It is not very often that I happen to be in the wrong place at the right time to be able to witness history unfolding but he we go.
Yesterday afternoon, I was walking back through the city after I'd delivered some documents to a client of ours (because it was quicker and cheaper than hiring a courier), when I happened to be passed by two policemen who were directing people to:
"Stand aside and walk away if you can."
I then noticed some miscreant walking down the street shouting obscenities, running over the top of the traffic in the street, and he was being tailed very quickly by two more policemen. It later came out that he was finally apprehended by four chaps, who were armed with a chair and a milk crate, and held him until police arrested him.
I didn't think much of it until I'd got back to the office in Mosman and found out that this malfeasant wingnut had already stabbed three people in the street, and before that he'd stabbed someone to death in an apartment on Clarence St.
I have to say that the NSW Police acted professionally and calmly and more than upheld their duty of care to the public by issuing direct and simple instructions. The people of Sydney who were mostly bemused and even amused, also acted calmly and sensibly. For my own efforts, I courageously acted like a total coward and stood behind some bins while the carrying on was going down the street.
Apart from the lady who had been stabbed to death in the apartment, which looks more like a domestic violence dispute more than anything, the number of people who were killed out in the street in this was Zero.
I make mention of this because it wasn't far from here that the Lindt Cafe Siege took place and less than a fortnight ago, 31 people were killed in mass shootings in the United States of America. The number of people killed in Sydney yesterday in a mass shooting was zero... because there wasn't a mass shooting.
And that is the only point here.
I don't care what your political stripe is in the United States, I don't care about what Trump said, I don't care how you want to frame your argument against this, the truth is that I walked down the street yesterday, and there was a madman with a knife and he didn't kill anyone on the street.
Had this been in America though, he would have had free and easy access to guns, and even had a Second Amendment right to them, and as a result, would have had the ready means to kill a dozen people in rapid succession.
Whatever your argument is about carrying a weapon for defence, it is bunk.
I was able to defend myself against a madman with the knife by being on the other side of the street and sixty feet away. Had he had a gun, that would have not been possible.
Whatever your argument is about wanting a gun to defend against a tyrannical government, it also bunk. If you think that you can rise up against a proper mechanised army in the twenty-first century with nothing more than small arms, then you are seriously delusional. On that note, although we have unkind government, we still have the power to fire them through the ballot box. Whatever other designs that you might have about supposedly wanting a gun to protect your family because as the domestic violence incident resulting in death, which preceded this stabbing event proved yet again, the people who most need to be protected against your gun are the people in your own family.
It is probably due to my Christian convictions that I have a somewhat distrust of human nature. My base assumption is that people are selfish and stupid and will often do selfish and stupid things. Every bad thing that happens in the world can be attributable to either the outworking of selfishness, stupidity, or accident, which to be fair is often also the outworking of selfishness and stupidity.
Given that I think that people have such base abilities, the pragmatist in me says that the best way to limit harm, is to prevent selfishness, stupidity, and accident from occasioning death.
To that end, a gun has only one purpose, to shoot things. If it does not shoot things, then it fails in its only purpose. When you allow selfish and stupid people to have access to guns, they will tend to use them. If you then couple that with other social problems, such as lack of employment, lack of basic health care, lack of basic services like justice, police that care, and/or fundamental inputs like clean drinking water and sanitation, then you should expect to see more desperate people. Desperate people have a tendency to do desperate things, and that means more selfishness and stupidity occasioning death. Guns make that outcome more efficient.
The United States, which styles itself as the greatest democracy in the world (despite having lobbyists with more actual power than voters at the ballot box), has enshrined in its Constitution, the Second Amendment which contains the right to bear arms. The only logical outworking of this, in the light of the government having a mechanised army, is that the people will tend to use their guns on themselves, in more cases of selfishness and stupidity occasioning death in an efficient manner.
I love the fact that in this country, we don't need to be a bunch of paranoid idiots living under some delusional power fantasy which is manifested through firearms. Instead, although we still have selfish and stupid people who are sometimes prone to exact violence on other people, they are more likely to be subdued by ordinary people without it costing multiple lives. The whole 'good guy with a gun' argument is tragically stupid and as we've shown, the 'good guy with a milk crate', is far more heroic.
The argument that if you take away all the guns, then the only people left who will have guns, are criminals. Guess what? As this is Australia, because access to getting guns is limited, then this prize wingnut didn't have any. If the criminals don't have guns in the first place, then you don't need one to defend yourself against them. We proved that empathically in Sydney yesterday.
The lady who was stabbed to death in the apartment, still died and that's a tragedy. There will still be a grieving family and a hole in people's lives as a result of the actions of this murderous knave. However, there aren't two dozen such tragedies simultaneously, and that is testament to the fact that better laws limits harm.