“WHAT DO WE LOVE MORE? OUR CHILDREN OR OUR GUNS?”
All over the world, people are calling upon US politicians to stand up to the manipulative National Rifle Association and pass legislation that will honour the 26 victims of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the other dozen school gun massacres of the past two years. There are now calls to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons such as the army style automatics that have been used against children.
In Australia we have the Shooters Party supported by the Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) pushing the Government into line with their policies of more gun ownership, younger age for shooters and permission to shoot animals and birds in National Parks. Yet the facts say that since the courageous stand of the Parliaments following the 1996 mass shootings in the U.K. and Hobart, the anti-gun legislation passed then has had a lasting, positive impact in both countries.
In an attack not dissimilar to what took place at Sandy Hook, a shooter burst into a gymnasium of a school in the Scottish town of Dunblane on March 13, 1996, and turned his four handguns on a group of unsuspecting 5 and 6-year-olds assembled there. Sixteen children and one teacher were killed; the gunman, a deranged unemployed shopkeeper, then turned his weapon on himself. Among the dazed pupils forced to take cover during the assault was British tennis champ Andy Murray, then 8 years old. The outcry in the U.K. was immense. What followed was a drastic overhaul of existing British gun laws by the sitting Tory government. There was a ban on handguns and automatic weapons, as well as an onerous system of ownership rules involving hours of paperwork, criminal reference checks, and mandatory references designed to reduce as far as possible the likelihood of guns falling in the wrong hands.
Despite a surge in gun-related offenses in the early 2000s, the past seven years in the U.K. have seen successive drops in gun crimes — a consequence, some argue, of the country’s tougher laws on gun ownership
Just a month after the 1996 Dunblane attack, a shooter in the town of Port Arthur, Tasmania, went on a rampage, killing 35 people in what is the worst single episode of such slaughter in Australian history. The then months-old old government of conservative Prime Minister John Howard — who would go on to rule for over a decade — initiated a sweeping set of reforms, even in the face of opposition from allies in Australia’s right wing. The new measures banned the sale and possession of all automatic and semiautomatic rifles and shotguns. Moreover, the government instituted a mandatory buyback scheme that compensated owners of newly illegal weapons. Between 1996 and ’98, some 700,000 guns were retrieved by the government and destroyed.
The results have been tangible: gun-related homicides in Australia dropped 59% between 1995 and 2006. The firearm-suicide rate dropped 65%. There has been no mass shooting in Australia since the Port Arthur attack.
Americans often argue that their country’s unique political culture and ubiquity of gun ownership make similar anti-gun measures unthinkable. The 700,000 firearms Howard’s government retrieved from its citizenry was a fifth of the total possessed by Australians at the time — in the U.S., that equivalent figure would mean confiscating some 40 million to 50 million guns.
Yet while the scale is vastly different, the politics ought not be. Like the U.S., Australia is a frontier society built on a rugged, pioneering individualism. We have our own armed outlaws and bushrangers from Ned Kelly to the latest Outlaw Motor Bikie gangs in South Western Sydney who almost weekly shoot up houses and murder enemies.
But, in the wake of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado., Howard, a staunch conservative, voiced a criticism seemingly still too subversive for anyone in Washington to repeat. John Howard, whose personal courage in facing down angry gun-owners without the protection of a bullet proof vest won him a vast following, said: “The US The Second Amendment, crafted in the immediate post-revolutionary years, is more than 200 years old and was designed to protect the right of local communities to raise and maintain militia for use against external threats (including the newly formed national government!). It bears no relationship at all to the circumstances of everyday life in America today. Yet there is a near religious fervour about protecting the right of Americans to have their guns — and plenty of them.”
Whether American politicians can muster the same compassion and courage as John Howard remains to be seen. It all depends on whether Americans love guns more than their children.
Read more from this week’s TIME : http://world.time.com/2012/12/17/when-massacres-force-change-lessons-from-the-u-k-and-australia/#ixzz2FSTelGUk
Yet Australian politicians are similar to US politicians. In 2006, after speaking in Parliament against the opening up of the restrictions on gun use, even by children as young as twelve, I voted with only four others against the Bill. Since then the gun lobby has targeted me. That includes some of the most deranged Christians I have met who tell me of the joy they have in killing God’s creatures.
They demand I have a change of heart about gun ownership. Gun owners are very passionate, and many express very emotional viewpoints. The psychological reasons why some people get pleasure in shooting animals with highly sophisticated weapons, or from shooting representations of creatures such as on targets and clay pigeon shooting is quite worrying. The shooter mentality is a dangerous one.
The basic fact is that everyone who is killed by a gun is killed by a gun owned by somebody. The ownership of guns is in direct proportion to their use in killing people. I will examine the statistical evidence.
First let me state this is not an academic exercise. My life has been seriously threatened by persons wielding a gun. You can read about threats to my life in my autobiography “Leaving a Legacy” p 192- 202. You can read more details for yourself on http://www.gordonmoyes.com/2006/01/01/media-presenter
After a series of threats to kill me because of my support for the Family Law Court on my four hour radio program for seventeen years heard on 2GB and the Macquarie network, the radio station had to change its procedures to prevent access to radio studios. Deranged men with guns visited our home in the daytime and at5 midnight.
A US National Institute of Justice Survey found that 2.5 million citizens used guns in self-defence in one year, and lived to tell about it. [It did not include numbers of people who died trying to defend themselves with their guns.] A Florida State University study found that 322,000 women had used guns in the previous year to defend themselves successfully from threatened rape. It also found that 466,000 Americans had successfully defended themselves and their homes from robbery. [It did not collect data on how many women with guns were raped despite having the weapon, nor how many homes of gun owners were burgled despite the presence of weapons.]
Some of these people reported defending themselves merely by reaching for, or brandishing the gun, not actually having to fire it, in order to frighten off the would-be attackers/robbers. So, the guns protected these people even without being fired.
One is ‘now six times more likely to be mugged in London than New York’, because armed individuals can protect themselves and criminals are less likely to mug people who may be carrying guns. But without even carrying a gun, if it is in a jurisdiction where it is legal to do so, that possibility wards off the would-be muggers.
Murder with guns is committed more frequently in the US than anywhere else in the developed world. For African-American males age 14-25 guns are the leading cause of death. Every 2-½ years guns kill as many Americans as died in the Vietnam War. Last year over 12,000 US citizens died from being shot with a handgun.
There is no social consensus on gun control and there are 300 million known guns in the USA. Some lawmakers have been trying to put more of them into the hands of law-abiding citizens to help offset the ones in the hands of the criminals. But is arming the citizenry the best way to go?
Health and gun ownership is not as simple to study as health and smoking. The studies that show that ‘homes with guns are more likely to be the scene of a homicide’ can be interpreted in different ways. First, it can be interpreted to mean the guns were dangerous to have in the house and led to a death. But it could also be interpreted to mean the householder obtained a gun in the first place because where they lived was dangerous. Ambiguities abound throughout gun research, and seem to reflect the worldview of the interpreter more than stand as objective fact.
Personal interpretation cannot change the fact that the 8 leading causes of violence-related injury deaths, for all ages, races, and sexes, are dominated by ‘homicide by firearm’ and ‘suicide by firearm’. Firearms are the 8th leading cause of violence-related deaths of babies under 12 months, the 3rd leading cause of death for 1 – 4 year olds, and the top cause of death of 5 – 9 year olds. These are all homicides (intentional or accidental), and unbearable to think about; but do think about them. If guns were not readily available these babies and youngsters would not have been shot by playmates, schoolmates, intruders, siblings, or parents.
The top causes of violence-related death in American 15 to 65 year olds are firearm homicide or firearm suicide. The highest rates of all are the over-65 year olds using firearms to suicide.
Research conducted by Kellermann found that there were many differences between households ‘with guns’ and ‘without guns’. Those households with guns were often found to also contain a family member who abused alcohol or drugs, and had a history of domestic violence, which were each independent risk factors for homicide independent of the existence of guns.
Kleck’s research findings report that 2.5 million times every year somebody in America is using a gun in self-defence. Critics point out that these occurrences were loosely defined, and included merely reaching for the gun when they felt threatened, with the result that the aggressor withdrew. And behaviour that survey participants may have called defensive may technically have been an assault, as only one side of the story is being told. Gun critics point out that assaults, robberies and rapes almost always occur so quickly that the victims are taken by surprise. Even a firearm was available in the home, or in a handbag, the opportunity to get at it and use it in time would be minimal.
Statistics are not collected for crimes that were averted due to guns. However, other research shows that victims who used guns for protection were less likely to be attacked or injured than victims who responded any other way, including not resisting. In fact, 88% of robbery victims who protected themselves with a gun were not injured in any way, while remaining passive resulted in injury to 25% of victims. That difference in outcomes impresses many as an excellent argument for carrying a gun.
Kellermann found that a gun in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a family member or friend than it is to kill in self-defence. Back and forth the statistics support both pro-gun and anti-gun interests. One thing I do know is that my American friends tell me what a wonderful relief it is to walk down a city street in Australia, knowing that everyone they see is not armed like they are at home.
What I believe is that if you and your family avoid personal gun ownership, hunting or other gun-related sports, and gun-owning friends, you are not likely to be injured in any incident involving guns. Every person killed by shooting was killed with a gun owned by someone. Every person who illegally owns a gun got from a legal owner, either a shop keeper, a licensed person such as an armed guard or policeman who had their weapons stolen, or from criminals. Ownership of guns increases the likelihood of their use against a person or people.
The presence of a man with a loaded shotgun on my doorstep at midnight waiting for me to return to kill me and of a violent drunk waving it at me in the street, is never far from the front of my mind.
Cook, Philip J and Ludwig, Jens. Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms. U.S. Department of Justice.
Guter, Fred. Gunslinging in America – risks of gun ownership
Kellermann, A.L. and Reay, D.T. (1986) New England Journal of Medicine. 314
But is this talk of gun control and the massacre of children out of place at Christmas? Not at all! Gun advocates like the status quo. The last significant change to national gun control laws in the US was in 2004 when Congress allowed a ban on military style weapons, such as the AR-15, to expire. Since then, the US’s most formidable lobby group, the National Rifle Association, has won so many victories it hardly knows where to turn its sights next.
With gun sales barely regulated, the gun lobby has been fighting for laws that allow its members to carry their weapons more freely. In various states it has won the right to carry loaded concealed weapons in bars, schools, malls, churches and even airports. Earlier this month four states voted in favour of employees bringing guns to work.
It is not that a majority Americans don’t want to see new gun controls – polls show a small majority do – but that those who support gun control tend to cast their vote based on a variety of issues. But gun advocates can be relied on to vote in defence of their right to bear arms. In a country where voting is not compulsory, this makes them an almost invincible electoral bloc.
In his tearful address to the nation, Mr Obama appeared willing to take the lead. ‘’We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,’’ he said. There are 310 million Americans and they own about 300 million guns.
Christmas is a time of joy for all children. Ask anyone. The community responds that Christmas is a wonderful time for children. We go to so much trouble with parties, presents and special gatherings to make children happy at this time of the year. But is there another side to this thought that Christmas is a time for children?
1. THE FIRST CHRISTMAS SAW CHILDREN KILLED.
Consider the event consequent upon the coming of wise men. Matthew (2:1-23) records the coming of the Magi from the East. The church celebrates the Epiphany, the showing forth of the Lord to the wise men, not at Christmas, when we are so eager to see the meaning of God’s gift of Christ, but twelve days later. The twelve days of Christmas refer to the coming of the Wise men.
Note how their visit afected children.(v1-8) “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”
When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethle¬hem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “’But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’ “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
The holy family was experiencing the suffering of all homeless poor. They were pawns in the bureaucratic machinations of the Empire. Caesar Augustus wanted a census regard¬less of the inconvenience to an unknown family on the fringe of his Empire. King Herod was paranoid and evil, having murdered two of his sons and his wife, and he was determined no other king should be a threat to His throne.
The little family at Bethlehem suffered loneliness, far from family and home. They suffered the inconvenience of having to obey the census laws. They suffered from poverty, the threats of evil men and the greed of others. But God came to them in their sufferings. In the presence of the Magi from Persia, with their fine robes, haughty camels, expensive gifts, and very determined purpose that had taken them over far deserts in the dead of winter, the holy family realised that God was with them in their sufferings through the presence of the Magi. Their presence was as important as their pre¬sents! Joseph’s despair of inadequacy was ended by God’s resources.
(v9-12) “After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
Think of what that little family thought after the visit of those wise men. They pondered the meaning of the angels, the arrival of the shepherds and the star. Now the arrival and homage of learned as¬tronomers and Kings from Persia confirmed God’s promises and comforted them.
As they reflected on all that had been said and on the way those wise men had prostrated themselves on the floor in worship the hearts of the carpenter from Nazareth and his wife would have been lifted and comforted.
God has special ways of providing for our every need. We have only to pray and believe and God contri-butes to the meeting of our need, often in ways beyond our imagining. Joseph was far from Nazareth, was poor and without resources.
He did not know that shortly the whole family would be in danger from a homicidal king who would cause the massacre of the infants of Bethleh¬em in his mad search to destroy the newborn king. How could Joseph possible finance their emergency?
Matthew understood the position clearly, because if there was one thing Matthew had been trained in it was balance sheets, income and expenditure, taxes and customs. This young family would need money to escape the murderous king, to travel to safety in Egypt, and to establish themselves in a proper home. Who but God could have possibly thought of having the wise men offer to the Christ child gifts of gold, expensive frankincense and costly myrrh?
Those gifts enabled Joseph to travel immediately to Egypt and so save the family from the mad king. So the holy family knew of God’s presence, His encouragement, His provision, and His guidance. God warned Joseph in a dream to leave the place immediately and to escape to Egypt.
God’s guid¬ance may have come earlier that day in some word from the wise men, but often it comes in the middle of the night when our subconscious is open to insights and suggestions that have their origin only in God. (v13-15) “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
One direct result of this was the birth of the Egyptian Coptic Church. The story of the coming of the Magi, contains significant truth for us today. They are not insignificant details in the story of the Incarnation. In their coming lies a message of hope and encourage¬ment to us. That even in the worst of our sufferings and troubles, our needs and uncertain¬ties, we are not alone for God comes and comforts, contributes and counsels. But central to this story of the first Christmas is the terrifying way in which children are treated. Matthew continues to tell of the holocaust of children.
(v16-23) 16 “When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accord¬ance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfil¬led: 18 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” 19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” 21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.” So the story of the first Christmas is a story of suffering of death for many children, and only God’s warning saved the Christ child.
2. AND OUR ERA IS NOT SAFE AND SECURE FOR CHILDREN.
Children suffer from neglect by even the most civilised and affluent countries. Just one hundred years ago in London, at the height of the British Empire, baby selling was common. Salvation Army lassies on the look-out by the gin shops could pick up a baby from its mother in exchange for a sixpence in the same way that Aboriginal babies were purchased for sixpence in our country.
But more people have died from diarrhoeal dehydration in the last 2 days than have died from AIDS in the last 2 years! The number of AIDS-related deaths in the world is less than the 20,000 child deaths caused by dehydration every two days. Dehydration is caused by diarrhoea. In almost all cases, it can be prevented or treated by oral rehydration therapy, a therapy simple and cheap enough to be administered and afforded by almost all parents if they can be in¬formed and use it (UNICEF Report). Yet there seems no interest in telling the story of slow, painful death by diarrhoeal dehydration for children are expendable.
3. NEITHER IS AUSTRALIA’S CHILD CARE RECORD BLAME¬LESS.
Consider this simple fact: we are living in an era of family breakdown and marital divorce. It is established that children pay the increasing cost for divorce. Drs. Judith S. Wallerstein and Joan B. Kelly’s current book, “Surviving the Break-up: How Children Actually Cope with Divorce” notes a change in conventional wisdom, which used to say “unhappily married people should remain together for the sake of the children.” Today’s conventional wisdom holds, with equal vigour that an unhappy couple might as well divorce for the good of the children and that divorce that promotes the happiness of the adults will benefit the children as well.
But the authors’ research into families at the time of divorce, one year later, and again five years later is reflected in their many conclusions: “At the time of the family disruption, many of the children considered their situation neither better nor worse than that of other families around them. The divorce was a bolt of lightning that struck them when they had not even been aware of a need to come in from the storm.” The children’s continuing feelings reflect hope: “Hardly a child of divorce we came to know did not cling to the fantasy of a magical reconcili¬ation between his parents.” Those children are paying the price.
That is to say nothing of continued child abuse. NSW alone had 22,682 reported and suspected cases of physical, emotional or sexual abuse last year, with 11,000 cases later con¬firmed. Horrific though these number are studies indicate that only 10% of child abuse cases are reported to the authorities.
The shameful child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and Christian Brothers is one of the worst scandals exposed. The national Commission of Enquiry this year will provide evidence that will make us sick.
When God sent His Son into the world, He gave loving parents and wise adults to protect and provide for the needy family. Instead of the King Herods who abuse children, we must be wise men and women, who at the instigation of God, use our time, our resources and wisdom to protect and help the children of the world. And one of the best ways of avoiding the massacre of children is to control the ownership and use of guns.