don't plan on 
> hunting anytime soon, but then again, nobody's invited me either... :)
> Frankly, I don't really understand the whole "debate" between gun 
> control advocates and opponents. On the one hand, I don't understand 
> the fervor of gun control proponents when it is so clear that murder 
> and assault rates are linked to poverty, unemployment, and racism. If 
> you really care about street crime and its victims, why not do 
> something about the underlying social causes? On the other hand, I 
> really don't understand why you need an AK-47 spitting 30 rounds a 
> seconds to shoot a deer. Nor can I sympathize with the ultra-macho 
> "I'll shoot anyone who comes near my home" attitude of these 
> gun-toting redneck Rambo-wannabes. Home invasions occurring when a 
> resident is at home are extremely rare, and while I'm sure there are a 
> few instances of a home and family and/or possessions being saved by 
> killing an intruder, and equally sure there are as many or more 
> instances of a house being robbed when nobody was home and a gun being 
> stolen (and who knows what will happen with that then), or of children 
> shooting others or themselves either accidentally or on purpose when 
> there was a gun in the home.
> [ending personal comments snipped]

The original email (personal comments removed) is as follows:

>> I received this from a friend and didn't verify. However, you can go 
>> to this scholarly study of violent crime in Australia since gun 
>> control was instituted, and see that the numbers seem to jibe:  
>> About.com: 
>> http://www.chronwatch.com/content/contentDisplay.asp?aid=8073
>> From: Ed Chenel, A police officer in Australia
>>  Hi Yanks,
>>  I thought you all would like to see the real figures from Down 
>> Under. It has now been 12 months since gun owners in Australia were
>>  forced by a new law to surrender 640,381 personal firearms to be
>>  destroyed by our own government, a program costing Australia 
>> taxpayers more than $500 million dollars.
>>  The first year results are now in:
>>  Australia-wide, homicides are up 3.2 percent,
>>  Australia-wide, assaults are up 8.6 percent;
>>  Australia-wide, armed robberies are up 44 percent (yes, 44 percent)!
>>  In the state of Victoria alone, homicides with firearms are now up 
>> 300 percent.
>>  (Note that while the law-abiding citizens turned them in, the 
>> criminals did not!  And criminals still possess their guns!)
>>  While figures over the previous 25 years showed a steady decrease in
>>  armed robbery with firearms, this has changed drastically upward in 
>> the
>>  past 12 months, since the criminals now are guaranteed that their 
>> prey
>>  is unarmed.
>>  There has also been a dramatic increase in break-ins and assaults of 
>> the elderly.
>>  Australian politicians are at a loss to explain how public safety has
>>  decreased, after such monumental effort and expense was expended in
>>  "successfully ridding Australian society of guns."  You won't see 
>> this
>>  on the American evening news or hear your governor or members of the
>>  State Assembly disseminating this information.
>>  The Australian experience proves it. Guns in the hands of honest
>>  citizens save lives and property and, yes, gun-control laws affect 
>> only
>>  the law-abiding citizens.
>>  Take note Americans, before it's too late!

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