Sunday, March 17, 2019

Required But Not Sufficient: Banning Semi-automatic Firearms

Following the Christchurch Mosque shootings politicians are calling for banning private ownership of semi-automatic weapons.

I agree that they should be banned but believe we need much much more. Simply banning semi-automatics without ending the underlying causes of the shootings is just saying "It's OK to murder 25 Muslims but not 50"

I'm writing this two days after the Christchurch Mosques shootings. The alleged(*) terrorist is in custody and the bereaved relatives are attempting to retrieve bodies for rapid burial as required by their religious beliefsand cultural practices.

 Meanwhile politicians and journalists are saying we need to ban guns of the type used. Some are saying that without these weapons the shootings wouldn't have happened while the more measured are at least saying that the shootings wouldn't have been so bad. Politicians are like this, faced with a tragedy they are quick to jump on an easy fix without considering if it will work or not. The ammosexuals(**) are the lone voice against this and are running around saying that they need semi-automatics to kill rabbits. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe that these weapons should be in civilian hands, but I also don't believe banning them is enough.

 Disclaimer: I know very little about guns, basically bullets go in one end and come out the other travelling very fast to kill or injure. Except as noted, my facts on these come from the relevant Wikipedia pages on the AR-15 as used in Christchurch and the venerable Lee-Enfield 303 used by the New Zealand Army in both world wars for comparison.

The 303 could fire 20 to 30 aimed shots per minute while according to its manual the Bushmaster XR15 clone of the AR-15 is rated at 45, a little under twice as fast. This means that the unmodified versions of these two rifles would have permitted the shooter to fire approximately half the number of bullets.(***)  a rather naive calculation suggests this would halve the death and injury rate,

 We need to look at far more than the guns & the events of Friday. What caused this person to allegedly(*) spend two years planning the attacks?

 Like many other western countries, New Zealand has permitted right wing extremists to openly operate under many guises and spread their message of hate. There have been "skinheads" openly operating in Christchurch since (I believe) the 1970s.  Antisemitic, Islamophobic, homophobic, transphobic speech is "Protected" under free speech laws. If you belong to one of the target groups and report it you are ignored. Minority groups are subjected to aggression in public places These  bigots are being permitted to spread their hate fueled rhetoric and every so often it falls on fertile ground in the heads of people pre-prepared to hate and they find they have a new member.

 Following the recent attacks Islamic groups have been permitted limited access to mainstream media. Anjum Rahman of the Islamic Women’s Council of NZ wrote in Spinoff "For more than five years, Muslim representatives knocked on every door we could, we spoke at every possible forum. We pointed to the rise of vitriol and the rise of the alt-right in New Zealand." This week the Islamic community is in the spotlight, but go and talk to the Hebrew community or the transgender community and you will hear similar stories. The Jewish cemetery on the corner of Symonds Street and Karangahape Road has been vandalised several times with Nazi symbolism often used and Synagogues vandalised. Gay members of our community are physically assaulted with impunity and normally it isn't even reported by mainstream media . This one was reported because the victim was a journalist. Transgender people also receive harassment, the highest incidence of sexual assault and violence and attempt suicide at 7 times the rate of cisgender people. These attacks are fueled by a loose coalition of far right agitators usually called TERFS who pretend to be feminists only to be rejected by real feminists, often falsely claim to have support from lesbian groups. They were originally funded by American Conservative Christians and many suspect they still are.

 Getting back to the current situation, banning rapid fire semi-automatic weapons is a good thing, but if that's the only practical thing they do then it is little more than virtue signalling. They need to take steps to ban hate speech both generated within New Zealand and imported. They need to take steps to ensure threats of violence and incitements to violence are not permitted and even low level crimes perpetrated by haters are treated as hate crimes and punished appropriately.

Other groups are getting on the bandwagon. For example the Canterbury Crusaders have just realised that the name of their team could be offensive and are considering changing it. I doubt that an Australian who moved to Dunedin to plan and implement a massacre would have been influenced by it, A much more effective move by the rugby bosses would be to ban hate groups from their games. Of course they should also be asking themselves why before Friday they thought the name was acceptable.

Many groups permit neonazis to publish their hate messages as comments on their social media pages. Again these should be banned. Stop giving them publicity,

Julia Clement is non-religious (effectively agnostic) and does not personally know any of the victims of the Mosque Shootings but a friend's cousin was in one of the targeted mosques and wounded while a family friend's nephew was in one of the mosques but luckily unwounded. 

(*) I say alleged as he hasn't been convicted yet.

(**) I'm biased, shoot me.

 (***) There is a suggestion that the AR-15 used in the shootings was illegally modified to be fully automatic. This could have given it a firing rate of 800 rounds per minute. Interestingly enough, in 1941 New Zealand developed the  Charlton Automatic Rifle a fully automatic modification of the 303 with a firing rate of 600 rounds per minute. If you can illegally modify an AR-15, you can illegally modify a 303.

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