Australia and Gun Laws

My own view on gun laws is for tighter regulations on who own guns and ramped up restrictions on what kinds of guns can be owned. But I believe in the church, and by that I mean the church needs to embody a kingdom ethic when it comes to guns. Christians ought to be different. But Christians are citizens so citizen conversations are worthy of careful attention. Australia is not the USA, but we can learn from Australia’s decision to change its laws to protect its citizens. Here is an outline of the Australian situation; you can go to this site to read the full explanations.

  1. It came out of tragedy.
  2. It moved public opinion.
  3. A conservative politician took the lead.
  4. It targeted the kinds of guns used in massacres.
  5. It encouraged people to turn in guns.
  6. It wasn’t free.  
  7. But it was paid for.
  8. It wasn’t voluntary.
  9. It resulted in a lot of guns.
  10. That would be even more in the US.
  11. Gun homicide rates fell.
  12. Mass shootings stopped.
  13. Gun suicides declined.
  14. Some estimate that the buyback has prevented 200 deaths a year.
  15. It probably won’t work in the US.
About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • James Petticrew

    Similar story in Scotland after Dublane

  • http://www.suzielind.com Suzie Lind

    This is really helpful. Thank you!

  • http://scilla.org.uk/ Chris Jefferies

    Surely people who truly follow Jesus ARE different. The same goes for followers of most other world religions.

    Most mass killings seem to be the result of emotional instability or some sort of deviant thinking, but gun control would likely have the biggest impact of any single step the USA could take.

    What other steps might have a positive impact on curbing these dreadful events?

  • Dale Cole

    I’m continually fascinated by gun-control advocates’ fascination with Austrailia and Britian’s gun bans. Sure the rate of firearm homicidies and suicides are down. Except the Total murder rate is unchanged, he Total suicide rate is unchanged, overall violent crime is up. Those numbers are all public record and easily accesed. Soooo what’s the point? If 100 people are killed, 60 by guns, one year and the next 100 people are killed but only 10 by guns, is that a REAL victory? I often compare gun control advocates to golbal warming deniers because there’s mountains of good research that gun contorl is worthless, yet people still cling to it like if they hope hard enough their viewpoint qill eventually be right.

  • Robin

    Three other areas that need to be considered…

    1. Mental Health commitment rules. I am not sure what the rules in Australia are, it is difficult here. New reports indicate that Lanza might have gone on his spree because he believed his mother was trying to get him committed. It is likely not coincidental that most of our worst incidents involved uncommitted individuals with mental illness.

    2. Cultural/Demographic Issues. The USA is a nation of immigrants, and most of our gun violence is minority-on-minority criminal violence.

    Gun deaths in the USA aren’t correllated with the strictness of gun laws, but with the presence of minorities and poverty. Chicago and D.C. have long had the strictest gun laws and the highest homicide rates. There is simply a criminal/gang culture in this country that is a different beast than what exists in most other countries. Looking at European countries which are homogenously white or Australia may not yield fruitful results since they don’t have a cultural clash that is similar to ours.

    3. I will add a third element, the drug war. Most of our early century organized crime was a result of prohibition. It could be that a great deal of out current inner city crime is driven by gang disputes resulting from the war on drugs. If drugs were legalized the crips, vice-lords, and bloods might not fight as much over territory since you could now buy your crack/meth/weed at the local Wal-Mart.

    Mexico has a tremendously high homicide rate, despite having excessively strict gun control. I have read that there is only 1 legal place to purchase firearms in the entire country. What do they have in common with us? Participation in the drug war.

  • Meech Hendricks

    Dr. Thomas Sowell exposes many of the logical fallacies in this thinking. http://spectator.org/archives/2012/12/18/invincible-ignorance#commentcontainer

    The real issue is the balance between freedom and the promise of protection. Do we surrender freedom (the right to have a gun) in order to trust in the promise of being protected by the government. But most people don’t think this through. They just emote.

    Another problem seldom mentioned is the issue of unintended consequences. For example, assault rifles cause very few mass murders. Yet people want to ban them in order to feel better. The founding fathers feared the all reaching power of government more than the risk of violence between citizens. I believe they were wise. One of the first things Hitler did when he rose to power was to force registration of firearms. Then he banned them altogether. You might wonder why he did this? Stalin did the same thing. Hmmm….

    Could it be that the enemy of our souls is playing the long game here? Little by little disarming the people to a point where a truly evil person can take control in a way that would be impossible otherwise.

    Something to think about…

  • James Petticrew

    Dale I have no idea where you get your information

    http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2012/11/homiciderate06112012

    Here are our government stats from their website … “This Government is working hard to ensure that Scotland is a safe place to live. A drop of 28 per cent in the number of homicide cases in the last a decade shows we are making progress in the battle against violent crime. Following a further decrease of 11 per cent since last year it is reassuring to see these figures are going in the right direction”

  • Robin

    James,

    Here is something that came out this week. 89% increase in gun crime in England since they passed their 1997 law.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1223193/Culture-violence-Gun-crime-goes-89-decade.html

  • pepy

    If we could at least START with agreement to a difference between arming to defend yourself/property and arming for offense (automatic weapons). I am very sure that the U.S.A. 2nd ammendment “right of the people to keep and bear arms” authors didn’t have a notion about assault weapons.

    The origin of that ammendment seems to be Ol’ England in 1688: “Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defense”. Maybe we now have a better idea why the conservative “right” thinks this is an inalienable right.

  • Jason

    Dale #4. I’d like to see the mountains of evidence that suggests that gun control is worthless. There was an excellent article written on Friday that seems to suggest gun control laws reduce gun violence (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/14/nine-facts-about-guns-and-mass-shootings-in-the-united-states/). Switzerland and Israel have even cracked down on gun possession (I have seen these countries cited by pro gun people as examples their argument of less control).
    While it would be near impossible to remove all guns from the streets, reducing the availability of guns that are most often used in these types of mass killings would help reduce the mass killings (More often than not, guns were obtained legally by those who have committed the mass killings). It may not stop all the violence but don’t we have an obligation to try and do what we can to prevent it?

  • pepy

    Amend Ammendment to Amendment. :/

  • scotmcknight

    Robin, do you have any Christian thinking on this? Your first comment assumes two undemonstrated facts: that we know why Lanza did this and that he had a mental illness (Asperger’s is not a mental illness). Second, Lanza is not a minority and this is the USA: we are all immigrants. You assume a white man’s angle on your second point. I agree that the drug war is a colossal issue here, but remember gun control is probably aimed at reducing assault weapons and not hand guns. Still, what is the Christian stance? How are we to act as Christians when it comes to guns?

  • scotmcknight

    Meech, Sowell’s logic is entirely settled by a libertarian politics. We want to probe a kingdom ethic of guns.

  • scotmcknight

    pepy, the “unfortunate” problem is that we are not looking just at the 2d Amendment, but with a 2008 ruling that seemingly (to me at least) turned the militia into a subset of a right to bear arms whereas prior to that the right to bear arms was connected to the need for a militia. (That’s my understanding anyway.) So this is not just a 2d Amendment but a 2008 ruling issue.

  • John Haig

    To quote that great 20th century theologian Johnny Cash : “Don’t take your guns to town.” Scot is right to ask about a Christian response to the problem. If we follow King Jesus his kingdom is one in which tanks are turned into tanks [of clean water]; missiles into machinery for ploughing fields – if I can presume to bring Isaiah into the 21st C.
    The reason why as a Christian I don’t possess a gun is simply “I don’t trust myself. That seems to have some resonance with Paul’s own self analysis: “The good I want to do . . .”
    And as an Aussie, I’m proud of the way our Prime Minister responded to the Port Arthur massacre in the face of intense opposition from the gun lobby.

  • James Petticrew

    Dale makes sense now, I suggest that the figures from the Scottish government which have to be validated by our national audit office are more than slightly more reliable than those from a tabloid with a track record in sensationalism, untruthfulness and a right agenda so blatant it makes Fox news sound like Pravda.

    We do still have a problem with violent crime, however there is vast difference between what someone can do with a knife before they are stopped and someone armed with assault rifles and automatic hand guns.

  • Robin

    Scot, you talked about Australia. I was merely pointing out problems with using Australia as a comparison.

  • Robin

    I am not assuming a white man’s perspective, it is about social capital and cultural homogeneity. Cultures that have 90% plus cultural and ethnic homogeneity are very different from diverse countries. Think Richard Florida and social and cultural capital.

  • Robin

    It also doesn’t mean Australia should
    Be thrown out, just that taken with the appropriate understanding of the differences.

    The same as if someone went to the superintendent of Chicago schools and said “why is your graduation rate 60%, look how awesome Connecticut is”

  • James Petticrew

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jul/22/gun-homicides-ownership-world-list

    Figures from the UN
    % of homicide by firearms …. Australia 11.5. England & Wales 6.6. USA 60

    Homicide by firearm rate per 100,000 of population …. Australia 0.14. England & Wales 0.07 USA 2.97

    Given these figures I am not sure how you argue that more guns creates a safer society.

  • DerekMc

    James, the UN is not trusted in any way or form by many pro gun conservative in the US. The more extreme side wants their guns to protect themselves from the UN. I have two friends that expressed that very fear to me as our election approached.

  • Rick

    James #20-

    “Given these figures I am not sure how you argue that more guns creates a safer society.”

    But is it because there are more guns, or is it because it is already a less safe society, or both?

  • Dale Cole

    There’s WAY too much to here to address in detail. You’ll have to do some research on your own, but this a good place to start for gun control research http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp If they’re politically-motived they are the tamest I’ve ever seen, and this is really only a start. As far as the 2nd amendment there are plenty of documents, including papers written at the time and text in state constitutions, highlight that the right to bear arms includes an individual right to self-defense, it’s not new.

    As far as a kingdom perspective, some of the “star” converts in the New Testament are Roman Soldiers, but I don’t recall them being entreated to lay down their arms. Even when Peter was rebuked for drawing his sword at Jesus’s arrest it was to put it away, not to get rid of it, or a question of why he had it in the first place. I’ve never found anything that suggest Christians should cast aside all their arms, nor even the suggestions that weapons someone encumber one’s walk with Christ, despite numerous indications that wealth does.

    It seems to me that the real issue, be it spiritual or practical-political, is that some people are much more interested in a stance that makes them feel good, instead of one with any real utility. I embrace the fact the gun control is largely useless for the same reason I embrace global warming and evolution: even though those positions don’t necessarily make me “feel good” the bulk of the cold, hard numbers say it’s true.

    (As a hint: comparing the gun homicide/suicide rates will always fool you. The same number of people are still dying, they’re just using different methods.)

  • http://restlessfaith.blogspot.com chad m

    Scot, I LOVE what you said about the Church “embodying a kingdom ethic” when it comes to guns. I’m really struggling through all those in my congregation, even clergy i work with, who believe an increase in guns is best. Is there a biblical or theological position that is often cited in support of increased gun ownership?

    Honestly, for all of you engaged in the back and forth arguments above this comment – do all these stats really matter? Can’t we at the least agree we have a societal problem that involves guns, mental illness, and rage? Can’t we at the least agree something needs to be done? Do we even have a right to express outrage and remorse at the death of these children when we aren’t willing to make any changes to our laws? If we aren’t willing to change, then our “remorse at this tragedy” is really a bunch of BS.

  • scotmcknight

    Chad M, my reading of the comments — here and elsewhere — shows that far too many define what is right and wrong on the basis of the US Constitution. If the 2d Amendment is for it, then they’re for it. I find that logic inconsequential and inadequate.

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    Numbers seem to be pretty clear about the gun violence culprit…

    Though inequality certainly might be a big factor too, according to these metrics.

    Other 1st-world nations have mental illness, testosterone addled young males, violent video games (except maybe Germany), violent history, etc.… yet the U.S. is exceptional in gun deaths & prevalence of guns.

    And the geography of gun violence in America shows that red states / states with less gun control feature higher gun death rates.

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    Even the founders mentality on the 2nd amendment is muddled.

    I know the current SCOTUS composition does not see it that way but a great many constitutional historians see the 2nd amendment more in the “militia” sense, than the universal right to gun ownership — that if it is the latter, why not missile launchers and tanks too, as those would be better weapons against tyrannical forces of a malevolent government. As it stands, these (semi)?-assault weapons best use is effectively eliminating women and children in mass.

    As Garry Wills wrote in a recent article, all hail Moloch, the Gun God!

  • http://www.priestfield.org.uk JaredH

    If someone is coming to attack me, my (fallen) instinct is to defend with all the weapons I may have to hand to overcome and make sure they are in no position to attempt it again.

    If someone kills my child (God forbid), my (fallen) instinct is to give vent to my anger and seek vengeance rather than justice.

    I am a sinner, and we are all sinners. I cannot be trusted with a gun. But Jesus is changing me and I am, I hope, becoming more like him (though I still would not trust myself with a gun).

    This is how he responded:
    Mt 26:52 ‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’

    1 Peter 2:23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

    As Christians we follow someone who, with all the forces of Heaven at his disposal, took to himself the anger and violence of the cross. We deem those who act similarly ‘Saints’ and honour them as heroes. I pray that I am never put in a similar situation, but if I do find myself in it, I pray that I may act like my Saviour.

    Sadly, we rarely apply the Cross to our ethics.

    15 on your list is probably true and I find it despairingly sad especially when some Christians engage in a logic that says the answer is more guns (whose explicit purpose is to maim and kill).

    I found a cartoon from the election campaign insightful and have posted it in my own blog at http://jaredhay.wordpress.com ‘Let me get this straight…’ The last section of it is pertinent to this debate, though hopefully most of the rest of it won’t happen given the President’s re-election. Now that he is no longer needing votes he might be willing to go out on a limb on an inherently unpopular pathway. Please God.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Truly, the “modern American conservative” is all about Guns, Gold and God. Probably in that order too.

    Also, the anti-(recent)immigrant/minority subtext needs to be examined. If you correct the stats for income group/social development level, how much difference would there really be?

    BTW, up here in the frozen north we are also a heterogeneous society. We had 598 homicides in Canada in 2011, with only 27% (161) attributable to guns . If we correct for population differences between here and the US, that would equate to about 1610, compared to 8775 in the US. Plus, we are not talking about accidental shootings either. And we have extensive drug and gang problems too. In fact, the biggest source of illegal weapons here is the US! If we had more gun control next door, why, our gun-related crime will fall even more!!

  • Ruth Anne shorter

    @jason Washington post aka compost! Thankfully some readers here are not duped by emotionalism. You are safer if the perpetrator knows you are armed and the evil doers are the ones who prey on the weak and defenseless. Having worked as a counselor and classification of inmates for twenty years, this is well known. You guys who think peace is the answer and put away your swords thinkers — you will never see this on this earth. I do believe “important” people who are protected by armed guards will not let their guards throw away their weapons. So the rest of us just take our chances? Fantasy or wishful thinking will not change hearts bent on destruction. No country including Scotland is improving — this world is changed ever so more now that the culture is doing wrong and calling it right–The One True God has been denied. None of our so called intelligent thinking and world of academia is wiser that the Word. The Holy Spirit should be our teacher not our “intelligence” or our following blindly our “religious” blogs or the religious leaders. Especially now. Do you really think any person who is bent on destroying others is going into Chuck Norris’ home to get his vileness satisfied? Or the local police station? Or the gun shops? Strong men of the Lord–Jesus was not a wimp. When I read, I do not hear him try to talk you into following him– he says a command– not let us sit down and have a drink. He is always strong yet tender with the needy. He did not scourge the temple because he needed exercise. Yet, when it was His time he did not resist but not a moment before.

  • http://theparsonspatch.com Mark Stevens

    I’m an Australian. I have no gun in my home. The only people I know who own guns are farmers or people who like to hunt. No one I know keeps a gun in their home (most do not). I feel safe. Very safe. Our gun deaths are related to drugs and bikies. Australia is one of the safest countries in the world. As an outsider the argument for guns and against stricter control (not total removal) is ludicrous. But hey, what would I know I am just an Australian.

  • StephL

    If we were all supposed to be armed at all times in order to be safe, why did we move away from the Wild West days and stop lynching mobs and establish groups of people charged with law and order? Wat was the point? Gun ownership for all would have been cheaper and easier as the model to follow. What is so attractive about everyone having a gun and wearing it at all times in case someone wants to shoot them?

  • Ian Thomason

    G’day, Scot.

    From reading the responses to your various posts on the apparent American gun culture it seems to me, an Aussie outsider, that there remain American Christians who equate firearm ownership with the concepts of ‘liberty’, ‘the flag’, ‘mum/mom’ and ‘apple pie’. I hope that I’m mistaken, but it’s almost as if such people identify themselves as being citizens of America first and foremost, and citizens of Jesus’ kingdom, secondarily.
    I appreciated your article. Obviously, there are many cultural differences between Australia and the US, and between how Christian Australians and Christian Americans view a range of issues, both religious and secular. For example, unlike you we don’t live in a society where nine out of every ten citizens owns a firearm. Our political conservatives don’t equate gun ownership with liberty (we don’t have powerful, pro-gun political SIGs such as the NRA, because we don’t have a pro-gun ethic in this country). There are very few Australians who feel the need to dress in camoflage and play ‘solidier’ on weekends, stockpiling food, water and ammunition in anticipation of the ‘NWO’/Zombie Apocalypse! And, of course, the nature of mainstream evangelicalism in Australia is closer to the British model than it is the American: Dispensationalism is considered ‘quirky’ Down Under, and so is far from being a majority position (I do wonder whether ‘pre-mil’ Dispensational eschatology underpins some of the pro-gun feeling amongst American believers?).
    In any case there is a salient point that I believe is worthy of note. In Australia we’ve had just the two notable mass-killings involving guns in recent memory: the Milpera Massacre in 1984, where seven people were killed and twenty-eight injured; and the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996, where thirty-five people were killed and twenty-three wounded. The former was a shoot-out between two Outlaw Motorcycle Groups, the latter involved a single, psychologically unstable gunman. Both events occurred during the period of our history when semi-automatic firearms were more accessible than they are today. Culturally, firearms violence/offenses in Australia almost always involves/involved criminals.
    The immediate effect of the Port Arthur tragedy was one of widespread horror and revulsion. The same has been true of your recent Sandyhook tragedy. Importantly, however, unlike Americans Australians didn’t immediately rush out to buy/stockpile more guns because we feared for our safety. When our firearms legislation changed in 1997, people handed in their weapons willingly. There was very little of the Charlton Heston-esque, “you-can-pry-my-gun-from-my-cold-dead-hand” rhetoric.
    In closing, I fail to discern any theological/biblical basis for general gun ownership by private, Christian citizens. The matter has more to do with the foibles of American history, and your prevailing socio-political culture. And whilst I find the ‘WWJD’ mantra rather trite and generally pointless, I can’t see the answer being, “hunkering down in the bunker, armed to the teeth!”

    God bless,

    Ian

  • Meech Hendricks

    Scot, you wrote, “Meech, Sowell’s logic is entirely settled by a libertarian politics. We want to probe a kingdom ethic of guns.”

    You answer is a cop out. You didn’t interact with any of the facts that I or Dr. Sowell forwarded, and just brushed them aside, labeling them as “libertarian politics” instead of kingdom ethic. This is not kingdom thinking you are displaying. Kingdom thinking deals with arguments and facts, knowing that all truth is God’s truth.

    I could have done the same to you, labeling the 15 points on gun control in Australia as “liberal talking points.” I did not do that because that is not how kingdom oriented people debate.

  • Meech Hendricks

    Ian, Your post is belittling and insulting. Is that how you think that Christians should debate a controversial topic?

  • Barb

    I actually was not belittled or insulted by Ian’s post. I thought it was interesting how he characterized our country compared to his. I wonder what makes our country the way it is, I wish we could be more like the Aussies.

  • Ian Thomason

    Hi, Ruth Anne.

    I think you may have missed the main point being offered on this topic by the likes of Scot. The issue isn’t one of wholesale turning “swords into plowshares” just yet–such will occur after the Parousia–but of the reasonableness of private citizens to be owning “swords” in the first place.
    Like you, I’m professionally acquainted with the violence of this age (I’m an Australian Army officer with 23 years of service). But I don’t place a premium on individualistic, wholly subjective and untethered Christian ‘spirituality’ standing contra to the collective wisdom and learning of the Church at large (I have Bachelor and Master degrees in theology, and a PhD).
    I believe we Christians should have informed views on issues ranging from the environment through social justice to the rightness or otherwise of waging wars. Importantly, we believers will, by-and-large, reach our conclusions to these vexed subjects through collectively engaging in biblical, social and political exegesis. This blog of Scot’s plays a useful part, then, in the afore-mentioned conversations :)

    God bless,

    Ian

  • Ian Thomason

    Hi, Meech.

    If you found my post either belittling or insulting then I apologise; such was not my intent. What points that I raised offended you?

    God bless,

    Ian

  • John

    I don’t understand a claim to have “Christian” theology standing besides either restrictions on guns nor on a right to own guns. From Scot’s first post throughout the replies, there has been very little “Christian” support for such a statement that a “Christian” response should be. It seems most of the discussion is about the stats from this country or that, or rights, neither of which represent “Christian”. I am not saying Scot is wrong, but I think he has failed to support how “kingdom” thinking (the same designation as “Christian”) would be involved in what seems to be a constitutional question. (just to say it up front – I am not a personal fan of guns, but neither am I against the common understanding of the 2nd Amendment). My concern more lies with trying to align “Christian” or “kingdom” with political intrepretations.

  • Meech Hendricks

    Ian,
    To give you a few:
    –American Christians who equate firearm ownership with the concepts of ‘liberty’, ‘the flag’, ‘mum/mom’ and ‘apple pie’.
    –it’s almost as if such people identify themselves as being citizens of America first and foremost, and citizens of Jesus’ kingdom, secondarily.
    –There are very few Australians who feel the need to dress in camoflage and play ‘solidier’ on weekends, stockpiling food, water and ammunition in anticipation of the ‘NWO’/Zombie Apocalypse!

    These are all appeals to stereotypes. Most gun owners I know, Christian or not, are primarily thinking about self-protection and the protection of others. (I’m not talking about hunters or recreational shooters) They take seriously the presence of evil in this world and want to have some precautions.

  • angusj

    Dale #4 said: “Except the Total murder rate is unchanged, he Total suicide rate is unchanged”

    This statement isn’t supported by data from Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Institute of Criminology which shows both homicides and suicide rates are declining. (Note: Gun buybacks occurred in Australia in 1996 and 2003.)

    http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by+Subject/4125.0~Jan+2012~Main+Features~Suicides~3240
    http://www.aic.gov.au/statistics/homicide.html

  • Val

    In Canada we have an equivalent percentage?, rate? not sure which, to US school shootings (that first big tragedy took down 14 women students at a Quebec University) and there have been two more I know of since then. One was by an Alberta high school student who stole his dad’s gun(s) and the other was to a registered gun owner who only lacked his carry permit (required to take a hand-gun from one place to another) who took his guns to another Quebec University – this one an English speaking U. – and opened fire, killing one and injuring quite a few others. I think he also killed himself, I don’t think the Alberta high school student did, though.

    Since our population is so low (around 30 million), that makes our deaths/population equivalent to the US, mind you, since the gun laws came in after the 14 U. students were killed, I think our stats would be lower since the gun laws were enacted, but even with tight licensing and restrictions, the Que. University student had a permit to obtain the weapons he used – he just wasn’t as good a shot as this guy in Conn. and he was at a downtown, so the police were there in seconds, since about a zillion people saw him walk in to the University with a gun and had phoned before he got to the cafeteria, where he opened fire.

    But, even with permits and laws it still happens. I blame it more on the gun culture – guns are cool/status symbols not just a tool for hunting or police work. N. American youth seem to like the gangster culture, and guns are a part of that culture, so, by extension guns are cool to younger people. A socio-economic thing I guess, since gangsters probably aren’t as much a part of high school culture, or the same age as high school kids in other Western countries.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/interactives/guns-us/

  • scotmcknight

    Well, Meech, I’m not so sure about Sowell; my argument is simply on the ground on which he bases his arguments. His politics is libertarian, or close, as can be seen in his memoir, which I’ve read (and which I enjoyed). I’ve not read anything of his that is not rooted in his politics. All truth is God’s truth … well, of course, but that claim can be used to dodge a kingdom ethic. I’m wondering how guns are to be viewed in light of Jesus’ kingdom vision.

  • scotmcknight

    John, that is the question I’m asking for discussion, not what I have sought to answer. If I “answer” it becomes a debate with me; if I don’t, it becomes a conversation. That’s the mode of this blog.

  • Andy W.

    I’m a big fan of the 2nd amendment. In fact I interpret it as strictly as possible, in that it only guarantees the right to bear armament technology available at the time of its writing. So flint lock muskets and if you have a horse team to pull them, cast iron cannons.

  • Kenny Johnson

    @Dale #23

    Justfacts is a conservative site. See their about page where they describe themselves as “conservative/libertarian in our viewpoints.” Hardly an unbiased site.

  • Kenny Johnson

    @Ruth Anne #30,

    “You guys who think peace is the answer and put away your swords thinkers — you will never see this on this earth. ”

    Isn’t Jesus a peace is the answer and put away your swords thinker?

    Didn’t Jesus practice and preach non-violence?

    Isn’t Jesus’ kingdom a Kingdom of peace and non-violence? Aren’t us followers of Jesus, citizens of that Kingdom? Aren’t we ambassadors?

    Isn’t the Kingdom ethic an ethic of peace and non-violence?

    If that’s the case… then from a Kingdom perspective does it make sense to own a weapon for the purpose of killing other human (assault rifles and large amounts of ammo)? Most hunters use little ammo and have no need for assault weapons…

    And even Christian who believe they can use lethal force to defend themselves do not need hundreds (or thousands) of rounds of ammunition and assault weapons. Those are offensive weapons — not defensive ones.

  • john o

    May I suggest there is no kingdom view of guns anymore than there is for cars, carrots, or compositions. Rather it is what we do with these items that are governed by kingdom views. That discussion is also different from what a government should enforce as law. While such a discussion of other countries safety stats, American constitutional law, and the balance between safety and freedom is valuable; it has little bearing on a worldview that is Christocentric.

  • scotmcknight

    John O, I’m sure you are overstating when you say there is “no kingdom view of guns” inasmuch as you mean only that he didn’t talk about guns. Then your suggestion is that there is a kingdom view of how to use guns, which is precisely the same point. I’m not convinced that a “different” view for a govt since that moves into the Lutheran theory of two realms and I’d argue that kingdom for a follower rules all of life, including how we live as citizens. I think we are agreeing, too, on the lack of usefulness with other countries, etc… the issue is that the Australian stats help citizens weigh how best to operate in our world today.

    There are provocative, suggestive, and potent lines by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount on how kingdom citizens live, including and beginning with reconciliation and leading to love of enemies as the “perfection” Jesus calls us to. In that mix is a kind of non-violence, or at least non-retaliation with compensatory violence. Out of that mix, so I would argue, one can begin to frame a kingdom theory of guns. When this is all set into the context of the cross as how God deals with injustice — by bearing it and reversing its thunder — one can form a kingdom theory of guns that at least raises the serious option that, to the degree they are designed to kill humans, they contradict his kingdom vision. The use of guns for hunting is legitimate (so I would want to argue).

  • Ian Thomason

    Hi, Meech.

    You indicated that the following of my comments were ‘belittling’ and ‘insulting’: first, “… American Christians who equate firearm ownership with the concepts of ‘liberty’, ‘the flag’, ‘mum/mom’ and ‘apple pie’.” Second, “… it’s almost as if such people identify themselves as being citizens of America first and foremost, and citizens of Jesus’ kingdom, secondarily.” And third, “There are very few Australians who feel the need to dress in camoflage and play ‘solidier’ on weekends, stockpiling food, water and ammunition in anticipation of the ‘NWO’/Zombie Apocalypse!”

    You said, “These are all appeals to stereotypes.” Granted, perhaps they are.

    My first point, however, presents analogues to how others perceive Americans, rightly or wrongly (noting that I probably should have added baseball to the original list). Several of your countrymen have explicitly linked gun ownership with the issue of American rights and freedoms on Scot’s blog, as did you in our current conversation. So if gun ownership is an inalienable right, and as such is as American as ‘the flag’, ‘mom’, ‘apple pie’ AND ‘baseball’ in your cultural matrix; then wouldn’t my comment be simply a statement of reality?

    Per my second point, I did notice that your ‘Second Amendment’ received an airing in the conversation, as if such provides the definitive response to the “why guns” question: Why?! Because I’m an American! And the Second Amendment guarantees me the right! Well, I too enjoy many rights, privileges and freedoms that my country provides; rights and freedoms that I choose not to press given that my citizenship of heaven calls me to higher moral, ethical and legal standards than does my citizenship of Australia (of which I’m justifiably very proud). .

    And finally, to my third point: there really are large parts of the US that are well known for their ‘survivalist’ and/or ‘people’s militia’ philosophies to life. And one really can purchase a “nuclear-resistent, decomissioned missle silo for the ultimate in self-protection and self-reliance” in your country. You can’t in mine. Further, a quick search on ‘Google’ identified over 60 organised and armed citizen’s militias in the US, spanning all fifty states, and with an estimated membership (high order) of 60,000! These are groups of ‘patriot’ Americans who dress in camoflage, and who conduct ‘military’ activities in preparation for the inevitable ‘NWO’. Again, we don’t have too many of those in Australia. Still, and with respect, I do admit that my ‘Zombie Apoclaypse’ quip was way out of line! ;)

    You concluded: “Most gun owners I know, Christian or not, are primarily thinking about self-protection and the protection of others. (I’m not talking about hunters or recreational shooters) They take seriously the presence of evil in this world and want to have some precautions.” Fair enough. However, in Romans chapter 13 Paul wrote that God invests governments with the power of the sword to punish wrongdoers; to maintain a peaceable and safe society. Decisively for me, in the Gospel According to Matthew Jesus rebuked Peter for lopping off Malchus’ ear, by affirming: “… all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

    God bless,

    Ian

  • StephL

    In our natural state, we are actually ill-equipped for fighting. We have no claws, no fangs, no great speed either, no horns, and nowhere near the strength of the large apes. Perhaps we should start there to see what being human is about.

    For a kingdom ethic, Christ stated that he who wanted to save his life would lose it, and he who lost it for his sake would find it. The burden of proof in this, not for the person who wants to own a gun, who keeps a gun in a safe, unloaded, with ammo stored separately, so that s/he can go target shoot at the range or go hunting…. The burden of proof is on the person who says we are better off with the right, for anyone who is not ruled incompetent, to walk around with a weapon. It is hard to imagine Christ reversing positions to say we should be armed and dangerous so that we might preserve our lives. Not if his claim to be the way, truth, and life is real. He has conquered death. I can’t believe he would advocate for us to align ourselves with the gun industry in order to be sure that, in case we one day meet a shooter, we can defend ourselves.

    Instead he wanted us to bear witness to him as he bore witness to God, to God’s character and nature. Yes, God is a defender of the weak, but here we need to turn back to politics for a while.

    We all know what happens when industries are left to regulate themselves. In this case, they have improved a product, for the sake of improving a product. They have expanded a market, from military to civilian applications, because they could. And the improvements mean a faster spray of bullets, greater velocity, more accuracy, more ease of use, greater lethality. All in the name of a need that did not exist, to make money in order to make more products in order to make more money.

    I think a case could be made that a Christian should not actively promote such a system, specifically these assault weapons. I think a case could be made for the Church to take a stand for de-escalation, perhaps by setting up non profits to buy back guns. To then melt them. And do away with them. We have a surplus, no worries. I don’t think guns will disappear, and I am especially concerned about the assault weapons. The fact is, I am not sure what our government would do with the guns if they bought them back … without meaning to sound paranoid. Didn’t we just have a scandal about our guns making their way into Mexico, and some foreign arms sales scandals before? Of course, let’s just make sure the church-sponsored effort isn’t corruptly staffed with people preparing for Armaggedon or a wave of persecution against the church. Wow. Just everyone, pare down your arsenal, and get rid of the assault weapons. I really don’t want any of you carrying those around…truly. Not in the name of my kids’ safety.

    I’m willing to dispense with that whole buy-back plan, but I do think it would be more consistent with the church’s peace-building mission than calling for looser gun laws.

    In the meantime, I have gotten a disturbing email from our local school system tonight…. And today, the mom in the van ahead of me at school drop off had a hard time driving away. She looked over her shoulder two, three, four times as her little son walked to the front doors before hitting the gas. It has been very hard.

  • paj

    I remember well the Port Arthur in Australia and another random shooting in Hoddle St Melbourne.

    I lived in the rural country victoria and also remember family members killing their own with freely available guns.

    I’ve been praying that your President will do what our PM did. It was such a blessing.

  • Dale Cole

    angusj #41 I think those number support my statment very well. The overall decine is completely negligible even as low and .6 over a nemuber of years. Plus, when you look at the years immediately follow the buy-back you see almost no change, even spikes higher before starting lower again.

    When looked at in trends, the effects are diminsished even further. There was a pre-existing downward trends in gun-voilence, and the buy-backs did nothing to accelerate that trend.
    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1736501,00.html

    That’s just a quick answer.

  • Dale Cole

    To the larger kingdom context: I’d just ask some of you why you think we need to “construct a framework” for a subject that has an appropriate period-specific analogue. Let’s face it, we’re not talking about human genetic modification, for which there’s no parallel that we can reference.

    To suggest that non-violence as the full and complete answer just seems like an incredible cop out. . I’ve heard some people use the same non-violence angle to argue that Christians shouldn’t participate in competitive sports like football, wrestling, boxing or MMA because they violate some standard of Christian non-violence. Still, our non-violent Lord and Savior did forcibly throw money changers out of the temple. What do you propose we do with that example?

    It seems there is ample opportunity for Christ or another New Testament writer to really address the issues arming yourself, but there’s really nothing. Not only do they not make a strong stand against it, we get the put on the full armor of God and the word is a sword.

  • John

    @scot#49. I think there is a distinct difference between stating whether one states that simply owning, or not condemning the owning, of an item is evil and that item being used in an evil manner. Stating one view is a “kingdom” view implies invoking the authority of God behind such a moral stance and calls into question those who are opposed to such a view, and doing so should have the highest bar possible (especially considering the abuses of such statements that litter the history of the human race). This is my struggle with an attempt to make gun ownership a moral battleground, there is no clear indication, at least to me, that can support an effort to corral God’s authority into such a subject. I see this on multiple issues where people invoke God’s authority in the state enforcing one’s moral views and have two questions for those attempting to make such a case:

    1) Where is the support for such specific invokation of God’s authority in the matter? When we state that is morally okay to own rifles, pistols, shotguns or other such items, but not other assault type weapons (which I find distasteful, too) – and this moral line is there absent what one intends to do with it – it makes just such a distinction as I made at the beginning. Perhaps more of understanding of which passages in the Sermon you might be referring would help with my understanding of your point.

    2) Perhaps I am blinded by a conservative American distrust of government along with a Protestant distrust for church power, but my second concern comes with the application of the statement that a “one kingdom” view would have. How is it reasonable to take such passages applied to persons in such a kingdom and apply them to unredeemed people and states? The human race is littered with the disastrous results of the claim of moral high ground being used to oppress others. I would agree with those would say that moral grounds alone are not valid grounds to make state restrictions. How should this concern be addressed?

  • Ian Thomason

    Hi, Dan.

    “To the larger kingdom context: I’d just ask some of you why you think we need to “construct a framework” for a subject that has an appropriate period-specific analogue. Let’s face it, we’re not talking about human genetic modification, for which there’s no parallel that we can reference.”

    The simple answer, I suppose, is that as believers we’re called to live authentic, Christ-honouring lives in the midst of our respective cultures. For example, the position that you advanced regarding ‘period-specific analogues’ could very easily be used to justify the ongoing practice of slavery. But I don’t see too many believers doing this nowadays, basing their posture on the impression that Paul tacitly endorsed the institution. So we should responsibly bridge from ‘then’ to ‘now’, and from ‘sense’ to ‘significance’. Constructing a full-orbed theological worldview/framework goes a long way in enabling us to do this.

    “To suggest that non-violence as the full and complete answer just seems like an incredible cop out. I’ve heard some people use the same non-violence angle to argue that Christians shouldn’t participate in competitive sports like football, wrestling, boxing or MMA because they violate some standard of Christian non-violence. Still, our non-violent Lord and Savior did forcibly throw money changers out of the temple. What do you propose we do with that example?”

    I’m not sure that anyone has been advocating non-violence as the final word. More the considering of approaches that potentially reduces the opportunity for maximal devastation in common situations when violence does occur (e.g. limitations to the availability of firearms vis the issue of domestic violence). But I do tend to think that you’ve overreached with your comparing of Christians engaging in boxing/MMA competitions, to Christ violently ejecting the money-changers from the Temple. To begin with, Jesus wasn’t competing with anyone, least of all the Temple businessmen! As God incarnate he was offended that the Father’s house had been turned into an exploitative place of profit-making. This wasn’t ‘sport’ to him. Second, history records Christians very early avoiding violently competitive public spectacles, such as gladitorial displays; without necessarily avoiding non-violent sporting displays altogether, such as the Isthmian games. Apples and oranges, methinks.

    “It seems there is ample opportunity for Christ or another New Testament writer to really address the issues arming yourself, but there’s really nothing. Not only do they not make a strong stand against it, we get the put on the full armor of God and the word is a sword.”

    To argue from silence (i.e. argumentum e silentio) about an issue is always fraught with peril, and is to embrace a weak form of logical fallacy in any case. But to suggest that Christ and the writers of the New Testament didn’t have something to say about the issues underpinning our current conversation, I believe, is to simply ignore the facts. Jesus gave us the framework of the Beatitudes. This Kingdom ethic tends to mitigate against the general concept of arming onesself, wouldn’t you think? And, of course, he very clearly rebuked Peter for wielding the sword against Malchus as well. But I’m glad you mentioned Paul’s analogy to the tools of the Roman soldier in Ephesians chapter six. The apostle transformed the physical implements of war, into implements of spiritual war. His was more of a contrast than it was a comparison.

    God bless,

    Ian

  • StephL

    John 55, it would be hard for most to say it is not the will of God that a Christian own a gun, of any kind, for any reason, ever…to draw that moral line. I am guilty many times here of arguing a case too forcefully, and at too great length. But I would be concerned if I saw church denominations putting out statements that their members should not own guns. That would be authority-based. You weren’t speaking to me, but I am guilty of putting out half-baked ideas out there in these comments at times and recently came up with one for a Christian gun buy-back program. At least it wouldn’t be coercive or even shame-based because it would not be run by local churches but by non-profits. When factions are at a standstill, a third party needs to step in. To get a movement going. To de-escalate rather than allow something to spiral out of control. The increasing sales of assault weapons since this incident (if true) are a clear sign of escalation and terror. Should we stand by?

    Personally, I argue hard because I argue against escalation and proliferation, and the only way to combat that as Christians is to set an example that is opposite to escalation and proliferation. So I join with pacifists even though I am the wife of a career military officer (retired).

  • JB

    The Facts about Australia not stated above from Time Magazine:
    Back to ArticleClick to PrintThursday, May. 01, 2008
    Australia’s Gun Laws: Little Effect
    By Daniel Williams/Sydney

    On the afternoon of April 28, 1996, Martin Bryant snapped. A striking figure with his long blond hair and milky skin, he had just eaten lunch at a café within the historic site of Port Arthur, a former prison in Australia’s island state of Tasmania. Described later by his sentencing judge as a “pathetic social misfit,” the 28-year-old then reached into his sports bag and, in the manner that others might pull out a sweater, withdrew two military-style semi-automatic rifles, which he used over the next eight horrifying minutes to kill 35 people — men, women and children — in what remains Australia’s worst mass murder.

    Sharing the shock of his people, the newly elected Prime Minister, John Howard — just two months into his eleven-and-a-half years in power — seized the chance to overhaul Australia’s gun laws, trampling all opposition to make them among the strictest in the developed world. “I hate guns,” he said at the time. “One of the things I don’t admire about America is their slavish love of guns … We do not want the American disease imported into Australia.” Howard argued the tougher laws would make Australia safer. But 12 years on, new research suggests the government response to Port Arthur was a waste of public money and has made no difference to the country’s gun-related death rates.

    Though he’d acquired them illegally, Bryant used guns at Port Arthur that were lawful in Tasmania at the time. Howard argued there was no reason civilians should be allowed to own assault weapons — and under the 1996 National Firearms Agreement (NFA) these were all but banned. At huge cost, the government bought from their owners some 650,000 of the newly prohibited guns, which police destroyed. It also implemented mandatory gun licenses and registration of all firearms, helping to restrict to 5% of the population the number of Australian adults who owned or used guns last year, down from 7% in 1996.

    But these changes have done nothing to reduce gun-related deaths, according to Samara McPhedran, a University of Sydney academic and coauthor of a soon-to-be-published paper that reviews a selection of previous studies on the effects of the 1996 legislation. The conclusions of these studies were “all over the place,” says McPhedran. But by pulling back and looking purely at the statistics, the answer “is there in black and white,” she says. “The hypothesis that the removal of a large number of firearms owned by civilians [would lead to fewer gun-related deaths] is not borne out by the evidence.”

    Firearm homicides in Australia were declining before 1996 and the decline has simply continued at the same rate since, McPhedran says. (In 2002-3, Australia’s rate of 0.27 gun-related homicides per 100,000 people was one-fifteenth that of the U.S. rate.) Of course, it’s possible there might have been a spike in firearm homicides — and one or more Port Arthur-style events — if not for the gun law reforms. “It’s very easy to raise what-ifs,” McPhedran counters. “The what-ifs are interesting as discussion points. But, ultimately, for policy making, we have to deal with what is.”

    And suicide by firearm? Here again, rates were falling pre-1996. And while the decline gained speed after 1996, suicide by other methods began declining then, too. McPhedran and coauthor Jeanine Baker say suicide needs to be examined in a broader context that includes growing public awareness of mental health issues and increased use of antidepressants.

    Other researchers have focused on mass shootings: there were 11 in Australia in the decade before 1996, and there have been none since. This appears to be a strong argument for gun laws designed to help prevent massacres like Port Arthur. But McPhedran argues that because “mass shootings have been such a rare event historically … it’s incredibly difficult to perform a reliable statistical test on such rare events.” Massacres, she argues, are a separate research question.

    It won’t seem irrelevant to some that McPhedran and Baker are affiliated with the Sydney-based International Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting. But it should be, McPhedran argues: their analysis has been peer-reviewed, approved for publication and should be judged on its merits, she says.

    The authors are not recommending that the gun law be repealed, though they do write of their hope that their findings might give policymakers “greater confidence” in approaching firearms policy in the future. “We’ve set out to scientifically investigate what was happening [with gun deaths] before and after 1996,” she says. “We are simply presenting the evidence as it stands.” The new Kevin Rudd-led Labor government has no plans to review the existing laws.

    Click to PrintFind this article at:
    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1736501,00.html
    Copyright © 2012 Time Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.Privacy Policy|Add TIME Headlines to your Site|Contact Us|Customer Service

    Also Look at the Australia Homicide Numbers:
    The Australian homicide rate (any method) per 100,000 people is:

    2009: 1.218
    2007/08: 1.221
    2006/07: 1.221
    2005/06: 1.421
    2004/05: 1.2
    2003/04: 1.421
    2002/03: 1.5
    2001/02: 1.8
    2000/01: 1.6
    1999/00: 1.6
    1998/99: 1.7
    1997/98: 1.6
    1996/97: 1.6
    1995/96: 1.6
    1994/95: 1.8
    1993/94: 1.821
    1992/93: 1.9
    1991/92: 1.8
    1990/91: 1.9
    1989/90: 1.8

    As our Bruce Krafft points out (after providing the analysis), “what no one mentions: the US non-firearm-related homicide rate is almost four times Australia’s. If guns are the cause then why aren’t our non-firearm homicide rates the same?”


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