Gun reforms long overdue

A determined United States President Barack Obama last week showed he intends to go over the heads of lawmakers in Congress to push for his package of gun control measures to be adopted.

In an effort to capitalise on emotions from last month's massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, Mr Obama couched his initiative in the context of protecting children from needless violence.

The campaign immediately began facing tough opposition, not only in Congress from senators from states like Texas, but also from the National Rifle Association - which denounced the President as an ''elitist hypocrite'' for opposing universal armed guards in schools while his daughters are protected by the Secret Service.

NRA president Wayne LaPierre says Americans care about their president and want to protect him with armed Secret Service agents. But when it comes to ''our most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of an American family'', children are left every day utterly defenceless. The group's campaign advertisement to this effect has been roundly criticised, with a speechwriter for former Republican president George W Bush calling it ''beyond the pale''.

It is difficult to understand from New Zealand the love some Americans have for their guns. Walking through some American towns and seeing gun-toting citizens is an eye-opener. Driving through the Midwest and seeing racks of arms attached to the back of a utility vehicle makes tourists pause.

Watching them being brandished during emotive anti-terrorist rallies is frightening. Mr Obama acknowledges his task ahead is difficult. There will be pundits and politicians and special-interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty - not because that is true, but because they have to increase fear, or gain higher ratings, or produce revenue for themselves. Behind the scenes, they will do everything they can to block common-sense reforms.

Mr Obama will try to block most of the opposition by mobilising public support from usual gun opponents in urban areas and coastal states; but also in congressional districts where the tradition of gun ownership is strong. That will include large swathes of the Midwest, southern and mountain western states where gun ownership is seen as a God-given right through the Second Amendment.

Mr Obama has outlined 23 separate actions he can take unilaterally, including authorising research on gun violence and nominating a full-time director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

He will call on Congress to swiftly pass a series of proposals that will, among other things, go beyond closing the gun show loophole that exempts some sellers from running criminal background checks, and enact stiffer penalties for gun traffickers. All told, Mr Obama is addressing four key goals: keeping guns out of the wrong hands, keeping ''weapons of war'' off the streets, making schools safer and improving mental health services.

Proposals will also include federal funding to allow local communities to hire 1000 school resource officers and counsellors, which will include trained police officers in the nation's schools.

In 2011, the latest year for which detailed statistics are available, there were 12,664 murders in the US. Of those, 8583 were caused by firearms, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The number of firearm-related deaths in total is much higher still. So while the Administration is expected to try to restrict some types of assault weapons, it is also focusing on ways to keep more commonly used firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals and people with mental illness.

In New Zealand, we are shocked by the news that a young South Auckland man died after being shot with an air gun. Last year, hunting accidents took the lives of some New Zealanders enjoying life in the outdoors. But it is impossible to imagine the agony of having a child mown down by an semi-automatic rifle with a 30-bullet magazine.

American civilians have 250 million to 300 million firearms, the Violence Prevention Research Programme at the University of California says. Those firearms are not going to go away anytime soon - but all strength to Mr Obama as he tries to stop the trail of death caused by those weapons.

 

Half shot

Actually, that is interesting information, which I'm sure is also in hunting books. Rifles are safe with people like yourself. And, with a semi, I would only be half shot (so, what's new?).

Semi-auto rifles

On the hunting side of things semi-auto rifles are perfect for pest control on larger species like goat & wallaby, where several quick clean kills are needed on larger groups of animals. The usual suspect 'AK47' variants are actually ideal NZ bush hunting rifles, being very compact, incredibly robust and the ammunition it uses is just about perfect for most NZ game.

Please erase any misconception you may have, that because someone uses an 'AK" type rifle for hunting, then they are spraying bullets from a large capacity magazine at hip height, that absolutely just does not happen.

Other uses for semi-auto rifles include competitions. Examples are 3-gun shoots and service rifle competitions, both of which have a well established and growing following here in Dunedin/Otago.

I would invite you to contact any of the local rifle/pistol clubs or maybe the local Antiques Arms Association branch and go and see for yourself and form your own view. The guys (and girls) at these places are regular normal people, just like you and they come from all walks of life.

I don't expect or wish to convert you, but it is important that you see the reality is very different from the usual regurgitated media hype often portrayed. [abridged]

Semi assault rifles

This is a 'non issue', but what use is any model of AK47 in, well, peacetime?

BMC

The issue is with America!

A non-issue

Firstly, there are no 'automatic' firearms being used by private citizens in NZ. There are automatic firearms held as part of bonafide collections, by private individuals who are well vetted and are prepared to 'jump through the hoops' to own them.

There are thousands of 'semi-automatic' firearms held by and used by private individuals here. That includes the (ever popularly quoted in the media) AK47 style rifle, in semi-automatic only configuaration. Every day somebody somewhere in NZ is using a semi-auto rifle, at the weekends hundreds, maybe thousands of them. But you never ever hear about it, they never cause a problem, it's a non-issue.

If your argument is about saving lives, then I suggest you look at what the causes of deaths are in NZ and firearms are way, way down the list. You'd be banning cars, smokes, alcohol, chairs & quadbikes first.

The difference

The difference between what happened in Sandyhook Elementary and what happened in Shengpen Village Primary School is how many people were killed.

Adam Lanza killed 28 people.
Min Yingjun didn't kill anybody.

Guns v knives

Yep, seen that on the news and the footage plenty of times, but even with China's huge population that is nothing like what is happening in the USA, there were no deaths in the knife attack, imagine if he had an automatic assault rifle! Also a person with a knife is easier to overpower than someone spraying an area with bullets. But the fact is banning certain firearms in the US will make a huge difference over there, as they need to do something and not pander to the NRA.

Waste of time and money

We all know that gun rules are only for the law-abiding, therefore this will not solve anything.

Nobody died

BMC ... that's because nobody died in the knife attack. i.e. nobody, nobody at all. Can you imagine what would have happened if the attacker had a semi-automatic military assault rifle bought without a background check at a local gun fair? They'd still be cleaning up. Thank god it didn't happen in America.

Anti personnel

This is ordnance specifically for use against people. These attack rifles are prohibited for civilian use, surely? No one's going to make a case for AK47 recreational use.

Never thought about those types

But if they are single shot then I do not see a problem, it is the ones that hold a large magazine and are semi or automatic.

Guns

@Everlast: There is plenty of violence in other countries and without the use of guns. The reason it doesn't get as much public attention is that there is no political mileage for the antigun lobby. Take for instance the deranged man that went on the rampage in China, attacking 22 outside a school with a knife. This happened at the same time as the Connecticut shooting. Yet it virtually went un-noticed in the media. I don't hear you calling for all knives to be banned. What exactly is your definition of a 'non-hunting firearm'? Myself and I am sure plenty of other law abiding, 'fit and proper' firearms owners out there would love to hear the specific criteria you would wish us to adhere to. Also, how under your rules, would this affect 'non-hunting' sports men & women who compete with firearms and 'non-hunting' military historians and collectors? [abridged]

So we should ban target firearms?

Target firearms as well (the one we have been so successful with in international competition)? Suggest you read this link for people whose sport you wish to end!

Ban them

All firearms except for hunting purposes should be banned as their only purpose is to kill other humans.

I have heard people saying the recent school massacres is due to video games, what a load of rot! If that was the case then why have these killings not been happening in other countries like it has in the US, I am certain that other countries play videos games. The problem is too many non hunting firearms about...It is a no brainer.