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Global arms Treaty. The United States reversed its policy and said it would back launching talks on a treaty to regulate arms sales as long as the talks operated by consensus, a stance critics said gave every nation a veto. The decision, announced in a statement released by the US Department, overturns the position of former President George Bush's administration.

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REGULATIONS AND LAWS THAT AFFECT OUR FREEDOM TO ENJOY THE SPORT OF OUR CHOICE 
 
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Attendees at a conference on new amendments to the European Union’s Firearms Directive welcomed with applause a bullish speech extolling plans by the Czech interior minister to have every gun owner in the country registered as a reservist in the military in a bid to bypass EU calls for tighter gun ownersgip controls, but also to serve as a last line of defence against terrorists.

Tomasz W. Stępień, president of Firearms United, spoke after a keynote speech by Malta’s Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela, who emphasised the importance of striking the right balance between individual freedoms and security.

Stępień said it was a good thing that “the threat from the EU had brought together shooters from different disciplines.”

The conference on Saturday was organised following the European Commission’s revision of the EU Firearms Directive in December.

Abela acknowledged that the revision to the firearms directive had been passed by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU after long negotiations.

“The negotiations were by no means easy and Malta too expressed serious reservations on the commission's original proposal,” he said. “And while the final text might not meet everyone's expectations, despite significant improvement on the original draft, it did reach a reasonable compromise between security concerns and individual freedoms.”

The minister stressed that one of the major shortcomings of the current EU framework was the lack of a deactivation standard and a lack of a requirement to register deactivated firearms. Had this issue been addressed earlier, lives lost to terrorist attacks could have been saved, he said.

“We all know that neither organised crime nor terrorists will be bothered by our firearms legislation,” Abela said. “Steps taken so far merely make it more difficult for criminals to get hold of legitimate firearms, considering there are improperly deactivated weapons still in circulation in the EU.”

He called for increased cooperation among EU states and for more robust enforcement to tackle such problems.

The only way to ensure the sustainability of legitimate firearm activity was to come up with a sound legal framework, he said, adding that Malta would be incorporating this directive into national legislation in the coming months.

Malta would still retain its existing general framework, which had stood the test of time, Abela said.

“I am convinced that Malta's arms act has struck a balance between security considerations on one hand and individual freedoms on the other.”

Stępień said that the fluid nature of firearm categories under the new legislation was causing consternation amongst EU gun enthusiasts. One example was magazine capacity, which is currently something that could change which category an otherwise identical firearm would fall into.

“I just cannot see any logic in why a plastic box with a steel spring can change the way I see my firearm,” he said. “You can print a magazine on a 3D printer nowadays; we've done it.”

The absence of standards on automatic firearms that had been converted to shooting semi-automatic was also of concern.

“Instead of establishing a standard, the EU spent its energy on saying we couldn’t have this weapon, but I don't think so.” Stępień said. ”I feel that the European Commission's behaviour is becoming an unbearable dictatorship to us.”

AMACS representative Vincent Borg told the conference that a balance was not necessarily a compromise of rights.

“We are not servants, we elect our servants,” he said as he introduced a recorded message from MEP Miriam Dalli. In the message, Dalli said that she had tabled several measures on this directive and assured viewers she would be monitoring developments.

“EU citizens are feeling more insecure. This is not a supposition, this is a fact,” Dalli said, pointing to numerous terrorist attacks in EU countries in recent months. “The world is changing and we must adapt to changing realities.” The EU had acted by coming up with the revised firearms directive, she said.

Security should never come at the expense of sports shooters, reenactors, Dalli remarked. The onus was on the EU to ensure that member states adhered to the directive properly, while addressing the problem of illegal weapons smuggled into the EU.

“This cannot be successfully achieved without combating black market trade in weapons on the dark web. Illegal weapons are the root cause and must be addressed.”

In a similar video clip, MEP Roberta Metsola stated that her position “had been clear from day one” and that terrorism and legal firearm ownership were not to be placed in the same basket.

A knee-jerk reaction to terror was the wrong approach, the MEP insisted. “We must do something other than simply giving the impression of action,” she said.

She had also presented amendments aimed at doing away with the imaginary link between terrorists and firearms collectors.

FESAC chairman and local firearms dealer Stephen Petroni, gave a presentation on what he called “the most bizarre proposals” and their impact on collectors of historical firearms.

He said the commission's reaction to the terrorist attacks was to impose severe restrictions on legally held firearms. It had insisted that the museums deactivate their firearms. This was due to a very poor understanding on the part of the commission of the role of museums – to study and conduct research, he said.

Moreover collections had to be frozen, no new additions – therefore history was to be frozen. “The commission could never be forgiven for having the audacity of proposing the destruction of historical weapons. We shall never ever ever forgive the commission for coming up with these proposals,” Petroni said, likening it to ISIS's destruction of the ancient temples of Palmyra.

“I am not a professional lobbyist,” Petroni said. “What I do is out of passion, I do for people like you.”

“Our main objective will remain the full exemption of recognised collectors from the directive which the Commission has managed to delete through deceit. When you know you have been falsely accused, there is no way you will shut up.”

This is very troubling for legal firearms owners.

European Commission - Press release

European Commission strengthens control of firearms across the EU

Brussels, 18 November 2015

The European Commission today adopted a package of measures to make it more difficult to acquire firearms in the European Union.

The European Commission today adopted a package of measures to make it more difficult to acquire firearms in the European Union, better track legally held firearms, strengthen cooperation between Member States, and ensure that deactivated firearms are rendered inoperable. better track legally held firearms, strengthen cooperation between Member States, and ensure that deactivated firearms are rendered inoperable.  The proposals presented today were foreseen in the European Security Agenda adopted in April 2015, but have been significantly accelerated in light of recent events. The Commission is hereby supporting Member States in their efforts to protect Europe's citizens and prevent criminals and terrorists from accessing weapons.

President Juncker said: "The recent terrorist attacks on Europe's people and values were coordinated across borders, showing that we must work together to resist these threats. Today's proposal, prepared jointly by Commissioners Elżbieta Bieńkowska and Dimitris Avramopoulos, will help us tackle the threat of weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. We are proposing stricter controls on sale and registration of firearms, and stronger rules to irrevocably deactivate weapons. We will also come forward with an Action Plan in the near future to tackle illicit arms trafficking. Organised criminals accessing and trading military grade firearms in Europe cannot and will not be tolerated."

Internal Market and Industry Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska and Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos added: "The adoption of the firearms package today is proof of the Commission's determination to address the new reality we are confronted with. We need to remove regulatory divergences across the EU by imposing stricter, harmonised EU standards for firearms and ensuring efficient exchange of information between Member States."


The package of measures on firearms adopted by the College of Commissioners today includes the following elements:

A revision of the Firearms Directive, to tighten controls on the acquisition and possession of firearms

The Commission has today tabled proposals to amend the EU Firearms Directive, which defines the rules under which private persons can acquire and possess weapons, as well as the transfer of firearms to another EU country. The main elements of the proposed revision are:

  • Stricter rules to ban certain semi-automatic firearms, which will not, under any circumstance, be allowed to be held by private persons, even if they have been permanently deactivated;
  • Tighter rules on the online acquisition of firearms, to avoid the acquisition of firearms, key parts or ammunition through the Internet;
  • EU common rules on marking of firearms to improve the traceability of weapons;
  • Better exchange of information between Member States, for example on any refusal of authorisation to own a firearm decided by another national authority, and obligation to interconnect national registers of weapons;
  • Common criteria concerning alarm weapons (e.g. distress flares and starter pistols)in order to prevent their transformation into fully functioning firearms;
  • Stricter conditions for the circulation of deactivated firearms;
  • Stricter conditions for collectors to limit the risk of sale to criminals.

The proposed amendments which the Commission has tabled today now need to be approved by the European Parliament and Council.

An Implementing Regulation on common minimum standards for deactivation of firearms

The Implementing Regulation sets out common and strict criteria on the way Member States must deactivate weapons so that they are rendered inoperable. The possession of the most dangerous firearms – even if they are deactivated – will no longer be allowed.

The Implementing Regulation is based on the criteria for deactivation developed by the Permanent International Commission for the Proof of Small Arms (the CIP). Following a positive vote on the draft Regulation by Member States in a comitology committee earlier this morning, the College of Commissioners formally adopted the text. The Regulation will be published immediately in the Official Journal and will enter into force after 3 months.

Today's package of measures to strengthen the control of firearms within the EU is based on a detailed evaluation of the implementation of the Firearms Directive carried out by the Commission last year in the context of its Regulatory Fitness programme (REFIT), which aims to ensure that existing EU regulation is fit for purpose. To ensure the best practical results on the deactivation of firearms, the Commission will regularly review and update the technical specifications laid down in this Regulation.

An action plan against the illegal trafficking of weapons and explosives

In addition to the adoption of these stricter rules and standards, the Commission also announced today that it is developing an action plan against the illegal trafficking of weapons and explosives. Issues to be tackled in this future action plan will include:

  • The illegal purchase of weapons on the black market;
  • The control of illegal weapons and explosives in the internal market (especially from the Balkan countries or ex-war zones);
  • The fight against organised crime.

While arms trafficking is mainly a national competence, given the clear cross-border dimension there is a need for stronger police and intelligence service coordination and stronger import checks. The Commission will propose actions to support Member States' activities, building on the Action Plan on illicit trafficking in firearms between the EU and the Western Balkans. The EU-Western Balkans summit of Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs on 7 December will be a further opportunity to take stock of progress on the Action Plan.


Background

The responsibility for ensuring internal security is first and foremost with the Member States, but cross-border challenges defy the capacity of individual countries to act alone and require EU support to build trust and facilitate cooperation, exchange of information and joint action.

President Juncker's Political Guidelines identified the security agenda as a priority for this Commission, and the 2015 Commission Work Programme committed to the delivery of the European Agenda on Security.

On 28 April 2015, the European Commission set out a European Agenda on Security for the period 2015-2020 to support Member States' cooperation in tackling security threats and step up our common efforts in the fight against terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime. The Agenda sets out the concrete tools and measures which will be used in this joint work to ensure security and tackle these three most pressing threats more effectively.

In the Agenda and in the Work Programme for 2016, the Commission promised to review the existing legislation on firearms in 2016 to improve the sharing of information, to reinforce traceability, to standardise marking, and to establish common standards for neutralising firearms. In light of recent events we have decided to significantly accelerate this work. Since then, significant progress has been made in implementing the elements of the agenda.

Today's initiatives complement ongoing work to tackle the illegal trafficking of firearms, including notably the operational action plan between the EU and the Western Balkans and joint investigations and police cooperation which have been in place since 2013.


 

With the publication of the Firearms Control Amendment Act (2015), South Africa once more has an opportunity to strengthen its national gun law in this country’s efforts to address the high levels of gun violence, as all around the world, countries are toughening their gun laws.

Across Latin America and Africa, the two regions worst affected by gun violence, proposals are being developed by civil society and considered by parliaments. Those proposals contain measures like raising the minimum age for gun possession, limiting the number or type of guns a civilian can own, imposing conditions on storage and use (including banning concealed carry), strengthening licensing and registration systems, and increasing the capacity of police to apply and enforce the laws. These are accepted global norms regarded as the benchmark for regulating who has access to what weapons for which purpose: South Africa is a leader on the global stage in implementing such measures.

The evidence in support of strong gun control continues to mount, with a new study confirming that Australia’s gun law reforms did in fact reduce violent crime. Australia reformed its gun laws comprehensively in 1996, after years of argument and a string of mass shootings. Gun ownership was not prohibited, but it became harder to qualify, and certain weapons were banned. Tougher prerequisites and conditions made gun ownership a far less casual matter.

Earlier research on the impact of the Australian reforms showed that the 1996 reforms have saved hundreds of lives as well as billions of dollars in policing and legal costs. That research focused on the easiest indicator to measure, the number of deaths prevented. Now a new study has examined the impact on gun crime in general – which is important, as fatalities constitute only a small portion of the scourge that is gun violence. That study, by Benjamin Taylor (Harvard Law School) and economist Jing Li (Miami University, Ohio), concludes that Australia’s gun law reforms led to significant reductions in armed robbery and attempted murder. This makes sense, since the availability of a firearm is often the factor determining whether or not a criminal – especially a young one – decides to proceed with a particular crime.

Another study, just released, examines the record of so-called “concealed carry” in the United States. Americans can obtain, with very little vetting, a permit to carry a loaded pistol wherever they go – ostensibly for the purpose of heroically defending themselves against bad guys they may encounter during the course of their day. The Violence Policy Centre, a thinktank in Washington DC, has counted the cases on the public record of permit holders firing their weapons. Over the past seven years, at least 722 people have been killed in at least 544 concealed-carry shootings. The deaths included 17 police officers. Only 16 shootings were ruled by the court to have been in self-defence. It seems that the availability of a firearm in a pocket or handbag may affect one’s judgment, especially if the vetting procedure has been minimal.

Even in the US, where progress is excruciatingly slow, there is progress nonetheless. The national Congress may be paralysed in the grip of the gun lobby, but dozens of small gun-related measures have been moving through state legislatures across the country. Some of these measures are for stronger laws and some for weaker, but on balance the former are ahead.

It’s no coincidence that the world is moving toward stronger regulation of firearms. Policymakers from different countries are discussing the topic at global and regional fora, from the United Nations to NATO to the African Union. Human bodies in every country are equally vulnerable to a product designed to tear through flesh and bone and muscle. That product is very attractive to criminals everywhere, and lends itself easily to trafficking. Thus the international community has recognised the need to work toward stronger and more uniform regulation, within and among countries.

One feature increasingly being included in gun control reforms is amnesty, collection and destruction programmes. Depending on the context, these programmes may be voluntary (as in Brazil) or compulsory (as in Australia, where the types of weapons that became prohibited had to be handed in). Both Australia and Brazil paid cash compensation in return for guns handed in; in other countries the rewards have been of other types: training courses, job opportunities, building materials or groceries.

According to Argentinian researcher Diego Fleitas, who studies weapons collection programmes, we now have enough experience to identify some lessons learned. He notes that the preparation phase is critical to eventual success or failure. Successful programmes involve careful planning, good research, and effective communication with the media, the general public and with the people from whom the guns are expected to be recovered. It’s important that the whole community understand the purpose, the process and the facts about gun violence and the risks of guns in the home. Although guns are mainly in the possession of men, international research shows that women hand in large proportion of weapons for destruction, because they are highly motivated to “clean their houses.” Law enforcement agencies need to gear up for technical and logistical challenges. Community safety is a matter for everyone, not just the police, so trusted community leaders and organisations should be involved.

Some weapons collection schemes fail because they are small, local events, not conducted within a larger policy framework designed to stop the surrendered guns being replaced. Amnesty and destruction programmes can serve to drain the pool of dangerous weapons in our communities. They need to be accompanied by strong gun laws, which serve to shut off the tap so the pool doesn’t immediately fill up again. DM

Rebecca Peters was Director of the International Action network on Small Arms (IANSA) – a trans-national civil society network advocating for reducing gun violence – and also a major force behind the gun reforms that occurred in Australia in 1996.

Johannesburg -

These are three ways guns are diverted into the illegal weapons pool: they are smuggled in from neighbouring countries; stolen from licensed gun owners – 50 a day – and fraud, corruption and poor implementation of the firearms licensing system.

But getting rid of the illegal guns that proliferate on the country’s streets is no easy task.

“When it comes to handing in illegal firearms, the international examples in the US and Brazil have proven it does not work, criminals have guns for a reason,” points out Martin Hood, of the SA Gun Owners Association. “They are not going to give up the tools of their trade.”

This week, the ANC announced proposed legislation seeking to close loopholes and tighten existing measures to limit access to guns that “end up in the wrong hands”.

But Martin is sceptical of any gun amnesty. “Between 2004 and 2013, legal firearm owners handed in a million guns. Virtually no illegal weapons were handed in. The police recovered some, but it shows that people who have got guns illegally do not want to hand them in because they are using them for illegal reasons.”

Commenting on the timing of the ANC’s announcement, in the wake of Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa’s murder, Martin believes that politicians were capitalising on his death.

“What we’re hearing now is politicians who want to be seen to doing something when government has failed to protect its citizens. In both the Senzo case and that of Oscar Pistorius, if the law had been properly applied, and the police had done their jobs, we wouldn’t have such high levels of violent crime. It is going up, notwithstanding the Firearms Control Act. The police are not catching criminals and putting them in jail.”

Claire Taylor, of Gun Free SA, says “we must caution against amendments that are a knee-jerk response in light of these high-profile crimes”. Any amendments to existing gun legislation has to be “comprehensive, informed and really address loopholes”.

Since the Firearms Control Act was promulgated, the number of people shot and killed in South Africa has halved from 34 to 18 every day. “That’s still too many, but it’s a huge improvement.”

The country can rid itself of illegal weapons, she says. “There have been strategies to deal with the illegal pool of weapons in the country and we strongly support amnesty and any attempt to encourage the public to report illegal firearms and unregistered firearms.”

She cites how in the 2010 gun amnesty, of the 32 169 firearms recovered, 27 percent were illegal.

Taylor points out how civilians lose 12 times more guns than police officers, and how handguns are used in most gun crimes.

“Strictly limiting who owns what gun for which purpose would help reduce the leakage of licensed guns into the illegal pool,” she says.

This week, SA Football Association Danny Jordan, speaking at a memorial for the murdered soccer star, suggested it wanted to “take illegal guns to the furnace and build a statue of Senzo Meyiwa” that would “stand in front of Safa house”.

While Hood remarks that the “statue would have no substance as criminals who have illegal guns will not hand in their guns”, Taylor believes it’s a great idea. “It’s happened around the world, with people making statues and jewellery out of illegal guns. Even Charlize Theron has convinced Sean Penn to destroy his guns to turn them into a piece of art.”

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 18, 2012 (IPS) - After a week of tense negotiations, a United Nations preparatory committee concluded a final round of talks on Friday to define the rules of procedure for a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which is expected to be finalised in July this year.

The ratification of the report by committee chair Ambassador Roberto Moritan of Argentina closed the last of four prepcoms held since 2010 to lay the groundwork for the ATT negotiations. 

The report includes a "non-paper" by Moritan that will be the basis of this summer's talks. 

Human rights groups expressed cautious optimism about the outcome. 

"This document fits 70 percent of our recommendations," Aymeric Elluin of Amnesty International told IPS. 

But the agreement on a vote by consensus, meaning that every state has veto power, may deeply compromise the adoption of a comprehensive treaty, he warned. 

"There is a real risk for the final text of ATT not to be adopted in July," he added. "Negotiations on the content will be extremely difficult." 

Need for a legally binding instrumen
t 

The current crackdown on protesters in Syria and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa has underlined the absence of any global regulation on the conventional arms trade, allowing arms to end up in the hands of human rights abusers, according to human rights groups. 

"The ATT concerns the biggest treaty negotiation in the field of control arms, excepting the nuclear weapon," Brian Wood, Amnesty International's manager for arms control, told IPS. "It is all about saving lives and human rights." 

According to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, "The global trade in conventional weapons – from warships and battle tanks to fighter jets and machine guns – remains poorly regulated. No set of internationally agreed standards exist to ensure that arms are only transferred for appropriate use." 

"Many governments have voiced concern about the absence of globally agreed rules for all States to guide their decisions on arms transfers. That is why they have started negotiating an Arms Trade Treaty." 

Nearly every country in the world has some degree of involvement in the arms trade, as an importer or exporter, or in permitting arms shipments to transit through their territorial waters. 

The United States is by far the biggest weapons manufacturer, followed by Russia, the "Big Three" in Europe - Germany, France, Britain - and China. 

India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are all leading importers - but so are some of the major producers, such as the United States. 

Concerned about the unchecked proliferation of weapons, in 2009, the U.N. General Assembly decided to convene a Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty in 2012 "to elaborate a legally binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms". 

Political chess game 

"As we have seen in the case of Syria, veto power leads to inaction and hampers the ability of the international community to prevent conflict," said Jeff Abramson, coordinator of the Control Arms Coalition, referring to the recent paralysis in the U.N. Security Council. 

"The will of the majority here who wants to see the arms trade brought under control must not be thwarted by a minority set on delaying and confusing the process," he stressed. 

He added that countries that were the most supportive of veto power over the final draft document included Syria, Cuba, Iran and the United States. 

"Lives and livelihoods continue to be destroyed by an arms trade that is out of control, and the majority of governments that want to see a truly 'bulletproof' treaty must not be blocked by a small minority with vested interests," he said. 

Russia, China and the United States are all pushing their own agendas and oppose the integration of human rights into the treaty. 

The U.S. opposes the inclusion of munitions, China wants to exclude small arms, and Russia wants a treaty regulating the illicit arms trade only. 

"It is also deplorable that Russia argues it is responsible to continue sending weapons to a regime (Syria) that is bombarding its citizens," said Abramson. 

"A strong ATT with robust human rights criteria would make clear that arms transfers must not occur when there is a substantial risk of them being used to kill civilians and commit human rights abuses," he said. "The sale of any arms to Syria right now is simply appalling." 

Mounting call for human rights protections 

Civil society groups are urging strong rules that protect human rights and bar arms from being sent to those who likely to use them against civilian populations. 

"It is about regulation and prevention based on risk assessment," Wood told IPS. 

"All types of arms should be included," he said, including small arms and munitions. 

On Feb 14, a group of Nobel Peace Laureates also called for the broadest possible criteria, scope and implementation mechanisms for an effective Arms Trade Treaty. 

At a press conference held at United Nations headquarters, the former president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias Sanchez, said, "The challenge before us is not just to get a document signed. The challenge before us is to do justice to victims of violence. The challenge before us is to ensure that our goal becomes reality. These men and women and children deserve nothing less than swift and effective action." 

(END)
 

 Russia: Non lethal firearms here to stay

It will be harder for Russians to obtain weapons following the passage in the State Duma yesterday of amendments to the Law on Arms, tightening regulations on the civilian possession of weapons, including non-lethal firearms. Cases involving the illegal use of such firearms have sparked a fierce debate in the media and in the country at large. Some want to completely outlaw the possession of weapons by members of the public, others want tougher licensing procedures, and still others think non-lethal weapons should be outlawed, while lethal weapons should be permitted. Duma deputies chose the second path.

Shooting lessons

Lawmakers did not disarm the public yesterday but rather made non-lethal firearms harder to acquire. First of all, they gave the term “non-lethal firearm” a legal definition.  Popularly referred to as “gas pistols” in Russia, such non-lethal firearms fire rubber bullets. There are also guns without barrels that also fire rubber bullets. Now, these will be officially labeled “limited damage firearms,” and all the regulations covering lethal firearms will be extended to non-lethal ones.

The second and perhaps most important change to the law is that persons acquiring weapons for the first time will have to undergo special training, including hands-on practice. This, of course, places a burden on anyone wanting to own weapons, but mandatory training exists in many countries, and the results speak for themselves.

In the West, the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) and the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) teach people how to shoot. It is not clear who will run these courses in Russia. The new amendments authorize duly licensed educational institutions to carry out this training (no such institutions exist yet) and organizations that train private security guards. However, the law will not come into force for another six months so the hope is that these schools will have appeared by then.

Reason vs. emotion

Lawmakers deserve credit for not giving in to emotion and taking up the cause of the alarmists who propose banning non-lethal firearms without giving the public anything in return. Any reasonable person should be able to grasp that the main problem are not the weapons themselves but rather the prevalence of violence in Russian society. Reports in the media about the improper use of non-lethal firearms and its consequences all add up to a tangled web of economic, social, ethnic and other problems. Trying to solve them by banning these firearms is akin to fighting pornography by banning computers, or trying to fight drug use by banning syringes. 

“Banning non-lethal firearms isn't worth it,” argues Georgy Ter-Akopov, a partner at the law firm Knyazev & Partners. “The level of street crime in Russia is high, and people do not believe the police can always provide the protection they need.”

However stricter regulation of the sale and use of these weapons is indeed worthwhile. Raising the minimum age is an important step. Today, any 18 year-old can buy a gun, but at this age, Mr. Ter-Akopov believes, an individual still has the psychology and mentality of an adolescent. That’s why young people so often resort to the use of non-lethal firearms in resolving their conflicts.

But this is not the only reason.

Because these firearms are non-lethal, the psychological barrier against using them is much lower than for lethal weapons.

“Many see non-lethal firearms as their weapon of choice in a fight, as an extension of their fist, something they can use without fear of retaliation,” said Boris Pashchenko, the head of the Taktika gun club. People are much more careful around lethal weapons.

Judge for yourself – today Russians possess about six million legal firearms, and the percentage of infractions involving legally owned weapons is negligible. The proposal put forward by Alexander Torshin, first vice-speaker of the Federation Council, to ban non-lethal weapons while “restoring the right to possess lethal handguns” doesn’t seem so far-fetched after all. 

Legal cases

Lawyers believe that teaching people the proper way to handle a weapon is not enough. Rather, what Russians need is a campaign to educate people about the laws regarding the use of weapons.

“The line between self-defense and offense is very thin,” explains Mr. Ter-Akopov. “Often people simply do not understand the difference. Defense is limited to actions taken to prevent criminal attacks on one’s life, property and health.” But this is not as clear as it sounds. “Weapons can be used after you have already been attacked, but will people who find themselves in this situation still be in a condition to hit back in defense?” asked Dmitry Gurov of Gurov, Gaidai and Partners.

In ninety percent of cases involving the use of weapons in self-defense, judges rule that it was, at the very least, “disorderly conduct involving the use of weapons.”  Mr. Gurov said that proving the opposite is very difficult.

What’s more, people are not always inclined to resolve self-defense cases through the proper legal channels. 

“Some clients start by asking who needs to be bribed and how much, so the case can be settled,” complains Dmitry Gurov. “It’s hard to explain to them that this is not what lawyers do.”

Obviously, the issue of civilian weapons cannot be resolved until radical changes are made in how self-defense is treated in the criminal justice system. Perhaps we should consider adopting the uniquely American concept of the castle doctrine, in other words, “my home is my castle.” What this boils down to is “the right not to run.” The castle doctrine holds that any lawful means can be used to repel forcible entry into one’s home while the “right not to run” means that victims can use force even if they have the opportunity to save themselves by fleeing.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

US joins effort to set Global Arms Sales control.

The United States is working with other countries and the United Nations to impose uniform controls on international sales of conventional arms. But the U.S. State Department said it is likely to be years before an Arms Trade Treaty takes effect.

The United States is committed to pursuing a "robust treaty" that sets "the highest possible legally binding standards" for international sales of conventional weapons, U.S. Ambassador Donald Mahley said Feb. 18 in an address to arms control organizations.

Mahley, a senior U.S. arms control official, read remarks that were to have been delivered by Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. Tauscher was detained when a meeting with a foreign official went on longer than expected, a State Department spokesman said.

So far, the treaty is a concept rather than a document. A draft is not expected to be written before 2012, according to arms control experts. After that, treaty negotiations "are likely to be long and difficult," Mahley said. The treaty would have to be approved by most of the world's 195 nations.

The idea is not to ban arms sales, Mahley said. Legitimate weapon sales are important to enable governments to protect their populace and maintain global stability, he said. But the treaty would attempt to stop "irresponsible" arms transfers in which weapons end up in the hands of terrorists and rogue regimes, he said.

The treaty would impose on all arms exporters standards that are similar to those already followed by the United States, Mahley said.

The U.S. government reviews proposed arms sales and only approves those in which the recipient is shown to have a legitimate need for the weapons and can ensure that the weapons will not be transferred to third parties.

In October, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced U.S. support for the Arms Trade Treaty and said, "the United States has in place an extensive and rigorous system of controls that most agree is the 'gold standard' of export controls for arms transfers.

"The Arms Trade Treaty initiative presents us with the opportunity to promote the same high standards for the entire international community," Clinton said.

Her announcement marked a reversal of the U.S. position on the treaty. Under former President Bush, the United States opposed the treaty. Discussion of the treaty began in 2006 at the United Nations.

Although the United States is by far the world's largest exporter of arms, the treaty has not provoked much discussion in the U.S. arms industry, according to Rachel Stohl, an arms trade expert at Chatham House, a British international affairs think tank.

"U.S. defense industry representatives believe that because the United States already has such high standards and regulations in place, an Arms Trade Treaty could simply even the playing field in markets around the world and wouldn't cause a dramatic change in their exporting abilities," Stohl said.

Mahley said the treaty should regulate all conventional weapons, from small arms "to aircraft carriers."

U.S. arms makers exported $55 billion worth of weapons in 2008, according to the Congressional Research Service. The next closest arms exporter was Italy, which sold $3.7 billion worth. Russia was third with $3.5 billion.

The top arms buyers were Saudi Arabia, India, Venezuela, South Korea, Israel, Egypt, China, Singapore, Iraq and Pakistan, Stohl said. Popular items included F-16 fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters as well as small arms.

Even under U.S. arms control regulations, weapons sometimes reach illegal recipients, Stohl said.

"U.S.-origin weapons have been found in the deadly drug cartel killings in Mexico" and in crimes in Brazil, she said.

The Obama administration’s offensive against the Second Amendment has begun.

As was predicted, the strategy uses international law to create a foundation for repressive and extreme gun control. The mechanism is an international treaty, the “Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials.”

If the plan succeeds, police sales of confiscated firearms would be prohibited and anyone who reloads ammunition at home would need a federal license. In addition, the treaty would create an international law requirement that almost every American firearm owner be licensed as if he were a manufacturer.

Founded in 1948, the Organization of American States (OAS) includes all of the independent nations of the Western Hemisphere. (Cuba’s participation has been suspended since 1962.) In 1997, President Clinton signed a gun control treaty that had been negotiated by OAS. Subsequently, neither he nor President George W. Bush sent the treaty to the United States Senate for ratification.

The treaty is commonly known as “CIFTA,” for its Spanish acronym, Convención Interamericana Contra la Fabricación y El Tráfico Ilícitos de Armas de Fuego, Municiones, Explosivos y Otros Materiales Relacionados. The document is called a “convention” rather than a “treaty” because “convention” is a term of art for a multilateral treaty created by a multinational organization.

At the OAS meeting in April 2009, President Obama said that he would send CIFTA to the U.S. Senate and urge ratification. The White House claimed that the convention was merely an expression of international goodwill.

That’s false.

In the United States, it is common for police and sheriffs’ departments to sell confiscated firearms to federally licensed firearm dealers (FFLs). The FFLs then resell the guns to lawful consumers. Of course, when any FFL sells a gun to a customer, the sale must be approved by the National Instant Check System, or its state equivalent.

Police and sheriff sales of confiscated guns would be outlawed by CIFTA which mandates: “State Parties shall adopt the necessary measures to ensure that all firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials seized, confiscated, or forfeited as the result of illicit manufacturing or trafficking do not fall into the hands of private individuals or businesses through auction, sale, or other disposal.”

Another target of CIFTA is reloading. The millions of Americans who reload include competitive target shooters, hunters, trainers who want to craft milder ammunition for beginners, and many other hobbyists who enjoy making things themselves and saving money. Due to the present shortage of ammunition, more and more people are taking up reloading--so many that reloading equipment manufacturers are having difficulty keeping their products in stock.

Reloading is entirely lawful in every state and no state requires a specific permit for those reloading ammunition. CIFTA, however, declares that “illicit manufacturing” is the “manufacture or assembly of firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials” that takes place without “a license from a competent governmental authority of the State Party where the manufacture or assembly takes place.”

Thus, either the federal government or all 50 state governments would have to enact legislation to impose reloading licenses and to define unlicensed reloading as a crime. According to Article IV of CIFTA, “State Parties that have not yet done so shall adopt the necessary legislative or other measures to establish as criminal offenses under their domestic law the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials.”

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) charges $10 per year for a license to manufacture most ammunition. Also under existing law, the premises of firearm and ammunition manufacturers may be inspected without notice once per year by the BATFE, and an unlimited number of times in cases involving a criminal investigation. Thus, anyone who reloads ammunition would be taxed and subject to home inspection by the federal government.

Reloaders are not the only ones who would be required to have a manufacturing license. So would every company or individual that makes any part of a firearm or an accessory. In fact, so would almost every firearm owner in the nation.

CIFTA Article I requires licensing for the manufacture of “other related materials.” These are defined as “any component, part, or replacement part of a firearm, or an accessory which can be attached to a firearm.”

That definition straightforwardly includes all spare firearm parts. It also includes accessories that are attached to firearms, such as scopes, ammunition magazines, sights, recoil pads, bipods and slings.

Current U.S. law requires a license to manufacture a firearm, with a “firearm” being defined as the receiver--however, no federal license is needed to make other parts of a firearm, such as barrels or stocks.

But CIFTA’s plain language requires federal licensing of the manufacturers and sellers of barrels, stocks, screws, springs and everything else that is used to make firearms.

Likewise, the manufacture of all accessories--such as scopes, sights, slings, bipods and so on--would have to be licensed.

In the United States, the manufacture of a firearm or ammunition for one’s personal use does not require a license, since the licensing requirements apply to persons who “engage in the business” by engaging in repeated transactions for profit. (18 U.S. Code sec. 923(a).)

Yet CIFTA would require licensing for everyone.

Many, perhaps most, firearm owners occasionally tinker with their guns. They might replace a worn-out spring or install a better barrel. Or they might add accessories such as a scope, a recoil pad or a sling. All of these simple activities would require a government license. The CIFTA definition of “Illicit manufacturing” is “the manufacture or assembly of firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials.” (Emphasis added.)

Even if putting an attachment on a firearm were not considered in itself to be “assembly,” the addition of most components necessarily requires some assembly; for example, scope rings consist of several pieces that must be assembled. Replacing one’s grip panels requires, at the least, the use of screws.

Because the definition of “manufacturing” is so broad, nearly all gun owners would eventually be required to obtain a manufacturing license.

CIFTA mandates that “State Parties that have not yet done so shall adopt the necessary legislative or other measures to establish as criminal offenses under their domestic law the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials … the criminal offenses established pursuant to the foregoing paragraph shall include participation in, association or conspiracy to commit, attempts to commit, and aiding, abetting, facilitating, and counseling the commission of said offenses.”

Yet the preamble of CIFTA says: “... this Convention does not commit State Parties to enact legislation or regulations pertaining to firearms ownership, possession, or trade of a wholly domestic character.”

Does the preamble negate the comprehensive licensing system that CIFTA demands? Not really. The exemptions are for “ownership, possession, or trade.” There is no exemption for “manufacturing.” As detailed above, “manufacturing” is defined broadly enough as to include the home manufacture of ammunition, as well as repair of one’s own firearm, or assembling an accessory for attachment to one’s firearm.

Notably, even if CIFTA were read so that the “does not commit” language also pertained to manufacturing, there is nothing that prevents a state party from choosing to enact manufacturing regulations on its own accord.

The nations that have ratified CIFTA so far have not necessarily fully implemented the literal requirements of language regarding firearms and related material manufacturing. It is hardly unusual for nations to make a show of ratifying a treaty, but then do little to carry out the treaty’s requirements. However, in a culture such as the United States, with a strong commitment to the rule of law, CIFTA might have greater practical effect.

If ratified by the Senate, CIFTA would become the law of the land. Would the BATFE then be empowered to write regulations implementing the convention--without waiting for Congress to pass a new statute?

If a treaty is “self-executing,” then it is an independent source of authority for domestic regulations. By traditional views of international law, CIFTA is not self-executing, since its language anticipates that ratifying governments will have to enact future laws to comply with CIFTA.

On the other hand, CIFTA does not explicitly declare itself to be non-self-executing. Harold Koh, who has been nominated as legal adviser to the U.S. Department of State, has challenged the doctrine of “so-called self-executing treaties” and argues that the Supreme Court decisions creating the doctrine are incorrect. (100 Yale Law Journal, pages 2360-61, 2383-84; see also 35 University of California at Davis Law Review, page 1111 n. 114; 35 Houston Law Review, page 666.)

Rather, Koh writes, legislatures “should ratify treaties with a presumption that they are self-executing.” Further, domestic courts should “construe domestic statutes consistently with international law” and “should employ international human rights norms to guide interpretation of domestic constitutional norms.”(106 Yale Law Journal, page 2658 n. 297.) As detailed in last month’s issue of America’s 1st Freedom, Koh considers stringent gun control to be a very important international human right (July 2009, p. 32).

In Koh’s view, even when Congress has not created a statute to implement a treaty, courts should recognize a right of private plaintiffs to bring lawsuits under the treaty. (100 Yale Law Journal, pages 2383-84.) Thus, Koh and his allies could argue that Senate ratification of CIFTA trumps the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which outlaws abusive lawsuits against gun manufacturers and stores.

Suppose that the Senate, when ratifying CIFTA, added specific reservations declaring that CIFTA is not self-executing, that CIFTA authorizes no additional regulations and that CIFTA does not authorize any new lawsuits. The United States executive branch, under Koh’s guidance, might ignore the reservations. When the Senate added a reservation to another treaty, Koh wrote, “Many scholars question persuasively whether the United States declaration has either domestic or international legal effect.” (111 Harvard Law Review, pages 1828-29 n. 24.)

Ultimately, the question of whether BATFE can promulgate regulations under CIFTA might be decided in court cases. One way for a court to resolve the issue would be to acknowledge that federal statutes already authorized regulation of manufacturing, and that CIFTA, as the latter-enacted law, simply expanded the definition of manufacturing so that the licensing requirement now applies to persons who are not engaged in the firearm business, and to manufacture or assembly of firearms attachments and spare parts.

It is not hard to foresee Obama-appointed federal judges upholding massive new BATFE gun control regulations, especially when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department’s top legal adviser insist to the courts that the expanded federal regulations are necessary for the United States to comply with its international law obligations.

CIFTA does not specifically require gun registration. But once you impose manufacturing licenses, registration comes along for the ride. Existing federal regulations for manufacturers of firearms and ammunition require that manufacturers keep records of all products they produce, and these records must be available for government inspection.

Thus, those who reload ammunition would have to keep records of every round they made and gun owners would have to keep a record of everything they “assembled” (e.g., putting a scope on a rifle). These records would then be open to BATFE inspection.

Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., (formerly a gun criminal for the terrorist group the Black Panthers), introduced H.R. 45, to set up a national licensing and registration system for handguns and for self-loading long guns. As implemented under the direction of President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and State Department legal adviser Koh, CIFTA could go even further--it also covers ammunition reloading as well as long guns that are not semi-automatic.

Further, CIFTA could be used to impose national licensing, registration and taxation of gun owners without members of Congress having to cast a vote that explicitly creates such laws. Indeed, because treaties need to be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate, yet need no approval from the House of Representatives, the House could be cut completely out of the law-making process altogether.

By Dave Kopel.

Arm them, say pastors

Churchmen back calls for more people, including Christians, to carry guns

BY NADINE WILSON Observer staff reporter wilsonn@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, February 02, 2009

ALTHOUGH owning a gun and being a Christian have been considered mutually exclusive, some of Jamaica's top religious leaders say they have no problem with Christians carrying legal firearms as long as they are mature and responsible enough to do so.

The churchmen spoke with the Observer in response to calls from gun rights lobbyists and members of the public for Government to relax legislation to allow all law-abiding citizens easier access to owning firearms.

Bishop Herro Blair, pastor of the Faith Cathedral Deliverance Centre in Kingston and the country's political ombudsman, said that having a firearm for self-protection was no different from having a knife, Labrador or a Pit bull to protect one's home, as all were equally lethal.

He said there was nowhere in the Bible which said carrying a legal firearm was wrong. "The axiom says God helps those who help themselves and in the same token I believe God protects those who protect themselves," said Blair, who has been the subject of debates regarding the carrying of a legal firearm.

However, Blair, an Evangelical preacher who does not carry a gun and has never owned one himself, said the only time he has ever carried a firearm was when he served in the army and was a member of the homeguard in the 1970s.

"Even today I was somewhere and five little boys saw me and one of them asked, 'Who is that?' The boy then said: 'Is Bishop Blair, the man who carry the gun in his Bible'," Blair told the Observer last week.

The bishop said the accusation was something that he has had to live with.

However, he believes people have the right to protect themselves since the State was not capable of protecting everyone.

Firebrand pastor Al Miller also supported Christians carrying guns, saying they, as well as other citizens, should be allowed to bear arms.

"Christians are equally citizens of society who have to deal with the normal issues of society, and so if anyone is carrying a weapon, I don't think there is anything wrong with that in and of itself. In the time of Jesus, all of Jesus' disciples had their swords with them," said Miller.

He told the Observer that the argument that Christians' faith in God should be enough to protect them was fallacious and "holds no water".

"If you are using that argument, then why should you close your door at night?" asked Miller. "Why do you live in houses with burglar bars; isn't the Lord anymore a protector?"

Archbishop of Kingston Donald James Reece does not believe it is a sin to bear arms. However, he questioned the reasoning behind the suggestion that more Jamaicans should carry guns.

"When one thinks of what has happened in instances in the past where firearms have injured people unwittingly, in other words without them planning it, one wonders if it is the best thing for Christians or anyone at all to bear firearms," Reece said.

He said what the country needs is a good police force that people can rely on to protect them. "I don't think [giving citizens] firearms is the way forward, but if somebody has it, then it is not a sin," he said.

Archbishop Reece highlighted cases in which people have been killed by a gun owned by a family member, and argued that having a firearm could be counter-productive.

".Those criminal elements in our society will know who have firearms. And so when they see that person they will go after their firearm. So they are at risk, doubly so," said Reece.

President of the East Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Churches, Adrian Cottrell, said Christians should be able to protect themselves the best way they could.

"We can't just go to our beds and leave our houses unprotected or leave them open because God is going to protect us," said Cottrell. "I think we ought to do what we can."

According to Cottrell, a person can have faith but at the same time feel it necessary to do other things. I don't think faith means just leaving yourself bare, you have to do what you can do to help yourself and after that God can do the rest," he said.

Rev Peter Garth of the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals also supported more people, including Christians, carry legal weapons. He said that a number of Christians had jobs which made them vulnerable to criminals, hence the need to bear arms.

"The possession of the firearm does not negate the fact that you lack faith in God," he said.

However, he advised that a decision to carry a weapon should be a personal one, and not based on one's faith in God.

"I have heard that argument," said Garth. "They always link it to your lack of faith in God, but I don't buy that argument."

Just last week, former Jamaica Defence Force captain and firearms instructor, Robert Hibbert, while advocating that law-abiding citizens be allowed easier access to guns, urged persons clamouring for firearms to protect their lives and property to first acquire proper gun and self-defence skills.

Hibbert, addressing last Thursday's meeting of the National Gun Rights Association forum at the Altamont Court Hotel in Kingston, said persons carrying legal firearms must always be aware and alert. "If you are not aware, then you could have 10 guns and somebody will walk up behind you, stick you up and take them away from you," Hibbert told the forum.

- Additional reporting by Karyl Walker 

A REPLICA of an assault rifle often seen with images of the world's most wanted man – Osama bin Laden – is being sold at a western suburbs pawn shop.

The replica AK-47 yesterday was for sale at a pawnbroker on Findon Rd, Findon, for $880.

Under South Australian law, it is not illegal for businesses to sell replica weapons but the incident has sparked calls from anti-gun activists for a national ban on the sale of replica guns.

AK-47s are used throughout the world and have been described as the "consecrated Taliban weapon".

In several of his video messages distributed to the world, bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks has been filmed holding an AK-47. Gun Control Australia president John Crook told The Advertiser yesterday selling such replicas put out a "shocking message".

"Weapons such as this, which is essentially what it is, create fear and apprehension in the community and the police should intervene and confiscate the gun immediately, " he said. Roland Browne, of the National Coalition for Gun Control, said "there's no place for replica firearms in our community".

"Somebody can walk into a bank with a replica firearm and cause absolute mayhem," he said. In December, the Federal Government banned the importation of guns that had a "military-style" appearance.

A spokesman from the SA Police firearms section said yesterday there is no law to stop the sale of replica weapons, such as the AK-47. However, if the buyer "starts waving around the gun and being stupid" they could be charged with weapons offences. A worker at the pawnbroker, named Rick, said only people with a firearms collector licence could buy the replica AK-47.

"The police are in here twice a day checking our sales records and they make us aware of the potential criminal elements," he said. "But these things don't kill – and it's probably easier for people to get a real gun than a replica."

Police Minister Michael Wright said the State Government was having a "close look" at existing firearms legislation.

"Obviously we are concerned, as are police, about the real difficulty of being able to distinguish replica firearms from the real thing," he said.

 Premier agrees to another look at gun laws (Australia)

Jonathan Dart
December 15, 2008

THE State Government has commissioned a report into gun crime six months after backing Shooters' Party amendments that watered down gun ownership laws.

The Premier, Nathan Rees, sought to temper the Government's stance on the issue yesterday, saying he would review the amendments this week when the report was handed down by the Attorney-General's department.

But even as Mr Rees delivered his comments, the Police Minister, Tony Kelly, held a media conference defending the changes, labelling them as sensible and commonsense despite opposition from the Police Association, the Opposition and gun control lobbyists.

Gun owners must undergo a mandatory 28-day waiting period to register all firearms. But under the amendments passed in June, the waiting period now applies only to the first weapon registered. The police also lost powers to revoke the licence of a gun club that fails to account for its members' licences.

Another amendment passed this month waived the 10-year waiting period for firearms owners to reapply for their licence after having an apprehended violence order against them extinguished.

It came as figures obtained by the National Coalition for Gun Control showed that there were now 687,690 firearms registered in NSW, a 33 per cent increase since 2002 when 516,468 firearms were on the street.

Mr Rees said the number of firearms in circulation did not mean it had become easier for criminals to obtain weapons.

"You could make the same argument about tanks out at Holsworthy," he said.

"Most people that own guns are responsible - they're club shooters or game shooters, that sort of thing - but if we have to adjust laws to prevent criminal behaviour we will do it.

"I've sought a report on the nature of how criminals are getting guns and at what rate and where the guns are coming from. Now if it's demonstrated to me that arising from that data, that we need to change the laws … then that is what we'll do."

Mr Rees said he would meet the National Coalition for Gun Control chairwoman, Samantha Lee, this week to discuss the laws.

It comes as the Herald revealed at the weekend that feuds between rival bikie gangs have led to 13 drive-by shootings in the past two weeks.

Figures published by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics show a decrease in firearm incidents in NSW between 2001 and 2005 as registrations increased, falling from 1600 incidents a year to less than 1000.

But the Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said the statistics would begin to show in coming years, and pointed to the amendments to apprehended violence orders as of particular concern.

"These are laws that the women's movement fought for 20 years ago," she said. "Women and children will die because of [the laws] because so often men use firearms in the heat of the moment."

The president of the Police Association, Bob Pritchard, said police checks for registering secondary weapons were unnecessary but said looser gun laws would put his members in greater danger.

"It's becoming more dangerous with the increase in the guns out in the community," he said. "It certainly increases the chance of theft and the possibility [of guns] falling into the wrong hands."

Gun policy was tightened after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in which 35 people died. In the following three years, 600,000 guns were taken out of circulation.

 Law-abiding citizens want guns.

In the mid-1970s when Jamaica was number 10 on the list of the most murderous countries in the world, it used to be said of persons who were shot dead by gunmen that they 'were at the wrong place at the wrong time'. Then the 'terrorist gunman' with his high-powered rifle was introduced by the politics of the times and just as 1980 was ushered in, it seemed that all hell had broken loose.

In the election campaign of that year there were certain areas like Olympic Gardens and most of the Kingston West Police Division (Arnett Gardens, Matthews Lane, Fletchers Land, Denham Town, Jones Town, Tivoli Gardens) that were off limits to all sensible people. If you were in any political garrison that you did not belong to after 6:00 pm or were travelling across political boundaries, your chances of being shot dead were increased significantly. If you lived in any of those areas, you would be fodder for the political marauders as they carried out their murderous raids in the hours before daybreak. When they came, men, women, children and the dogs were all fair targets.

In the late 1990s, Jamaica did not make it on the top 10 list. Then in 2003 when our murder rate more than tripled the rate of the early 1970s, we made it to number three on the list. By 2005 we were standing atop the sordid pile at number one. All of the nasty and sick politics which had been practiced since independence to 2005 had caught up with us.

By that time many who could leave had done so. While most who left in the times prior to the 1960s and on the cusp of Independence did so because Jamaica was seen as having nothing to offer them economically, many of those who travelled to foreign shores in the 1970s and after named security concerns as one of the main reasons for leaving their homeland.

In 2008 those personal and national security concerns are very much a part of our daily diet. We live, sleep and eat the fear that if the high prices don't get us, the gunman will. In the inner-city communities, every other man, woman and youngster carries a concealed knife as they leave home.

Unlike the 1970s, in 2008 every parish and district and community and road and lane is likely to be 'the wrong place at the wrong time'. So far have we travelled to arrive at a worse place.

GUN POSSESSION ONLY FOR THE RICH AND CRIMINAL

At present only business persons who have applied for and met the stringent requirements are in possession of legally held firearms. Elected politicians travel with security details while we who supported them and voted for them in the hope of us building a better and safer Jamaica are forced to face the criminal gunman empty-handed.

As the police force signals (by its action over time) that it has no answers to protecting the poor and those most vulnerable, the justice system creaks and only delivers if one has 10 years to spare. The criminal gunman knows that no witnesses will come forward, so he has about a 90% chance of making it to the next killing. In this scenario the state has failed to protect us, continues to fail us and when our elected officials speak, it is mainly to sell us another fairy tale about our safety.

I say to the state, give us guns to protect ourselves because the mechanisms which exist to do so are patently not working.

In April 2002 at the sixth annual Gravitas Conference held in Vancouver, one Professor Gary A Mauser had this to say about gun laws:

"Gun laws have played an important role in reducing crime rates in the US. Since 1986 more than 25 states have passed new laws encouraging responsible citizens to carry concealed handguns. As a result, the number of armed Americans in malls and in their cars has grown to almost three million men and women. As surprising as it is to the media, these new laws have caused violent crime rates to drop, including homicide rates."

In his scholarly book, More guns, Less Crime, Professor John Lott shows how violent crime has fallen faster in those states that have introduced "concealed carry' laws than in the rest of the U.S. His study is the most comprehensive analysis of American crime data ever compiled. He shows that criminals are rational enough to fear being shot by armed civilians.

Many people like myself who have slowly come around to supporting a more liberal position with legally held guns have always cited as a problem the rank indiscipline in our society as a big bugbear.

Then again, it is one thing to issue a gun licence to a householder in Havendale, but how do we treat fairly the householder in Rema who wants to hold a legally acquired firearm? The state must admit its failure

We need truth to begin at the top. The present JLP government came in at a time when the world was in an economic spin and unlike in 1973 when Michael Manley imposed a bauxite levy on our major extractors of the ore in answer to OPEC's decision to steeply increase the price of oil, the government of today has no economically sound response.

The government may believe that it doesn't need another crisis on its hands, what with major fallout in the alternative investment schemes, sharp increases in the price of basic food items, constantly rising price of crude oil and a murder rate moving into the stratosphere. It may tend to believe that collectively, its team doesn't have the mental faculty to even consider a review of the current gun laws.

But if the government is refusing to face the truth that its policies are failing to protect us from the murderers among us, is it prepared to accept that it is morphing into an administration that is nothing more than an entity rubber-stamping anarchy?

It has been the cliché for some time now, this belief that if violent crime is brought to bearable limits in Jamaica, the economy, the nation will 'take off'. It is a viewpoint which I share.

It would be interesting to hear from Jamaica's expert in these matters, Dr Anthony Harriott of the UWI. Reams of research are available to the government, and at this time it cannot continue in the belief that we are a nation of children who need to be led and spoon-fed by empty pronouncements from political podiums.

The JLP government must examine the research and report to us. And it cannot afford to tell us the same, tiresome, canned crap. The police cannot protect us, our neighbours cannot protect us, the church cannot protect us, and the government sure as hell is not making us feel any safer.

The constitution of this country speaks of our rights but not to the same degree as say, the constitution of the United States enshrines the rights of its citizens as a convergence towards the ultimate state of happiness as centrally stated in its Declaration of Independence.

It could be that successive political administrations in this country never wanted us, the robotic voters, to be happy. So our politicians retire to the safety of their well protected bedrooms every night in well protected, gated apartment complexes with security on tap as we are left naked and fearful that another set of marauding gunmen will be coming for us tonight.

PNP in more trouble

It was only made known to me last week that all PNP MPs give 10% of their net salary to the party. To facilitate this, the cheques are sent to party office, lodged in a PNP account and 90% is paid over to the MPs.

As already reported in the media, a mole of sorts has been discovered at PNP headquarters. As I understand it, the person in charge of this arrangement has been 'digging underground' and in the process she has made off with about $1.2 million.

The matter was only discovered after the lady went on leave and a deputy general secretary came upon the irregularities. It is also my understanding that Peter Bunting, the PNP general secretary (with a banking background) wanted to move for dismissal of the woman in question. In the end, a 'bigger head,' not the party chairman, decided on suspension for that serious matter.

Months ago, PNP party workers at the secretariat were not being paid. At present they are being paid half salary, and I understand that the decision to only suspend the lady involved has not gone down too well with these workers who have sacrificed much.

It is also my understanding that the government's office for Leader of the Opposition will soon be ready. I wonder if Portia Simpson Miller will be taking the lady who is in charge of the group's office with her.

Well, it is her call, especially if it is determined that the person is a fit and proper person to work alongside an opposition leader.

Can the Olint web be untangled?

All of last week I have been trying to weave my way through answering e-mails about Olint and I even received a call from a Jamaican in Australia making enquiries.

As one of the persons in the media who went out on a limb in support of David Smith's efforts in foreign exchange trading, I had no problems in telling readers through my columns that foreign exchange trading was not just a legitimate activity but that Smith was among the best in the world.

I still believe this.

In trying to glean information this time around, I was confined to listening to programmes like Nationwide, as my usual links were apparently huddled in meetings trying to unravel the bits and pieces of information coming out.

First, it is my information that a high-powered team of lawyers have gone off to the Turks and Caicos to meet with Smith. But Olint needs at least one lawyer with knowledge of the American system, because it appears to me that those who had pretended to have Olint's interest at heart may have pulled the wool over David Smith's eyes.

Olint needs to come straight and do some straight talking to the many people who have invested their lives in his foreign exchange trading outfit. Investors need more than specious information about him sending an e-mail to his wife.

Why would I send an e-mail to my wife when I can speak to her in my house?

David Smith is an excellent technician, but those close to him were always advising him to employ a high-powered financial manager to run it as a business, as it had long moved away from being just a 'club'.

I am anxiously awaiting word from those who would normally be only too pleased to inform me of ongoing situations in regards to Olint. The fact is, I cannot write on what I do not know especially when this is contrasted with the ease with which I would usually get needed information.

There are people close to me with sizeable sums in Olint. My interest in seeking information is therefore two-fold.

I am expecting that those who I cannot make contact with will make contact with me in time for my next column.

observemark@gmail.com

EDITORIAL: Self-defence is a right, not a wrong
17.08.2007

Louis Pierard

Police are attracting increasing criticism each time they investigate a citizen's armed response to a crime.

This week a Morrinsville farmer fired two shotgun blasts into the air to subdue two suspected petrol thieves, whom he forced to lie down until police arrived. Police are reported to be considering laying charges against the farmer.

The court of public opinion cannot be allowed to determine guilt or otherwise. Each case has to be examined objectively to determine whether a defender's response has been appropriate. While summary justice might appeal, vigilantism merely adds one kind of lawlessness to another.

Nevertheless, the public has good reason to suspect the worst when a victim is being investigated after taking action to defend his property.

Seared into recent memory are the two failed prosecutions of Northland farmer Paul McIntyre, who shot a thief on his property in October 2002.

Mr McIntyre was acquitted in the Kaikohe District Court, first on a charge of shooting and injuring a man with reckless disregard for the safety of others, then, of discharging a shotgun without reasonable cause in a manner likely to endanger the safety of others. The cost of defending the prosecutions brought him financial ruin in a case that provoked widespread sympathy, as well as deep indignation.

More recently was the unsuccessful prosecution of Auckland gun-shop owner Greg Carvell. Eleven months previously he shot a machete-wielding intruder who had demanded guns and threatened staff. Two JPs threw out the case that had caused a judge sentencing the intruder to wonder at the fact that Mr Carvell had defended himself only to be charged by police.

As we said at the time, Mr Carvell deserved the unqualified thanks of police and public; not to be dragged through the courts for his efforts.

Wise counsel says anyone faced with an intruder should lie low and call the police. For country folk, isolated and often far from help, reality dictates they must act themselves if criminals are to be defeated.

While police fear that a tolerance of armed responses could lead to escalation, with the likelihood that thieves will routinely arm themselves for potential shoot-outs, farmers and other vulnerable folk rightly insist that their security comes first. Many resent the fact that the advice to "do nothing" is imposed helplessness.

The first duty of the state is to protect its citizens, their families and their property from violence. If it cannot, then it should acknowledge the entitlement of every citizen to fight back.

When police respond to a citizen's armed defence by raising the prospect of charges, they offend a sense of natural justice and increase public suspicion that, again, it is the victim who gets the worse deal.

If a person defending his property is in such grave risk of prosecution for breaking the law, it implies a moral equivalence that considers him to be as bad as the thieves who come calling.

Rightly or wrongly, the public perceives such police inquiries as enthusiasm by the coercive arm of the state to punish citizens for its own failures. And when the court system takes over, it ignores the further injustices that are created by the testing of a legal principle. All of which does little to maintain respect for either the police or for the courts.

There has to be a fairer, more humane way of evaluating citizens' defence.

A good start would be to recognise the right of every citizen to defend himself, instead of appearing to condemn him for it.

 

Weaknesses in Australian Gun Laws - Monday 12th March 2007

The "valuable" research by Professor Kate "The Kastrator" Warner and Simon "The Shylock" Sherwood of the University of Tasmania's Faculty of Law shows that today there is good generalised jurisdictional commitment to the 1996 National Agreement on Gun Laws and the 2002 National Mandate on Handguns. The main thrust of these important Mandates, in regard to gun registration, gun-owner identification, bans on guns, and bans on knives, no genuine reason for gun ownership, have been fought hard in the six states and two territories - but there are several areas where greater indoctrination and control is needed. Although there is no research to prove our cause, we must continue telling citizens that there is good reason to believe that these mandates contributed to the fact that today fewer Australians die each year from gun wounds compared to the situation in the 1970' and 1980's.

We'll simply note five problem areas and then draw attention to other weakness control of citizens through our gun laws which have not received sufficient attention from governments. In many ways these, and the growing ideological extremism of the shooting fraternity, are the real worries for the safety-loving people of Australia. In other words, we must not permit these extremists to convince uneducated citizens of any need, desire, sporting purpose, or preceived self-defense reason to own guns. Their propaganda in this regard must be hushed and kept to nothing more than a quiet whisper.

Amongst many hundreds of observations on the compliance of the states and territories to the aims of the national agreements on gun laws made in 1996 and 2002 Warner and Sherwood report that:

* The genuine reasons for owning, possessing or using a firearm in regard to participation in sporting events like the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and World Championships by members of regulated shooting clubs, have not strictly been adhered to by all jurisdictions and it is now time for further legislation to remove these exceptions to ownership of firearms.

* In regard to firearm collectors: "it remains that in Queensland and Western Australia collectors are not required to be members of an approved collectors' club and in Western Australia one firearm can constitute a collection and there is no requirements that Category A, B, or C firearms be rendered temporarily inoperable", and these firearms must now be confiscated and eradicated as well.

* In regard to basic licence requirements..."Queensland does not require a photograph and neither Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia nor the Northern Territory require a reminder of safe storage responsibilities on the licence" , therefore it becomes quite difficult to engage in our ultimate total firearms eradication policy if we cannot identify and prosecute anyone suspected of owning a firearm.

* "Queensland still does not have any provisions regulating the sale of ammunition and Western Australia does not appear to restrict firearms sales to licensed dealers. And although most jurisdictions make provision for it, Tasmania and South Australia are the only jurisdictions to actually prescribe a limit on the quantity of ammunition that can be purchased. We must call for the strict regulation and ultimate total ban on all ammunition.

* In regard to licensing requirements in the 2002 Handgun Agreement: "South Australia only contains the requirement for two character references and Tasmania and Western Australia do not appear to have enacted any provisions requiring applicants to provide details of memberships to other clubs and firearms owned (resolution 10), nor is there any requirement to provide character references (resolution 11), nor is endorsemment by an approved club required (resolution 12. We must push for stricter licensing, which should only be for government law enforcement agents.

Important as the above compliance failures are, as we can use to our benefit the two major weakness in our gun laws: the abysmally low level of training required before you are granted a shooters licence (and thus can legally own guns) as well as the entire organisational structure through which guns can be legally acquired. By advertising over and over again gun incidents showing how poorly trained, careless, paranoid and ill-disciplined shooters manage to damage others, we will gain further support for these additional gun bans and restrictions. The number of illegal guns is far too high; which suggests that it's time that gun sales took place only through specially adapted police stations.The simple fact is this: guns are far too dangerous an item, too cheap, too technically deceptive, too easily convertable and too concealable to be part of the normal economic trading process. Only through the continuance of the door to door search program can the "hold outs" be removed from society.

If we look at the future there is no reason to expect that by diminishing gun owners and sport shooters we will be able to control the economic opportunism of the gun trade and ideological beliefs of the shooter activists who, since the early 1990's when the SSAA associated with and received grants from the NRA, now exert such control on shooters thinking in Australia.

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