Australia's fashion for moral condemnation depends on ignorance, says Chris Allen. Here he competes in the 2013 National Championships. Photo by David Sergeant.

OPINION: The National Firearms Agreement – born in hate and out of date

Seizing the opportunity in the Lindt Cafe siege, activists are trying to force the Government to tighten the thumbscrews in the 1996 National Firearms Agreement (NFA).  The inquiry recommended ‘new technology’ to help agencies use their resources for more important work, but some pass this off as meaning dangerous new guns ‘getting around’ the gun laws.

A tiny group of public servants are working to further tighten regulation. They have fed stories to partner activists and journalists, trying to build a media pile-on to force politicians to further tighten the Agreement.   No Parliament can change the NFA, it has to be done behind closed doors by people who are not accountable to the electorate. 

A few journalists are creating hype that mad NRA-funded gun lobbies are trying to turn Australia into Iraq – or worse, America.  ABC radio pushed an interviewee: “but what if people start getting licenses and legally buying guns because Tony Abbott says ISIS is coming to get them, wouldn’t that concern you?” Another nitwit presenter claimed that guns are easy to buy legally online, which was fixed weeks later by a correction. On the ABC! 

A few Liberal politicians are cashing in on the single issue where the ‘love media’ loves them, taking up the statesmanlike mantle of Malcolm Fraser.

Much ‘public opinion’ on gun laws is ignorant, prejudiced nonsense.  Over the years Letters to the Editor, comment threads and now hashtag outbursts seem to go from crazy to worse; smug, spittle-flecked hate rants about guns, NRA, and racist white males are normal, and calls for jailing or killing gun owners or hunters are now everyday stuff.

Reasonable-minded people seem surprised at shooters emotional response: “But it wasn’t personal!” they say. But journalists and their activist partners frame the gun law debate in the language of contempt.  It is very personal, it is hate speech that they would never tolerate in others.

There have been no mass shootings with four or more dead since 1996. Why? In almost 20 years there has been no assessment of the mechanism by which this surprising outcome came about. No government report assesses the costs and impacts on the people it regulates. FOI requests for any benefit-cost document have been rejected by the Attorney-General’s Department on the ground that ‘no such document exists’.

John Howard said “I don’t pretend for a minute that these laws will prevent all massacres.”  How do these gun laws create the claimed zero incidents of a kind that seemed un-preventable when they passed the laws? Why has New Zealand had the same result without the Australian laws?

Research that could shed light has been ignored. Official documents use the term ‘availability’ as though certain types of guns actually cause mass murders. Even though they were not the only weapons used for massacres, the NAF assumes many ordinary sporting arms represent some weird special danger, and legislate them away in Category C and Category D.   But there is no ‘stopped access’ that could stop 100% of mass murders.  This is a misleading mental model; the facts demand better analysis.

Social and psychological research on how motives are created for some crimes may show an answer. Mullen and others found that all but the first of Australia’s massacres were imitative. Copycat behaviour is taught by social media, mass media reports and word of mouth. Current affairs shows hyped semi-auto as deadly glamour, taught how to get guns and offered models to deviants to plan killings; and intense publicity for overseas mass murderers creates a powerful incentive to commit more.

The rewards of notoriety, in millions of dollars’ worth of free publicity are so reliable that people choose to become mass killers and send publicity packages in advance, trusting the media will act for them.

The National Firearms Agreement is underlain by seriously mistaken prejudice. The license regime that restricts possession to people with a proven violence-free record is conceptually valid. Harmonising laws between states makes it harder for ineligible people to cheat the law.  But it compounds good ideas with thought bubbles based in idiot fantasies, such as that good people ‘snap’ in the presence of guns.  The result is redundant and unnecessary over-regulation. Much of this is claimed to be about ‘stopping the American gun culture’, but this is grounded on activist denigration of Australia’s legal gun owners.

If Australian gun owners were of another race, throwing political opponents and gay men from rooftops to their deaths, or murdering civilians for being of the Jewish race, political correctness might see certain journalists demand we be given a State of our own. If we were of another race nine times as likely to be murdered – or to commit murder- and with a culture of extreme physical and sexual abuse of women and children, political correctness apparently demands this be blamed on us, and their disadvantage repaid by the rest of society.

But we are the most normal people, many times less likely to be violent than the ‘average person’ and, unlike gun control activists and activist journalists, have few connections with the drug culture or political extremism. Activist and journalist find it fashionable and safe to speak hate about shooters.

Australian shooters are proven trustworthy.  They have always acted properly in the face of extreme provocation from the media, from academic activists and in Parliament.  

We have worked within the political system to establish our bona fides and seek only to be dealt with fairly. We are not going away or giving up and our sport is growing despite the derogatory treatment of a million or more decent and upright Australians.

Cultural attacks against this legitimate and compliant sport should be removed.  The activist nonsense that ‘we must act to prevent developing an American gun culture’ ignores what they say with the next breath, that we are very different society from America. Indeed we are, and our legitimate gun culture is safe and beneficial to society.

Prejudiced official behaviour should be stopped.  Allowing politicised antagonists in Government departments to base firearms policy and enforcement on personal prejudice is unjust.

Codes of conduct for media reporting mass violence should be created. The mass media worldwide helps create massacres. It is similarly a powerful force multiplier for terrorism. Stop creating incentives by giving imitative losers free publicity. 

Media professionals in the case of copycat suicides have accepted and acted on guidelines that reduce the harm they create. Producers and editors who break the guidelines, as they did over Charmaine Dragun, could count the jumping suicides and murder-suicides with children over following days and months. In the same way, the Port Arthur and Monash killings were in part theirs to prevent. They did not; they chose profit.

Conclusion. The National Agreement on Firearms has had a few good results. Australia benefits from national consistency of laws. But the good is not from the cultural attacks on shooters, the category restrictions of normal sporting guns or destroying half a billion dollars’ worth of personal property, but rather two things: a gun license restricts access only to people at no risk of violence; and years of intense media coverage that undid the harm of past mass-media teaching that guns – and massacres – were easy.

It is time to throw out discrimination against the decent Australian sport shooting culture. The viciously dishonest media and public wittering about gun laws are not worth spit. Legal shooters are, and always were, the upright and the innocent. 

The author. Chris Allen has been reading in activist psychology, criminology and the behaviour of mass murderers. He has previously written on the influence of the media and activists in creating motivations to get illegal guns and commit massacres.

He grew up on a farm and is a past member of the Army Reserve. A graduate of UWA and the APESMA MBA program, he has lived in Western Australia, South Australia and Zimbabwe, and worked in many countries as a consultant. He was active in Toastmasters for many years and has been a licensed shooter, holder of an explosives license, and works as a geologist in resource modelling.

He currently also shoots muzzle-loading firearms in competition.





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