Playing Defense Downunder

by J.D. Tuccille

When I heard about the Port Arthur massacre in Australia, I couldnít help but imagine myself stuck in that cafeteria at the mercy of an armed lunatic. With modern communications weíre almost instantaneously bombarded by every horror under the sun, from Rwanda to Bosnia to Dunblane to Port Arthur; enough to harden the heart of any human of lesser quality than a saint. Still, thereís something about the image of unsuspecting vacationers slaughtered by a psychopath that penetrates even the most callused hide. A number of thoughts passed through my mind when I heard the initial reports: disgust, hope that the press had exaggerated the body count, a vain wish that this would finally be the end of a line of freelance butchers (as opposed to government sanctioned ones) that extends from Jack the Ripper through Ted Bundy to Martin Bryant, with all too many stops on the way. One thought that did not occur to me -- or to any of the survivors of the massacre, Iím confident to say -- was: "Gee, Iím glad nobody else at Port Arthur had a gun." Iím certain that while they huddled under those cafeteria tables, a fair number of the massacre survivors would have traded their souls for a pistol with one full clip.

Like politicians everywhere, Aussie powerbrokers can imagine only one response to Mr. Bryantís homicidal stroll: they want to ban as many firearms from private possession as possible. Itís a mad rush in Australia -- worse than Iíve seen among the most craven of U.S. politicians. The federal government is pressuring the state governments to surrender their authority in the matter, and most state politicians are tripping over themselves to renounce civil liberties and the Australian federal system so that Ozís new Prime Minister can begin disarming his fellow citizens. Australian doctors and psychiatrists will be forced to snitch on patients they consider "unfit" to own guns -- as good a reason as any for a shooter to avoid shrinks and to keep his mouth shut around the family sawbones. The head of the Australian Shootersí Party (yup, Aussie gun owners have their own political party -- at least for the time being) has been hospitalized after receiving a series of death threats. Thatís right, death threats from the folks who are supposedly trying to stop the violence -- I see some true colors showing through here. And somehow, in all the fuss, few folks are asking that obvious question: What if the vacationers at Port Arthur had been carrying guns the way they carry snakebite kits and road flares? Why werenít they? -- law or no law.

Itís a question that Australians, like Americans and Scots and Canadians and everybody else on the planet, will have to face again sooner or later. The current draconian proposals are likely to pass in some form or other, and guns will be seized, Aussie doctors will spy on their patients, and the Shooters Party may lose its legislative seats, but sooner or later some nut will pop up to commit an act that was supposed to have been rendered impossible by the new laws. Heíll use a gun he stashed away or smuggled in, or heíll be a legally armed cop or a soldier, or heíll get creative and mix up a batch of something that the military usually denies owning until it melts the neighborhood cats. The whole point of Dunblane- and Port Arthur-style massacres is that they are completely unpredictable -- some fellow (almost always a man) snaps and decides to give the Zero Population Growth types a helping hand. He plans alone and doesn't bother to file an itinerary before becoming the latest headline. Maybe the new laws will frustrate a nut or two, or maybe they wonít. Weíll never know. But another nut will come along because the world is a big place and evil does exist. And the law will ensure that all potential victims remain just that -- victims. Unarmed and helpless.

And itís not just the Martin Bryants of the world that we have reason to fear -- itís the casual muggers, and wife beaters, and fuzzy critters with big teeth. For a sparsely settled country like Australia itís also the would-be tropical Prussias of the Pacific with their growing military budgets and dreams of lebensraum. And for everybody, itís that familiar government building full of politicos and bureaucrats who look just like us and who, from time to time in every country, step wildly out of line and need a Runnymede or a Lexington Green to remind Ďem of their rightful place in the world.

So, for our Australian cousins I offer the same advice I offer the Scots in the wake of Dunblane and to my fellow Americans on a regular basis: tell your government to go to hell. The politicians will point to polls showing that most of your compatriots favor the most drastic of measures, up to and including fines, confiscations, warrantless searches, and imprisonment. So tell your fellow citizens (nicely, if you can) to go to hell, too. You have a right to defend yourselves, and a right to be armed. No matter (as the politicians will point out) that the Second Amendment is a peculiar American institution -- American rights exist independent of the Constitution. We printed Ďem up in the Bill of Rights because we knew weíd be electing lawyers to office and a verbal agreement struck us as a poor risk. Aussies and Scots and Indonesians all have the same rights as an inherent benefit of drawing breath as human beings, and rights are not subject to majority approval. To look back to a classic case of democratic excess, old Socrates, way back when, had no obligation to swallow the hemlock just because a vote went against him -- had he chosen, he would have had every right to grab the nearest military-style assault sword and trim the Athenian electorate by a voter or two as he escaped from the city. Itís about time we started banging government heads to drum that point home. Fight the banners every step of the way, and if they get their laws .. well ... refuse to obey them, and do so in an organized manner so that the message isnít lost.

And if the politicians still donít get it? Well, what would you do if you were under a cafeteria table at the mercy of a psychopath -- and you had a gun? Tell the politicians that you donít see any difference between them and Martin Bryant. And act accordingly.

Ah well, and so much for the power of argument. So back you go to Full Automatic or to my home page.

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