Strange Politics: Gun lobby’s zealot fringe mobilises online
JUST mention gun control and every Yosemite Sam and his dog comes out with keyboards blazing, champing at the bit to teach some namby-pamby wuss a lesson in statistics.
The New South Wales Greens this week released data obtained through a freedom of information request revealing the number of legally registered firearms in each of the state's postcodes.
Someone in the latte-sipping heartland (a term critics later directed my way) of inner Sydney around La Perouse had a private cache of 302 guns; another in Mosman had 278.
Hardly a couple of knockabout cockies keeping the foxes at bay, but still two completely law-abiding citizens who happen to enjoy firearms, as far as anyone knows.
So where is the story?
According to the mobs of gun lobbyists mobilised on social media - and they are mobilised, believe me - even mentioning the existence of a gun control debate is a damnable offence.
One of my favourite bits of Twitter love had me pegged as a "p*ss stain who thinks he knows about guns and calls himself a reporter".
Another referred to "hoplophobia" - a term coined by a retired US colonel to describe an irrational aversion to weapons.
Some asked that since knife crime was more common than gun crime, should there not a government register of kitchen implements?
That argument will hold water when people start using an Adler A110 lever-action shotgun to push mashed potato onto their forks.
One of these LAFOs - Law Abiding Firearms Owners, as they call themselves - was actively campaigning to overturn the Federal Government's ban on importing the dismembered heads of lions.
By far the main and less deranged case was that these LAFOs were subject to ultra-strict storage and weapon registration laws, while an unscrupulous criminal with a mate working at the docks could pick up an illegally imported semi-automatic at the drop of a hat.
The Australian Crime Commission in 2012 assessed the illegal firearms market and found that 1500 legally registered guns were stolen or the subject of staged thefts every year.
It revealed 12% of guns on the black market were nicked, while 44% had never been surrendered or registered following the Port Arthur massacre.
Illegal importation only accounted for 0.5% of firearms traced.
However, the source of 33.5% of guns assessed could not be determined, so they could very likely have come from overseas sources.
As stringent as gun storage laws are, there were still 1500 stolen firearms falling into criminals' hands every year.
If that is not cause for alarm, what is?
The Institute of Criminology's Firearm Theft in Australia report found only 3% of guns reported stolen were then used in a crime.
But just as the gun lobby uses the figure of 33.5% of illegal firearms being of indeterminate origin to argue that they must be imported, so one might contend the low 3% figure did not mean more stolen guns were not used but never recovered or identified.
That is really what all this is about: healthy debate.
Should there be zero gun ownership in Australia? Of course not.
But the zealot fringe of the gun lobby is chipping away at laws with one end in sight - a Wild West free-for-all where they can get their mitts on any gun they want and hang elephant heads from their walls.
Keep gun laws tight and keep up the debate.
Call me a hoplophobe, but I consider my fear of being shot entirely rational. - ARM NEWSDESK