The rhetoric is in full swing, gloves are coming off and Kiwis are getting closer to getting stuck in an all-out brawl over firearms. Why is it that those people you are arguing with on the subject just have no clue?
It’s because we’re all on different pages of the book and are often actually making almost entirely separate arguments. But without realizing where these perspectives come from it tends to turn into a shouting match. Let’s look at some perspectives and try to get a little understanding before we start punching each other in the face.
One perspective is that guns have no place in civil society and that firearms owners should just give them up, often adding “with zero compensation” to that. This perspective comes from a lack of understanding about firearms and having to rely on media reports of evil guns and how dangerous they are. Often people with this point of view have never come into contact with firearms, likely due to living in a big city and as a result isn’t aware of the role firearms play in the lives of many fellow Kiwis. Their lives have probably never been influenced positively or negatively by firearms, and likely never will be either, but the disgust for the events in Christchurch make them feel like something needs to be done, and if they read in the paper that banning guns will stop events being repeated then it seems like a no-brainer to ban something they personally can’t see benefit from in order to protect innocent lives. The key information the rhetoric tends to omit is that the government studies show then plan will actually not increase safety, will have a detrimental effect on many fellow Kiwis, and will cost us probably between half a billion and a billion dollars for no real positive outcomes. A lack of knowledge on firearms is not a bad thing in itself, but when accusations start flying at law abiding firearms owners as a result, the only real winner is the Christchurch shooter whose aim was to divide society.
Another perspective is that hunters shouldn’t need semi-automatics. This is often echoed by seasoned hunters, and there certainly is a discussion to be had on this. The gap in this perspective is that what the politicians stated publicly differs greatly from the actual plan, but you have to do some reading to understand the detail. Many collectible and non semi-auto firearms have been included in the ban, and more worryingly the law allows for the prohibition of any firearm or ammunition by order in council – that means at the stroke of a pen with no discussion or vote. Many Kiwis believe the current situation is a precursor to an all-out firearms ban, which if true would leave these hunters high and dry. Acknowledging that there may need to be limitations on who should be allowed semi-automatics is an entirely separate issue from supporting the rushing through of important legislation in a week and ignoring those most expert on the issue.
The next obvious perspective is that of law abiding firearms owners affected by the new legislation. This group is having a hard time not only dealing with the fact the the massacre occurred here, but also facing criticism and attack when asking for what they feel is quite reasonable in a democratic country – discussion and fair compensation if they must lose their personal property. Many in this group struggle with understanding why so many fellow citizens seem to hate them through no fault of their own – having broken no laws, and having proven themselves to the Police that they are responsible enough for firearms ownership, they now find themselves declared criminal and on the receiving end of a lot of hate. Many in this group rightly feel that the failures that allowed Christchurch to occur lie in the licencing and vetting of the shooter, which lie in the domain of the government and police – feeling that the deflection of blame from those institutions is unfairly holding firearms owners accountable. And if there must be a buy back, they don’t see any reason the government couldn’t at least put in more than a token effort into calculating the compensation and making the process feel fair. Unfortunately, because of the anger of feeling treated unjustly, this often manifests itself in ways that seem aggressive, because they are lashing out in defense, and this doesn’t help bridge the divide between them and those who aren’t firearm-savvy.
Lastly we have the views at the far ends of the spectrum. We have anti-gun campaigners who flatly refuse to acknowledge any legitimate use of firearms, and we have firearms owners ready to go to war and start a revolution over such a right-infringing excuse for legislative process. Neither of these groups contribute positively to the debate, but well, that’s actually the key issue here – there was no debate, and that’s why firearms owners at the extreme are so riled up and make comparisons to the Boston Tea Party, while the anti-gun campaigners sit back simply unable to comprehend the perspective of others.
Normally we’d rely on the government to be as impartial as possible in order to facilitate debate and a positive outcome, but the current government has proven to be rather partial and fond of shutting down debate. Unless they can put their sensible hats on and try to work constructively, and to make an effort to understand the different perspectives at play and act in a less authoritarian manner, then the whole thing looks certain to devolve into a very shameful mess and hand victory to the terrorist.