I understand the attraction of firearms. They can be magnificent machines, well balanced, smoothly operating, simple to operate yet crafted with intricacy and precision. It is satisfying to hear the neat “click” as the magazine locks into place; to fire off some rounds from a Smith and Wesson .38 and see the neat holes appear in the paper; or having the sights lined up, seeing them fall precisely on target and squeezing the trigger at just the right time. I know the enjoyment of feeling the power of a 9mm Glock, or of calling “Pull”, following the target up until it seems to be motionless in the air, and a microsecond later seeing the pellets smash it into pieces.

I understand your enthusiasm for firearms. Yet, considering your recent domestic history, there should now be strict regulations about the sales, storage and safe use of firearms. Anyone who has a firearm should register it. Anyone who has a firearm should take a mandatory course in its safe use, maintenance and storage, and be required to use that firearm several times a year at an approved facility. A firearms locker should be as impregnable as a safe, and the ammunition (and depending on the type of firearm, the bolt) kept in another locker apart from the weapon. These are the kind of firearms laws Australia has, laws that are a direct of the murder of 35 people (and injury of 21 others), by a single man, in Port Arthur in Tasmania in 1996. Since that time we have had almost no firearm-related deaths: those that we have had, have almost invariably involved either the police or organised crime. Sure, our population is only 15% of yours; nonetheless, our death rate from firearms is almost non-existent in comparison.

Would these regulations mean you can’t own firearms? No. Nonetheless, I know many people will be howling at what appears to be the infringement of your civil liberties, and that you claim the right to bear arms, as enshrined in your Declaration of Independence, a document created over 230 years ago. So let’s look at this idea of your rights. A right is a benefit that you ought to have. It is guaranteed by someone greater than you. If you are given such a benefit, then you have a responsibility to use it properly, because a right is given to a person only for the purpose of serving others. During the War of Independence, every citizen’s right to bear arms was a benefit to the nation; to protect it from the invading British. Then, there was a need for each person to be given that right. What about now? You have a standing army, and the police.

Oh, but what about the danger of home invasion and personal attack? You need a gun to protect you and your family? Why, because the invaders/ attackers might have one? If you had more regulations for who can own firearms, there would be fewer people who had them, so fewer people will have the temerity to break in, and those that do are less likely to have a firearm. Yes, if someone does break in and they have a gun, you’ll be at a definite disadvantage weapon-wise. But what does the invader want? Your money or your life? What’s more important to you? You can always get more money. If it is your life, or that of your family, then fight. You can use reasonable force, so as they have a more dangerous weapon, you are justified in using more extreme measures to defend your family.

“Guns don’t kill people: people kill people. Kitchen knives and hammers can kill people; why don’t we ban them?” These are true statements but they make a specious argument. Firearms are designed for the purpose of killing or at least maiming people or animals, for defence or food. On the other hand, kitchen knives and hammers and the like are designed for non-lethal purposes. But as these objects can be used to kill, why do you want a firearm? If a person breaks in to your home and the police won’t get there until it’s too late, grab a knife or a hammer, a baseball bat or a paperweight, a flashlight or frying pan. You’re less likely to kill them with one of these than with a handgun – the knife excepted.

But, you object, that would mean they can shoot me from a distance but I have to get up close to them. True; it is risky to try to attack someone who is holding a firearm, especially if you are facing each other. You might think that this is a flaw in my argument: you will be left comparatively unarmed. But what is the alternative? Look at your society and see. Again, what if your home is invaded by more people with more firepower than you can defend against? And if the invaders know that you may have firearms, they will be prepared to deal with that.

Of course merely owning a firearm doesn’t mean you are irrational or irresponsible. All the firearms owners I know are extremely strict with weapon safety and handling and security. But you do have, I suppose, family and friends who might be less careful. Also, children are curious and don’t appreciate the seriousness what firearms can do. Or they might be like me, physically unimpressive, unattractive, and emotionally crippled; carrying years, even decades, of repressed frustration and anger. At times those feelings can erupt and overwhelm your reason and even your self-control: imagine what you might do if you had a firearm. If nothing else, two-thirds of people in the US who commit suicide use firearms. Maybe if they had time to calm down and think clearly, they’d still be alive. But you don’t have to be mentally unbalanced to kill yourself or others: you might be an ideologue with no respect for human life, or believe that the end justifies the means.

At the end of all argument, you have the right to bear arms. Also, you have another right that any freedom-loving citizen must claim: the right of your family, friends and children to not have their lives taken from them indiscriminately. Which right is more important? Are you willing to restrict your freedom for the good of others? Do claim your rights: and you will receive, absolutely free, their consequences.

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