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Gunpoint Diplomacy

This article is reproduced with thanks from Investigate Magazine, July 2000 pp28-32. http://www.investigatemagazine.com/july00guns.htm

It may seem hard to believe in an age of Kylie Jones-style attacks, where we have an average of a murder every two or three days, but once upon a time, back in the 1970s, we used to average one murder in New Zealand every four to six months.

Back in those days New Zealand citizens still had the right to own guns for self-defence. Then, inspired by public horror at a couple of bank robberies where guns were used, the Labour Government in 1974 moved to disarm the public, calling in as many guns as possible under an "amnesty" and changing the law on firearms licensing. Since then, our murder rate has soared from two a year in 1971 to its current status of around 150 a year. Robberies and rape offences have likewise multiplied many times over. Today, the police cannot protect New Zealanders from either burglars (see previous article) or even death threats.

LECH BELTOWSKI, is a medical doctor and spokesman for the Sporting Shooters’ Association of New Zealand, argues it is time for police to admit defeat and allow the public to exercise the right to self-defense:
Consider, if you will, a few pertinent facts: the right to defend yourself and others from harm has, for centuries, been the cornerstone of western civilisation. One of Britain’s leading judges went so far as to describe the right to self-defence as "a primary law of nature", a right that cannot be taken away from individuals by any of the laws of society.

But, in the 1970s, under new social policy, the right to bear arms for self defence was removed in New Zealand. You’ve seen the results.  In countries with the toughest gun control laws, they have higher crime rates than countries or states where the public are allowed to carry weapons.  How many mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons would still be alive in New Zealand today if they had kept a gun, pepper spray, stun gun or other form of weapon in their home for self-defence against intruders?  And why has violent crime become so endemic in New Zealand that Northland Federated Farmers is urging farmers in isolated areas to keep loaded guns handy? 

Under the influence of modern, politically-correct thinking, many basic social concepts have been rapidly undermined, restricted or complicated to a point where they are no longer able to deliver to us and our children the safety and stability they delivered to previous generations.  Nowhere has this process been more damaging than in the field of law and order, where effective if uncompromising concepts have been replaced by more "modern" policies. Sadly, these new policies, based as they are on untested current social theories such as the "collective guilt of society" and "restorative justice", suffer from one basic flaw - they appear to have minimal understanding of precisely what constitutes either "guilt" or "justice". This has produced laws which presume guilt less and less often, and make justice less and less likely to be delivered. 

The historical concept of personal self-defence is certainly a victim of such social engineering - a process which may well turn out to be more dangerous than any genetic engineering. It is surely another of the ironies of our time that those displaying the most concern and paranoia about G.E (genetic engineering) are precisely those who think nothing of forcing us all to be a part of their S.E (social engineering) experiments.  What advantages then does a clearly-defined and effective right of self-defence offer?  In essence, it offers everyone prompt and effective direct protection from criminal violence, offers a level of individual protection far in excess of anything officialdom can provide. By protecting individuals, self-defence also offers protection to families and to neighbours. 

Additionally, since the right of self-defence sharply reduces violent crime in a society, it indirectly improves the personal safety of everyone - including front-line police officers. An added bonus is that this is achieved at the same time as the power of police hierarchy and other bureaucrats over the law-abiding citizen is sharply re-defined in favour of the citizen. 

By allowing law-abiding individuals to effectively protect themselves, protect their families and to better protect others around them, self-defence turns out to be a major mechanism strengthening and protecting the social fabric of a nation. Self-defence therefore, turns out to also have an important political dimension in that it is clearly able to enhance social stability and deliver greater political stability to society.

Conversely, weakening or ignoring such an important mechanism for personal and social safety delivers higher crime, social unrest and political instability.  How is it that such a simple basic right like self-defence can have such important outcomes for a society? One reason is that it protects the basic unit of society - the individual and their family - better than any other social mechanism developed so far. Secondly, it acts to reduce violent crime by means of a number of direct and indirect overlapping behavioural mechanisms.

For this reason self-defence, more than any modern crime prevention policy, has been shown to actually change criminal behaviour.

 

Reinstating a robust right of self-defence available to every law-abiding citizen is a clear signal, that those responsible for maintaining law and order accept the reality that there will always be a minority of violent or criminally-minded persons whose behaviour poses a grave risk to others. It is also an acceptance by authorities that all too often they can do nothing about such individuals until after the event.

Recent murders in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington clearly demonstrate this. A right of self-defence therefore is nothing more than a pragmatic and realistic measure which takes into account the nature of violent crime and the fact that the victim - chosen as they invariably are by the perpetrator – always arrives at the crime scene well before the police.

However, self-defence is much more than honest pragmatism. It is one of the most important - possibly THE most important - mechanisms a society has to modify the behaviour of the violent and socially disruptive. In contrast with our current legal and criminal justice systems, which are increasingly protective of the violent and anti-social minority and consider any injury or fatality to them a worse outcome than the tragedies they regularly inflict on innocent victims, the right of self-defence sends an altogether more effective and uncompromising message. 

Legally sanctioned self-defence spells out clearly that the law considers the perpetrator of a crime responsible for any outcomes which stem from their criminal action. It says very clearly that, if you choose to behave in a violent and anti-social manner then, as you put others in fear of their lives so too will you put your own life at risk. In short, effective self-defence sets precise limits to the behaviour of violent criminals by making them and nobody else responsible for the outcomes of their actions. For this reason it is among the few measures proven to alter criminal behaviour, deter violent crime, lower violent crime statistics and enhance public safety. Little wonder that in our current politically correct climate self-defence is officially unacceptable. 

Increasingly this official position flies in the face of criminological data and research. For the past few years, the only way our authorities have been able to continue with their present policies is by simply ignoring such research and hoping we will remain ignorant of it also. In this they have been assisted by a compliant mainstream media who prefer to sensationalise and exploit violent crimes rather than stimulate debate about how self-defence can actually reduce crime.

 

Yet the evidence that allowing law-abiding citizens effective legal self-defence, with pepper sprays or even with a firearm is now overwhelming. While one of the main justifications for toughening up gun control laws over the last twenty or thirty years was that such measures would reduce violent crime, the opposite has in fact occurred. But then, seen from the broader context of self-defence, this is a predictable outcome of laws which can only make the ordinary citizen more vulnerable to violent crime.

This has certainly been the case in Australia since Prime Minister Howard wasted half a billion tax dollars on a legally enforced confiscation ("Buyback") and destruction of hundreds of thousands of firearms after Port Arthur. As Dr J.Lawson noted in the December 1999 Institute of Public Affairs Review, while murders appear to be stable (with figures within the normal range of annual fluctuation), there has been a dramatic 72% increase in armed robbery in Australia between 1996 and 1998. In reality what is being measured is the increasing vulnerability of ordinary Australians to violent crime and the increasing confidence of violent criminals that they will not be hurt.England, with a virtually disarmed citizenry since 1998 is in an ever worse situation, with recent legal decisions having effectively removed from the citizen any legal right of self defence. Any victim who resists their attacker in the UK now faces the prospect of up to life imprisonment for doing what the state could not do, namely protect them from violence. 

Yet in spite of laws like this, the 1998 International Crime Victimisation Study showed that England and Wales were the most violent of all the industrialised countries surveyed, with a total victimisation rate 40% higher than that of the USA. This international study also confirmed what authorities here do not wish us to know, namely that crimes of all sorts - including murder - are lowest in those American states with the most liberal firearms laws and therefore the most effective right of self-defence. Currently, 31 states in America have liberal laws which allow self-defence, while 19 states continue to enforce more restrictive gun laws.All violent crime is higher in the restrictive gun law states, and even if crime rates fall in such states, they fall less than in those states which allow effective self-defence.

Those still not convinced should read the landmark 1997 study by Chicago University law professor John Lott, who showed that self-defence laws caused an immediate average 8% drop in murder, a 7% drop in assaults and robberies (compare with what happened in Australia) and a 6% drop in rapes. Even more significantly, the reductions in crime rates were much higher (up to 30%) in the most crime-ridden areas, thus showing that self-defence laws target criminal behaviour very effectively.Furthermore, for every year such laws remained on the statute books, violent crime continued to fall, with a further 3% average fall in homicide, a 2% fall in rapes and a 2.5% fall in aggravated assaults every year. Finally, the same author showed that amok killings were much more likely to occur in states with restrictive gun laws, again suggesting that effective self-defence in a society creates a significant deterrent effect against even those sociopaths contemplating random violence in a public place.

With over 800 separate violent incidents every week in New Zealand, there is good evidence that effective self-defence is a right anyone may need.

While in the last few weeks we have indeed seen the Waitara shooting (where a police officer claimed he had to exercise a right his superiors routinely deny the rest of us) there were also the tragic murders of young journalist Kylie Jones in Auckland and Wellington taxi-driver Mohamed Fuard Raafi. There has subsequently been another murder, this time in Hamilton. Furthermore, this is far from being a complete list, with at least two violent armed home invasions in Auckland not yet reaching critical mass as "important news".

In spite of this, the hard questions about why such incidents are becoming almost daily occurrences and more importantly, what needs to be done to make violent crimes as risky for perpetrators as they presently are to victims, are still not being asked. All too often, concerns about law and order are simply reduced to glib introductions for well rehearsed politically-correct rhetoric about "tougher laws" and "more police". Such excuses - coming as they do from the very people who have failed to fulfil their obligations to us as taxpayers, must finally be subject to some scrutiny and common-sense analysis.From reading the newspapers, one could indeed be forgiven for believing that the reason we have so much violent crime is because the authorities are handicapped by a serious lack of laws compounded in turn by a major lack of money to spend as they see fit. One consequence of this is that any discussion about changes in our law and order system now routinely starts off with the premise that the only things any problem needs is tougher laws, more power to courts or police and of course - lots more funding. Unfortunately, New Zealand’s unique problem-solving approach of rewarding incompetence with more power and more money has not turned out to a particularly effective way of solving serious problems.

Surely, even a superficial look at the murders of Kylie Jones and Mohammed Fuard Raafi shows that the two official "solutions" (more laws and more police) would both have been ineffective. In reality, the only thing that could have saved these two lives would have been the ability to effectively defend themselves when attacked. Absolutely nothing else is relevant.Neither is there any other solution to the increasing problem of violent home invasion.

In the Kylie Jones case, the police have implied that things might have been different had someone called them immediately they heard her scream. This is deceptive and dishonest. While it may have ensured the police found her body a little earlier, they could not have saved her life. Effective self-defence could well have done, and as a bonus it might have meant the perpetrator would not have needed anything other than a coroner’s inquest. Yet, given current police policy, had Kylie been caught with mace, a knife or a firearm for self-defence, they would undoubtedly have charged her with a criminal offence.

Similar reasoning can be applied to the case of Mohammed Raafi. Sadly, because neither of these young people had the ability to defend themselves, we have the worst and most expensive outcomes possible - two innocent and valuable young people are dead and further long jail sentences await two probable recidivist offenders. How stupid can we be!

The brutal reality of violent crime is that the victim arrives at the crime scene well before the police. Response times of over half an hour are common even in Auckland. Yet the current police policy that denies ordinary New Zealanders the right to effective self-defence seems to be based on the belief that a police officer who has not yet arrived can deter criminals and protect the victim. If it were not so serious it would be laughable.There is less and less doubt that the underlying reason for our rocketing violent crime rate is that our current laws continue to protect criminals by keeping their victims disarmed and vulnerable.

That such laws are aided and abetted by police policy is nothing short of criminal.  Unfortunately, there appears to be a deep-seated if misguided belief among senior police officers that front-line police can be made safer simply by restricting the law-abiding majority. That keeping us defenceless while at the same time allowing police better access to firearms, allowing them the use of pepper sprays (illegal for the public) and spending more of our money to increase police numbers protects police even if it does not reduce crime. This is simply not true.

Neither is the police claim that self-defence puts people at greater risk during a violent crime correct. If this were indeed true, one could guarantee the Police Association would be campaigning to ensure its membership did not routinely have the ability to use deadly force instead of the other way round. In fact, data from the F.B.I Crime Victimisation Study showed (many years ago now) that while attempting self-defence with fists, sticks or knives did indeed increase risk of injury (50% of victims injured or killed) when compared with doing nothing and "giving them what they want (33% of victims killed or injured), the victim injury rate when a firearm was used for self-defence was much smaller with only 12% suffering injury or death.

In short, the position police want us to continue to accept is two and a half times more dangerous than it need be, is two and a half times more dangerous than the position police are willing to accept for themselves. Thanks but no thanks!

Surely the reality is that front-line police will be safer when - and only when - the ordinary citizen is made safer. Thus, anything that makes the law-abiding individual more vulnerable will, by increasing violent crime, make front-line policing more dangerous. Conversely, anything that offers protection to the ordinary citizen will deter and control crime and thus also indirectly protect front-line police.

Policies that deny such common sense reality can only be considered self-seeking and verge on taking money under false pretences. Through our taxes we pay police almost three million dollars a day for a level of collective protection that appears increasingly illusionary. We therefore have not only a right but also an obligation to look closely at our laws and at police policy to see where and why things are going wrong. What seems to have been forgotten for far too long is that internal police policies do not have any real legal status, so the use of policy to justify restricting a long-standing common-law right is almost certainly illegal.

Possibly it is high time this was tested in the courts. In a democracy, the purpose of law and order is to maximise the protection of the law-abiding citizen against criminal violence and exploitation. Police are funded for no other purpose but to help achieve this. Therefore, while front line police have an undeniable right to the most effective means of protection and self-defence available, given the inability of police to protect the victims of violent crime, the same rights must also be available legally to the law-abiding citizen.Anything else is blatant discrimination by police hierarchy against the very people they are paid to serve.

The idea of disarming the public to curb violent crime simply has not worked. Its time is up.