What role do firearms play in a free and enlightened society? Should citizens reserve the right to defend themselves, and their property, against external aggression (i.e. foreign invasion, domestic tyranny, or the criminal element)? How do we account for the public safety issues that firearms inevitably present? Would reducing, or abolishing, private gun ownership solve a large cross-section of violent crime? Are guns even the proper issue to discuss when analyzing violent crime? And what are the roles of mental health, economic inequality, cultural heritage, and media/entertainment influences in the larger conversation?
The first rudimentary firearms were the Chinese “Hand Cannons” of the mid 13th century. They could fire single shots at close distances with poor accuracy (due to the varying efficacy of the gunpowder, the size differential of the shot compared to the barrel, and the weather in which it was used). Today the fully automatic AK-47 is still considered to be one, if not the, deadliest weapon on the planet and is capable of firing 100 rounds per minute (in bursts) with relative accuracy in a 300-yard range. The ever-evolving proliferation of firearms, over the past 750 years, has made and broke empires, governments, and armies regardless of geographic location, prestige, or relative power. Firearms are also the base unit upon which the “monopoly of power” is exercised by the state over a given citizenry. They are small, powerful, portable, durable, intimidating, and most of all effective. When looking at some basic firearm statistics we find that: there are approximately 1 billion guns owned worldwide (857 million of which are in civilian hands), approximately a quarter million annual firearm deaths globally (a sizable minority of which are suicides), and that every year 8 million more guns are produced along with 15 billion rounds of ammunition.
In the United States of America firearm ownership is a socio-cultural reality and is enshrined within their Constitution as a 2nd Amendment right (interestingly this is also the case in Guatemala and Mexico). In Canada, firearms are considered a privilege that requires training, a screening process, and cool off period. In Japan, firearms are essentially illegal and only through a vigorous testing regime can one legally obtain the privilege to own or shoot a firearm. Some places, like Australia, have pursued aggressive “buy back” programs with seemingly tangible results in regards to public safety. But, on the whole, most countries worldwide permit some form of firearm ownership for their citizens but the details about storage, type of gun, the rationale for ownership, and personal registration vary widely from nation to nation
Firearms can be used for home defence, committing a homicide, sport hunting, coercing compliance, protecting your country, enforcing the laws in your country, or simply shooting empty cans off a fence post. And in this issue we look at the myriad of opinions on gun control and their role in a free society. Please note the absence of an “anti-gun” organization in our interview section. We tried, up until the very last minute, to incorporate an organization that would be willing to answer questions for us but we unfortunately received no responses (despite attempting to speak with at least 20 different organizations). We would be completely willing to re-issue this publication if some organizations that favour gun control regulations would be prepared to speak with us.