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New Gun Laws and Gun Control for Gun Owners of America
I wrote this open letter to US gun owners in March, 2013. Since then, the issue has continued to appear sporadically in international news coverage.
Meanwhile, more than two years later, my husband and I continue to own and use guns here in Australia ... despite many Americans believing our country has banned them outright.
My husband's Glock
An open letter to gun owners of America
Dear US Gun Owners,
I understand that you are concerned about the prospect of new gun laws in the USA. When new gun legislation was being introduced in Australia, local gun owners had the same fears that they'd no longer be allowed to keep their guns.
What effect new Federal gun laws may have on State gun laws in the future is no doubt causing you concern. I understand that gun ownership is a right under the 2nd Amendment to the American Constitution. Australian gun owners did not have that argument when protesting against new gun laws in our country.
But despite the gun law changes in this country, responsible gun owners still own guns in Australia. I am one of them.
In Australia, you need a good reason to own a pistol. My husband and I are sporting shooters, so we were approved for the appropriate license. Very recently I decided I'm no longer interested in attending competitions, so I sold my pistol and soon my pistol license will lapse. My husband still has his Glock.
We are licensed to shoot longarms like rifles and shotguns, and will retain those licenses.
At this time when US gun owners are facing new firearms laws, I'd like to share a few quiet thoughts with you.
This is just a quiet conversation, nothing more. I have written a separate article giving my hints for US gun owners preparing for new gun laws, and a link to that article is at the bottom of the page. Meanwhile, I'd just like to share a few of my general thoughts and questions, and I invite you to do the same. :)
New gun laws
Which gun owners will new gun laws target?
My husband and I now live off the grid in a small home powered by solar panels. We collect our own water and store it in tanks. We grow our own food and yes, we are organic farmers. We have chickens and pigs and are considering getting a cow.
Does that make us greenies? We certainly live a green lifestyle.
Are we survivalists? We are relieved to be surviving the global economic crash. We can feed ourselves, warm ourselves, and could probably cope quite comfortably for years without needing to access a store if necessary. We already produce sufficient food to feed others as well, and could increase production to feed more people if needed, simply by using cuttings from our fruit trees and seeds from our existing vegetable plants to extend our gardens.
We live just as comfortably now as we did when we lived in the city. There's no doubt we have a different lifestyle to other periods in our lives, but if you attribute comfort to a full belly, good health, warmth in winter and a way to cool down in summer, we are very comfortable. We are active, healthy, love lots and laugh every day.
Do guns play a part in our sustainable lifestyle? Yes, they do.
Living off the grid as we do, and aiming for a sustainable lifestyle, it is helpful to be able to shoot rabbits. Rabbits and hares are introduced species that reproduce to plague proportions if left unchecked. Many people poison rabbits with baits. We don't. We would much rather kill them with a single bullet than make them suffer a painful death from poison, and risk poisoning other wildlife in the process.
Most of our vegetable gardens are appropriately fenced, so killing rabbits is not about protecting the vegetables. It is, however, about protecting the natural ecosystem. We have kangaroos and wallabies in our yard some evenings. They mostly stay in the hundred plus acres of natural forest adjoining our home, but when they venture onto our property we don't shoot them. It was their land first.
Rabbits compete with kangaroos, wallabies and other native wildlife so I happily shoot rabbits. We eat them, our dog eats them, or we bury them in the earth when planting new fruit trees. Dead rabbits don't go to waste here. I am even thinking of learning how to make a rabbit fur jacket. It would be a logical expansion to our self-sustainable lifestyle.
Foxes and rats are also considered vermin in Australia. We don't have rats where we live so I've never tried to shoot one, but foxes kill native wildlife and farmers' small animals. I consider them fair game, but we've not had a fox problem yet where we live.
Gun control in this country does not stop farmers or hunters or sporting shooters from possessing firearms. If we follow the rules we can still own a gun.
New firearms laws did, however, make it illegal for paranoid people to stockpile guns and ammunition in their basements or under their beds in case there was some kind of revolution or invasion that would require them to protect their piles of canned food.
I'm sure it didn't deter all of them. At least some would have joined a gun club, become a sporting shooter, undertaken safety training and, hopefully, learned to aim effectively and safely shoot their target in the process.
Which US gun owners will new gun laws target? My guess would be, at the top of the list, the kind of gun owners that responsible US citizens would like to see stripped of their guns. Prison inmates freshly released from prison. Paranoid schizophrenics. Gang members carrying out drive-by shootings. If you're a gun owner, perhaps you should be compiling your own list and sending a copy to President Obama and other politicians.
It seems reasonable to expect that people who know they would fail the most basic security screening will be among the noisiest objectors to new gun legislation. If you have been convicted of gun crimes and fear being denied the chance to buy guns from a local store, I understand why you are vocal about gun law changes and gun control.
For those of us who don't approve of armed hold-ups and shooting in the streets, there are definite advantages to having new gun legislation that enables police to arrest convicted offenders of violent crimes for simply possessing an illegal gun, instead of having to wait until they are caught in the act of offending again.
I am sure there are many law-abiding Americans who would welcome gun control.
What a shame if those who will be excluded from gun ownership for valid reasons manage to influence public opinion to their own advantage, and generate sufficient public outcry to negate the calls for gun control.
This could be a significant turning point for the future of the US. Or it may just be the beginning of another long run of violent gun-related crimes. I'm just an observer of life in the USA, not a regular participant. If I was an American citizen right now, I would actively be campaigning President Obama and other politicians to make new US gun laws fair and reasonable.
A referendum would be the best test for public opinion regarding gun control, but results are always influenced to some degree by the wording of referendum questions. If President Obama is considering a referendum, now would be the time for people to make suggestions about appropriate wording.
How US gun owners can prepare for new gun laws
After police came to my home to check my registered firearms, I wrote an article titled 'How US gun owners can prepare for new gun laws'. You'll find a link to it when you reach the bottom of this page.
It contains a few top tips and suggestions based on my experience.
Guns for self defense
If new gun laws suggested by President Obama are likely to strip you of the firearms you treasure most and make you feel vulnerable in your home, it is time to start rethinking your lifestyle choices, tightening other forms of security at your home and, if necessary, planning to move to a safer community where you don't feel so vulnerable.
I lived in bustling cities for many years here and overseas but I now live in a peaceful, rural area. Living in an area where you don't feel safe can't be good for your health. If you've been thinking about making a move, this might be best the time.
If new gun regulations suddenly mean that your guns are illegal, and if you fail to register as a gun owner when new gun legislation is introduced, you won't have the option of shooting someone in self defense. Just being an unlicensed gun owner with an unregistered firearm may well be enough to put behind bars.
There are many issues you'll need to think through. New gun laws inspire other changes. One of them is making your home safer.
One night after midnight, when living in the city, I entered my dark kitchen to a shaft of light spilling across the kitchen floor from what should have been a sealed side of the room. A potential intruder had his arm through a small hatch where milk deliveries were traditionally left, and was reaching for the key in the door to let himself in.
Did I shoot him? No. I smashed the small hatch door onto his arm while I removed the key from the lock. He retreated and I decided to live smarter. Without that close encounter, perhaps I would never have become conscious about the dangers we face every day and night, and changed my behavior accordingly.
I sealed the hatch properly so it could never be opened, and stopped leaving keys inside locks at night. In the years since that night, I have moved home many times but always take the same kind of precautions to deter intruders.
When visiting different parts of the US, I have been particularly surprised by just how many people choose to live their lives in full view of people walking down the street.
Have you ever walked outside at night and taken a look at your own home? How alarmed will you feel if you suddenly discover that your teenage daughter relaxing in brief shorts and a skimpy top at the dinner table is in full view of any crazy person who happens to be passing by your home?
With or without new firearms laws, all gun owners could reduce the likelihood of ever needing to shoot an intruder by actively making their home safer.
Christian Philosophy and Gun Ownership
I travel a lot and during two of my visits while in the US I was in places where guns were fired on the street, causing me to take shelter and wait for the drama to pass. Whenever that happens, I find myself thankful for my home in Australia and our tighter gun control legislation.
American church-goers include a lot of American gun-owners. I don't know what percentage of America's gun-owners call themselves Christians, but I'm guessing there's a fair percentage.
I know quite a few Christian sporting shooters in Australia. They go to church on Sunday morning and head off to the gun club for a few rounds on a Sunday afternoon.
But they don't keep guns with the intention of shooting anyone, and they don't leave guns lying around unattended for fear a child might accidentally kill themselves, a young friend, or a parent when they mistakenly assume they can fire a real gun just like a toy gun.
A few devout Christian gun owners have said to me that if they had to make a choice between an intruder killing them, or using one of their guns to kill the intruder, they wouldn't even bother unlocking their gun safe. They'd take the bullet. I confess I don't understand that, particularly if there were children in the home.
However, their Christian belief is that they shouldn't take another's life. They say they'd rather die and go to Heaven than kill someone so they could continue their journey through this life, only to be condemned for it when they eventually pass over.
I have argued with a few Christian gun owners about this very point in the past. As a parent, I consider protecting my children to be my first and foremost consideration. If someone threatened the life of a child, particularly my child, I believe I would do whatever it takes to protect them. I would not like to end someone's life, but if I honestly had no other option, who knows.
The message I have been given, repeatedly, during conversations with Christian gun owners is that Christians must put their faith in God; that prayer is the answer to everything; that God doesn't need a gun to protect the faithful; and that standing firm and trusting in God is the only course of action they would follow. They believe that lost loved ones are going to a better place, so the manner of their death holds little consequence. All will be made right when they reach the other side.
Because humans are made in the image of God, I was told, killing a human is nothing like killing any other type of animal. If that's true for the Christians I have had personal discussions with, why doesn't it apply to all Christians?
It seems hypocritical when those who quote God's word with one breath, suddenly talk about shooting people for any reason with the next. Which makes me wonder why so many church-goers who say they are Christians are actively fighting to protect their right to have automatic and semi-automatic firearms in their home. Why does anyone need an automatic or semi-automatic firearm in their home?
It also makes me ask why aren't Christian gun owners of America united in a drive to create peaceful, loving communities instead of viewing gun ownership as a solution to problems in US society?
As new gun regulations and US gun laws are being considered, I would expect Christian gun owners to be the first to say, "This is a wonderful opportunity to look at reducing gun crimes in America. How can we help make new firearms laws more effective?"
Why aren't US gun owners who are Christians writing to President Obama with constructive and open communication aimed at ensuring positive gun changes?
Using guns on farms
Preparing for new gun regulations that target automatic and semi-automatic firearms.
I don't need a machine gun or a semi-automatic firearm to kill rabbits or foxes. In Australia a farmer, for instance, can have a gun even if they are a bad shot - but they'll never be granted a license for a machine gun so they learn to take aim with a rifle properly and kill a distant rabbit with the first shot.
"I don't want to shoot rats or rabbits!" most gun owners of America are probably saying. Well, I don't know quite what you are thinking you'll need to shoot. I do know, however, that if you have a gun and expect to be trusted to accurately hit what you're aiming at without causing unintended damage, injuries or death, you should be able to shoot and instantly kill a small living target with one shot.
I appreciate that there are native rabbits in North America, and I don't what the US gun laws are regarding shooting rabbits, feral animals or disease-carrying rodents. Perhaps you need a license, in which case, get one. If you live in a city, surely there's a gun range where you can work to improve your aim.
Here's a short explanation for readers who may not currently own a gun, but are considering racing out and purchasing one or more firearms before any new US gun laws take effect. Semi-automatic firearms are automatic in the process of extracting the spent cartridge casing and loading the next cartridge into the chamber, requiring no more effort from the person holding the gun than simply pulling the trigger again to fire the next bullet. Unlike a machine gun, semi-automatic firearms do not fire continuously. But there's certainly no need to draw breath in the time it takes to fire many rounds.
In a country like the US where shooting bears, deer and other large animals is part of life, I appreciate you're going to need a gun capable of executing the task quickly and effectively. Undoubtedly it would take a different gun to drop a bear than the rifle I choose to use to shoot rabbits, but skill and accurate placement of the bullet is still paramount.
It seems lazy and unnecessary to compensate for lack of skill with semi-automatic firearms in any non-military shooting situation. Plus if gun control and new firearms laws prevent you from using the gun you prefer, you may as well start getting used to shooting with the type of gun you'll be allowed.
Your forefathers managed to shoot bears long before the invention of automatic or semi-automatic firearms. With recent improvements to even most basic firearms, why can't Americans in the 21st century demonstrate the same skill as your ancestors?
Should I ever need a gun to protect myself or my children in a real emergency, for instance if a a pack of wild dogs roamed onto my property and threatened to attack kids playing in the corner of my yard, I have guns in my gun safe.
Because I actively shoot targets including moving targets as part of my sporting shooter's activities, I suspect I might only need one bullet per target. Of course I'd load extra bullets, just in case. I encourage gun owners, particularly new gun owners, to buy guns that are likely to comply with new firearms legislation and to master one type of firearm and use it effectively, instead of collecting an arsenal of firearms that are likely to become illegal and that you are unskilled at using.
We choose to use trigger locks
Too many parents let young children hold guns and put their fingers on the trigger. I'm sorry, but a real gun is not a toy. I think a gun should be treated with respect. Sure, I've let children look at my guns and even hold them carefully, but never without a trigger lock. Little fingers don't belong on triggers.
In a gun store recently, I watched a man buying a trigger lock because a friend of his (also a gun owner) had repeatedly pulled the trigger of his brand new rim-fire gun without bullets loaded. He was lamenting the damage he believed had been caused to his new investment.
He didn't bring his gun with him, so I don't know what sort it was. From the noise he was making, I guess it was some sort of fancy and very expensive pistol. I was tempted to suggest he buy more to use on his cheaper guns as well, but I suspect the last thing that eager young man would have enjoyed was advice from a woman the age of his mother. (I've seen the look on young men's faces enough times when I take out the 'shot of the day' award at competitive shoots to know that many men consider shooting to be a man's domain. They never look quite as disappointed when a male competitor beats them. I wonder why that is.)
A trigger lock won't stop someone who is determined to remove it, but it is certainly useful for keeping little fingers away from the trigger and, in the case of the irate man in the gun store, it will deter even big fingers from giving your gun unwanted attention.
Gun control legislation here requires all guns to be stored in a gun safe, and gun owners are not permitted to tell anyone the combination or the location of the keys. In addition to requiring guns to be safely locked away, the new gun laws make it easy for people to refuse access to their safe.
My husband's short-barrel Glock was one of the guns listed in the government buy-back when Australia's gun laws were tightened. He bought a longer barrel Glock with the money the government gave him for his previous pistol. If he stops competing, he will fail to meet the requirements for a pistol license and will have to sell his gun.
But if he's not competing, what other reason could there possibly be for an average person owning a gun like a Glock?
I fully appreciate that many gun owners buy a particular kind of gun just because it looks nice, or feels good in their hand. I have been told by American friends that they can own guns without ever actually firing them. Since the new gun legislation was introduced here, a year may pass without you needing to shoot your rifle or shotgun, but if you own a pistol you are expected to use it regularly, for instance in an approved gun club. and maintain your skills.
Why are you fearful of gun law changes?
For all the talk I hear from Americans about shooting intruders, and killing the bad guys, and the right to bear arms, and what a God-fearing country America is, and the Christian values proudly upheld in the USA, and how many of those same Christians would shoot anyone who tries to steal their toilet paper when the s*** hits the fan, including the man from next door and the kid from down the road, which is why they need semi-automatic weapons under their bed and next to their front door, I am at a loss as to what type of world exactly, the average American thinks they are living in.
Given the number of guns in America, and the number of fatalities and injuries suffered due to bullet wounds, and the drain on your health system trying to cope with those gun-related injuries, I'm surprised Americans aren't dancing in the street at the thought of tightening gun laws.
It might take an entire generation to get used to a new way of viewing guns in American society, particularly for gun-owners with an extensive collection of firearms that may soon be deemed illegal, but surely the thought of less conflict and less social carnage must be an attractive proposition.
Bad guys will always have access to guns on the black market. But I quite like the idea of it being harder for them, and more expensive, than just walking into a store like law-abiding citizens and buying a gun over the counter. I take comfort from the fact that they can be arrested and charged for just possessing a gun, without having to wait for them to shoot someone with it.
Responsible gun-owners should be allowed to keep guns. Responsible gun owners should have nothing to fear from the new laws. But if you are truly responsible, and you know that you cannot accurately hit a target, what are you planning to do with a gun?
Lots of people think they can shoot well, just as many people think they can drive like an expert, run fast, type quickly, sing beautifully, or excel at any one of many activities, but when they are actually put to the test and try to compete against others, suddenly their lack of skill and expertise is immediately apparent.
Inside the lower section of my gun safe
Why don't gun owners in America just stand tall and proud?
According to news reports, Federal gun laws and State gun laws in the USA are widely under review. New gun legislation will certainly be proposed, and probably introduced. If not in all States, at least in some.
Gun law changes do not herald the end of the world. Why is so much effort being put into rejecting the concept of any new gun regulations? Why aren't gun owners of America seeking to find a compromise, where gun control is accepted as for the good of society, but new gun laws are structured to accommodate law-abiding citizens and allow them to continue owning guns?
If you are one of the many gun owners who believe you are responsible enough to be trusted with firearms, why aren't you saying, "Okay, sure. I can see that new gun regulations might help to protect my children and my community, and perhaps new gun laws could help reduce gun crime, and of course I am supportive of gun law changes that make it harder for potential terrorist and mass murderers to create the kind of tragedies we have seen in the past. But let's talk about what the best new Federal gun laws and new State gun laws should be."
It seems to me that the best way to protect your interests as a gun owner in America today, is to become actively involved in negotiating outcomes, instead of simply rejecting any hint of changes to gun laws. Any parent knows that the child who negotiates will get a better outcome than a child who simply pouts or throws a tantrum and shrieks, "no!" Every business owner and manager knows that staff who sit around the table and actively participate in figuring out ways to overcome problems are more likely to retain their jobs than staff who are belligerent and defiant.
Why aren't gun owners of America standing tall and proud and saying "Okay, take my photo and do a background check. I have nothing to hide." An attitude that demonstrates you don't consider yourself to be one of the bad guys, but you have no objection to new gun regulations that target the bad guys would, I respectfully suggest, be the way to go at this time.
Your personal decision about new US gun laws
I understand that this is a difficult time for American gun-owners ... which is why I would like to encourage calm and rational discussion of gun control issues.
As a parent and a gun owner, I believe it is important to make rational decisions about your personal stance on gun control. This period in America's history may well influence just who can legally possess firearms in the future. If you have children, that's quite a responsibility to consider.
Your children may be grown in the time it takes to make any real impact on illegal firearms, but one day if your adult child is threatened by someone who owns illegal guns, I suspect you'd be pleased to have a law that enables them to be arrested. I've heard of many cases in Australia where domestic violence has been averted when the threatened partner has revealed illegal firearms in their partner's possession.
Does that make a difference to your decision or attitude towards new US gun laws? I don't know, but it should surely be worth consideration. There's bound to be other issues and implications that you haven't yet had a chance to think about. Positive and negative, perhaps.
I do hope you'll take the time to discuss the issues with your friends and peers calmly and rationally, without getting caught up in a tsunami of emotion. You have a personal responsibility for deciding how you feel about gun control in America. The outcome of new gun legislation will have a direct impact on you and your family in more ways than one.
You have tragic social problems in the US including poverty and homelessness. If you fear the breakdown of society and more violence and unrest in your country, give thought to the role of guns in the future and just how easy it should be for every American to obtain a gun.
It was reported in January 2013 that research by Sydney University found Australians now own as many guns as they did at the time of the Port Arthur shootings in 1996 when the new gun legislation was introduced.
More than 1 million guns were destroyed in the gun buyback after the Port Arthur massacre, but in the years since then, Australians have restocked and we have imported more than 1 million firearms.
Despite the increased statistics for gun ownership here, the number of gun-related deaths has halved since the gun buyback.
Australia's Sporting Shooter Magazine says more people are licensed shooters than in the past. "The interesting thing is that at the same time gun crimes have still gone down, We've got more shooters, we've got more firearms, but we've got fewer crimes."
Good luck to all Americans with the successful resolution of your US gun laws issues. There 's more than a few gun owners here in Australia wishing you and your communities a successful outcome. :)
Another article for US gun owners ...
- How US gun owners can prepare for new gun laws.
What can gun owners of America do to prepare for new gun regulations? Top tips for US gun owners to consider, just in case US gun control results in new gun legislation that mimics the gun laws in Australia. By the same author.
© 2013 LongTimeMother