Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Canadian's view on American gun ownership and control

[A Canadian's view on American gun ownership and control]

My esteemed friend Christine Dudley-Chrysler, who will be running for governorship in Arizona, asked for my input on the much discussed gun control. Here are some of my thoughts:

Americans often see us Canadians as softies and pacifists. Except for soldiers, policemen, gangsters and hunters, practically no one owns a gun. We, i.e. most Canadians, don't want it, think about it, talk about it, much less brag about it. We believe that our society has been civil, peaceful and secure, and always will be. We believe that police will serve and protect, and the military comprises defenders and peace-keepers. In the entertainment industry, movies like [Death Wish] would never be Canadian made, simply because the average Joe Canadian is not equipped to execute such a story, nor movies about the gun-slinging Wild West, since we simply do not have such a history. Ironically, the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society - the most aggressive of animal-defence organization bar none, hailed from Canada, but that is another story.

Conversely, how do we Canadians see Americans? There are of course stereotypes galore, which I'll refrain from naming, but all in all, they can be summed up melodically by the Burton Cummings song [American Woman], haha! Seriously speaking, however, if and when North America comes under external attack, we expect our neighbour down south, bulging with military might, to keep us out of harm's way. On the other hand, somewhat self-contradictorily, there exists an undercurrent of fear about an american invasion, not as much by the military as by hordes of desperate armed-to-the-teeth American citizens swarming across the world's longest undefended border to seize Canadian resources in times of dire need, in which case there is nothing the unarmed Canadians can do but be ransacked, plundered and possibly raped and murdered.

As for me, being also of Chinese extraction, I have a somewhat unique perspective. Some of you know that I've spent a substantial amount of time in the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. As far back as 1987, I conducted a lecture circuit through a number of American universities. Since 2003, I've taken 7 Compassion for Animals Road Expeditions (CARE-tours), covering 25-40 states in 4-7 months each (with occasional jump-backs across the border to cover Canadian provinces). And since 2011, I've spent a sum-total of over half a year in Bellingham, Washington state, as a frequent visitor. So I can claim to have come to know the American people well, at times deeply, and in isolated cases, intimately. My perception of them is both better and worse than that of the average Johnny Canuck, the "better" including personal warmth, social grace, make-yourself-at-home hospitality, and out-of-their-way generosity. Cyber-racism being rampant in the AR movement notwithstanding, on a real-world person-to-person basis, I have never perceived nor received any racial discrimination against my person. The "worse", I will refrain from listing, but I would not exempt all Canadians from same. In fact, except for the factor of guns, I find it often difficult if not impossible to tell an American from a Canadian, at least not at first glance. And, case in point, even though between a quarter and a third of American civilians own some kind of civil weaponry, and I have received death-threats from my professional adversaries, I've never had a gun physically pointed in my direction. One reason could be that most of the Americans with whom I interact are "Animal Rights Activists", and in spite of their being officially classified as "domestic terrorists", they are the least likely to have any weapon in their possession. I have also to point out that the only incident in which I was physically assaulted was a fist attack by a hunter, and that was in Canada, not in America.

Still, permeating America is a love affair with guns, be it for weaponry itself, or, hunting aside, out of perceived or real need for self-defence;. And they do have a point. Go into Netflix, the contents of which reflect, define and even influence the social climate, one cannot miss that most of the hardware displayed in the cover pictures are guns. Statistically, the home-invasion, mugging and homicide rates in America, especially in major metropolises, are magnitudes higher than its Canadian counterpart. In some cities, criminal gangs practically run the show. Chicago, for example, has 100,000 assault-weapons-toting gangsters, 20,000 more than the entire population of a mid-sized city like Bellingham, countered by only 200 pistol-armed police officers in the anti-gang unit. Los Angeles of course is well feared as Gangland West, while Detroit openly warns visitors to "enter at your own risk". Worse, the police forces in many cities that need more protection are being downsized due to the current nation-wide economic crisis. There is much talk about the militarization of police. This could be a reason, though there could be others.

Which brings us to one other factor to consider - the much dreaded social-disintegration-into-anarchy-and-chaos resulting from the not-unreasonably expected Economic Collapse believed by many economists off the beaten track of mainstream media not only to be a matter of mathematical certainty and inevitability, but of imminence, most predicting a time frame of three years maximum, a fair fraction of whom speaking in terms of months. Having studied in sufficient depth the U.S. economic predicament, especially the trillion-dollar annual deficit, the crushing and ever burgeoning national debt, the unstrained and unsustainable mass printing of paper money, and the hegemony of Petrodollar being eroded as world reserve currency, the Dollar is on very shaky ground and hyperinflation could be just around the next corner or two. I myself have been forced by my own logic to give a certain amount of credence to this socio-economic "doomsday" scenario where the Dollar would crash, the transportation system would halt, water, food, medicine, addictive drugs, fuel and electricity would be suddenly beyond reach, and "SHTF" descend upon the land. In such a context, defensive-weapons ownership makes more sense than less, if not all the sense in the world. Were I an American resident, I would not feel a hint of safety without some means of home-protection and self-defence. Neither am I the only person who have reached this unsavoury conclusion. Gun sales since the 2008 mini-collapse, of assault weapons in particular, have sky-rocketed, and shown no sign of remission. Visit the gun section of any Walmart store and you will see empty ammunition shelves. When a new shipment comes in, it'd be gobbled up in minutes. The supply simply cannot keep up with the demand. But an immovable object is about to come down to block this irresistible force. The Connecticut school shooting has triggered the government to deliberate on a new weapons ban. This is an impending collision of the Titans, and something will give.

In general, the gun-ban plan concentrates on four areas: 1. prohibition of specific weapon types; 2. tightening back-ground checks; 3. imposing ammunition limits; and 4. keeping weapons from the mentally ill.

The to-be-banned list, as proposed, is as follows:

Rifles (or copies or duplicates): M1 Carbine, Sturm Ruger Mini-14, AR-15, Bushmaster XM15, Armalite M15, AR-10, Thompson 1927, Thompson M1; AK, AKM, AKS, AK-47, AK-74, ARM, MAK90, NHM 90, NHM 91, SA 85, SA 93, VEPR; Olympic Arms PCR; AR70, Calico Liberty , Dragunov SVD Sniper Rifle or Dragunov SVU, Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR, or FNC, Hi-Point20Carbine, HK-91, HK-93, HK-94, HK-PSG-1, Thompson 1927 Commando, Kel-Tec Sub Rifle; Saiga, SAR-8, SAR-4800, SKS with detachable magazine, SLG 95, SLR 95 or 96, Steyr AU, Tavor, Uzi, Galil and Uzi Sporter, Galil Sporter, or Galil Sniper Rifle ( Galatz ).

Pistols (or copies or duplicates): Calico M-110, MAC-10, MAC-11, or MPA3, Olympic Arms OA, TEC-9, TEC-DC9, TEC-22 Scorpion, or AB-10, Uzi.

Shotguns (or copies or duplicates): Armscor 30 BG, SPAS 12 or LAW 12, Striker 12

It goes without saying that fully-automatic weapons have long been and will continue to be banned across the board.

Conversely, conventional rifles or pistols of any calibre, bolt action or semi-automatic, with or without scope, as long as they do not have extra hand grips, foldable or telescopic stalks, and detachable magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds, are generally allowed.

Without going into too much detail, most of these models, e.g. the highly popular AR-15 and AK-47, are semi-automatic anti-personnel military-style assault rifles, and most who own them (which I don't) consider them as one of their most prized possessions. Some would defend to the death their right to own these weapons, and would use these weapons to defend themselves if that is the last thing they will do. One big question on their mind is whether the ban would apply only to future sales, or whether it would be retroactive. The former is a given, which is why as soon as the ban plan became public knowledge, assault weapons sales soared. "Get one while you still can!" is their rallying cry. The latter would be a tough proposition, with only two alternatives - buy back or confiscation. In the case of buy back, the question is how much, and what to do with those who do not want to sell back? In the case of confiscation, the question is whether it can be done without causing an armed insurrection?

Let's quantify the "assault weapon" somewhat and see what a buy-back solution would entail. A Congressional Research Service report (Nov. 2012) found that there were approximately 310 million firearms in the United States as of 2009 - 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns. In 2011 there are upwards of 3.5 million assault weapons in private hands, amongst which there are 2.5 million US-made AR-15s alone, or more than 3.2 million including those manufactured elsewhere. Add the other makes and model such as the also popular AK-47, Mini-14, etc., the the cost of buy back become apparent. To top this off, assault weapon sales have seen an approximate 27% annual growth since 2007. To put things in perspective, the U.S. military has only 2.26 million personnel, including reserves, most of whom using the M-16, the military version of the AR-15.

In terms of buy-back cost, the AR-15 costs $800-$2000 new, ~$600 used. So, even if the buy back price is only $500 a piece, the total buy-back budget for the AR-15 alone would be close to $2 billion. When the annual deficit is over $1 trillion, can the government afford it?

Perhaps partly in anticipation of massive social unrest, the DHS, ICE, FEMA, even NOAA, among other agencies, have reportedly ordered upwards of a trillion rounds of hollow point bullets to be delivered over a 5 year period. Hollow point bullets, which are more expensive than full metal jacket rounds, mushroom upon impact and is lethal with one shot. It is banned by the Geneva Convention for battlefield applications. Which begs the question, often asked, as to who the potential targets are supposed to be. Speculation flies that it would be against American citizens in the homeland. Under what circumstances? Some, citing history, say that disarmament is often followed by a crack down. Some even go as far as to mention the term "civil war". Between whom and whom, what and what, I leave it to your imagination.

As a disclaimer, I'll just say that none of the above is of my own origin, so kindly do not shoot the messenger. I am not making any specific recommendations to the potential governor. What I'm doing is to offer my objective perspective as an outsider to help her decide for herself.

Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)

No comments: