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Sunday Late Night: “Only Outlaws…”

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If drum circles are illegal, only outlaws will drum.

If burglary is illegal, only outlaws will burglarize.

If rape is illegal, only outlaws will rape.

If murder is illegal, only outlaws will kill.

If embezzlement is illegal, only outlaws will embezzle.

If double-parking is illegal, only outlaws will double-park.

See, NRA? Your logic about guns takes us to a no-law culture modeled on Somalia: perfect libertarianism, with all might making right. Why have laws at all if having laws only makes law-breakers outlaws? If laws are not a deterrent, if laws are not an expression of our values, if laws aren’t how society defines what we think is right and what we think is wrong — why have laws at all?

If assault weapons are illegal, only outlaws will have assault weapons.

If oversize magazine clips are illegal, only outlaws will have oversize magazine clips.

“All the weapons used in Atrocity [Last] were obtained legally, so how will more laws help?” Well, of course making new laws will help, it’s what we do when the laws we have are insufficient — we make more laws, we tailor laws to new atrocities (see Murrah Building), we make new outlaws.

Australia had enough sixteen years ago:

For Australia, the turning point came on April 28, 1996, when a lone gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle in Port Arthur, a popular tourist destination in the state of Tasmania.


Thirty-five people died and another 23 were wounded in the killing spree that became known as the Port Arthur massacre, Australia’s worst mass shooting.

Queensland criminology professor Dr. Erin O’brien has studied the law, its implementation and effect:

“One of the reforms that was introduced was to say that people needed to demonstrate a justifiable need to have a weapon,” O’Brien says. “And the need, in Australia, means that you are a farmer who needs to use a rifle or a shotgun to control animal populations. Or you’re a sport shooter. It’s never been seen as a justifiable need to own a handgun to protect yourself from home invasion.”

The new laws prohibited all automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and imposed strict licensing rules. Even paintball guns need a permit. There are also background checks and lengthy waiting periods for all purchases.

So, if you’re an Australian with an automatic or semi-automatic weapon, yup you’re an outlaw. Only outlaws have automatic and semi-automatic weapons. The government bought up 20% of Australia’s weaponry as the law was implemented. And the buyback wasn’t optional.

At the heart of the reform was a gun buy-back program. More than 600,000 newly prohibited weapons, around a fifth of all firearms in Australia, were destroyed at a cost of nearly half-a-billion dollars.

Roland Browne of Gun Control Australia says it’s an example the U.S. can follow.

“It doesn’t really matter to what extent you might recognize or even support rights to own firearms,” he says. “Our governments have the pre-eminent responsibility of ensuring public safety.”

And yet, here’s what passes for brave in America today (my emphasis):

“It [the bill] will ban the sale, the transfer, the transportation and the possession,” the California senator [Dianne Feinstein] said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Not retroactively, but prospectively. And it will ban the same for big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets.”

Not retroactively, but prospectively.

That’s not exactly the lesson to take away from Australia’s example, because the first questions any American peace officer will have to ask about a semi-automatic weapon or big clip are, “Are you an outlaw? When did you buy that?”


Ban them all, seize them or buy them back. If it’s illegal to sell, transport or possess — make it ALL illegal. Don’t make law enforcement have to sort the early adopters from the outlaws. And don’t give the gun lobby the manufacturers’ windfall a date certain will provide.

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Teddy Partridge

Teddy Partridge