The liberal democratic party and guns

I’ve been having a look through the policies of the LDP essentially the Australian libertarian party. While I certainly disagree with some of their policies, I could say the same about most other Australian political parties. From my perspective I’m not sure whether they are further away from my positions than either of the two major parties. On most things I don’t disagree with the directions (social and economic liberalism) but am less certain of the positions. I would advocate a gradualist approach seeing how various steps turn out before liberalising further.

While I am not surprised they advocate looser gun laws, I am a little a little surprised by this section:.

There is copious evidence to show that, where gun ownership is high, crime involving actual or threatened violence is reduced. Conversely, when gun ownership is reduced, violent crime increases. Australia’s experience since 1996 and the UK since 1997 are clear confirmation of the latter point.

Now as I understand it while there appears to be little evidence to support the thesis that tightening guns laws reduces crime, conversely it appears to be the same with more relaxed gun laws not decreasing crime either. So why I don’t accept there is “copious evidence” for their statement I accept this is an arguable position. The last sentence however regarding Australia post 1996 is just plain false. The statements by the NSW statistician last year tells this story for NSW.

I would need to see more convincing evidence than there is to be able to say that gun laws have had any effect,” Dr Weatherburn said. “The best that could be said for the tougher laws is there has been no other mass killing using firearms [since Port Arthur].

“There has been a drop in firearm-related crime, particularly in homicide, but it began long before the new laws and has continued on afterwards. I don’t think anyone really understands why. A lot of people assume that the tougher laws did it, but I would need more specific, convincing evidence …


If we look at the ABS report for Australia, the story is similar, homicides both in number and rate have declined, as has attempted murder. Robbery, has fallen across the board. Robbery with a firearm falling more than unarmed, although it should be noted that this rose to almost double in the years 1996-2001 before falling back again. Its pretty easy to see then that these trends were not related to gun control which were not relaxed again in 2001. Rather they support the thesis that the gun laws have little effect either way.
This is enough to argue for relaxed gun laws as if there is no real effect on crime why be so restrictive. I think would be a much firmer basis for the LDP’s position.

It seems that the only category of crime that tight guns laws might protect us from is the mass shooting kind where someone goes crazy and has an easily available weapon to bang away at passers by. Is that alone enough to justify the restrictions? Suicides by gun also declined over the period and faster than the overall rate, indicating it may have had a real effect there. Firearm accidents are also down, but I find that a less compelling reason. A backyard swimming pool also increases the risk of accidental death in the family but is hardly a reason to ban them.

I don’t buy the self defence argument for guns, while you may feel much safer I don’t think you actually are and anyone who doesn’t own one certainly is less safe, most likely the increased deterrence effect roughly matches the increased overall risk by the ease of acquiring one. I also don’t think that guns are the central issue of political freedom that this quote from the LDP policy indicates:

Ownership of firearms is also the only practical means by which the people can retain any semblance of ensuring that governments remain their servants and not vice versa. Although the ballot box and peaceful protest will always be the preferred means of removing unsatisfactory governments, history is full of examples where those options were denied.

That governments may sometimes, in extreme circumstances, need to be violently overthrown is no argument for a permanantly armed citizenship. History as also shown that the citizens will find ways to acheive this if they want it, and Iraq has shown us that citizens with a broad gun ownership may still be unable to remove a tyrant.

Still shooting and hunting are legitimate sports and there are other professional uses on farms etc, and I don’t think these should be overly restricted and there probably is room for relaxing the laws in some situations. Another situation of where I think the direction they want to take things is acceptable but a gradualist approach I would prefer, it would be good though if they could mount a correct argument.

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18 Responses to The liberal democratic party and guns

  1. yobbo says:

    Steve: One of the founding principles of the LDP is not to temper our policies to suit the mainstream. Seeing as we will only ever be a minor party for the forseeable future, our role will be as a lobbyist to the major parties to move them towards more liberal policy.

    So the idea is: start from an absolutist position and negotiate from there. Not saying that we don’t believe in our policies, because we do, but since we are never going to be in a position to form government there is no reason to sacrifice principles for votes.

    As far as gun laws go, I would put forward the theory that more liberal gun laws reduce the chance of common assault. In the year I spent in America I never saw a fistfight in a bar – who would king hit someone who might be armed? It would be pretty stupid.

    And the point really isn’t whether gun laws decrease crime or not: The point is that people who are too weak to defend themselves physically (especially women or the aged) have a chance to defend themselves if they are armed, whereas if guns are banned they are basically easy pickings.

  2. Steve says:

    Yobbo,

    I think not tempering your policies is a good thing and it comes accross in the policy document, so even if I disagree with parts of it, its refreshing compared with the sorts of tempered things most other parties say. The LDP, if it appears on any ballot paper has a good chance of getting my first preference as it will hopefully signal to the major parties a direction for their policies that has been difficult to signal in the past.

  3. Sacha says:

    I’m a fan of socially liberal policies and I think that a lot of inner-city folk (amongst others) are as well.

  4. Steve says:

    Sacha, yes I think that is true. I think its a flaw however of a lot of left wing thinking to not realise that economic liberalism and social liberalism are coupled large extent. The economic part of our life is huge. There is no dividing line between the two, economic interactions make up a big portion of our lives (working shopping etc) and are to a large extent social.

  5. Sacha says:

    An example of this is cafe culture perhaps? It relies on people being social (and wanting to see and be seen at cafes) and people willing to work when these people want to be social. It’d be difficult to run a non-CBD cafe on a strictly 9-5 mon-fri basis – I think that CBD cafes often open around 7:30 am in any event.

    Steve, Ross Cameron (former federal Lib MP for Parramatta) said something quite similar on a current affairs show.

  6. yobbo says:

    Steve: Unfortunately it’s unlikely you’ll get that chance if you don’t join up. We still require members to obtain federal registration so if you want to have a chance to preference us, you should sign a membership form.

    You don’t have to remain a member forever.

  7. Sacha says:

    Sorry yobbo, I don’t understand – are you saying that it’s unlikely the LDP will run in elections and the only way to vote on its policies is to join it and contribute to internal policy formation? 🙂

    Steve, a lot of what I’ve seen of “left” economic ideas appears pretty unsatisfactory – there doesn’t seem to be enough thinking. Many years ago I would have called myself a lefty, but I’m much more sceptical now.

  8. Steve says:

    No he’s saying that they need some membership requirement, to register federally as a party.

    Federal party requirements appear to be:

    *Having a satisfactory name;
    * Having at least one Commonwealth Parliamentarian who is not a member of another party, or at least 500 members who are eligible to enrol on the Commonwealth electoral roll and who are not also relied upon by another party for registration purposes.

  9. Sacha says:

    Of course! *Duh*

    Ah, the magic 500 mark…. good luck with it – I think there should be a wide variety of policy platforms to vote for…

  10. Steve says:

    Sacha,

    I approximately agree about the left economic ideas. I do however still hold that inequality matters somewhat, but more particularly inequality of opportunity matters a lot. It seems that government intervention to insure decent health care and and education is available to everyone is a requirement for this. Obviously there can be good and bad ways of delivery of this and I am prepared to keep an open mind about this.

    Thus I think I still have left wing goals, but see markets as, in general, a better way of acheiving those goals than some of the approaches the left seems to be still very attached to (eg. minimum wages). I think its likely that we are better off structuring something like a negative income tax to acheive the goal of ensuring that worst paid have enough to live on than trying to crank up the minimum wage.

  11. yobbo says:

    Yeah, we are still chasing the 500 members we need for federal registration (the party is currently only registered in the ACT), and also people who are willing to run as candidates.

  12. Sacha says:

    Yobbo, does the ACT require fewer members than the Commonwealth?

  13. yobbo says:

    Yeah, I think when JH registered the party there he only needed 100 signatures. It may have changed now, the party was registered in the ACT in 2001, and John Humphreys ran himself as a candidate and I think outpolled all the other minor parties in his electorate.

  14. John Humphreys says:

    Yep — only needed 100 in ACT.

    Been registered there since 2001, stood in two elections getting 1 and 1.3% of the vote, which was more than the micro parties, but not more than the Greens or Dems (though I beat the Dem candidate in my seat in 2004).

    Nearly at the 500 mark, but just need Steve and Sacha to join… 😉

  15. fatfingers says:

    Steve, I’ve never visited your blog before, and after perusing a couple of posts, I’m starting to wonder why not. This one, for example, almost exactly mirrors my sentiments on the matters of the LDP and gun laws, but is expressed much better than any attempt of mine. Thanks!

    Maybe I should go to the Mark B. booze-up, and we can chat about being centrist incrementalists in a mainly radical social-engineering-proposing blogosphere. 😉

  16. […] Despite quoting Don Weatherburn, the NSW statistician, at the end of the article, they fail to mention that he had come to pretty much the same conclusion in a statement he made almost exactly a year ago, which I referred to in an earlier piece on guns. I would need to see more convincing evidence than there is to be able to say that gun laws have had any effect,” Dr Weatherburn said. “The best that could be said for the tougher laws is there has been no other mass killing using firearms [since Port Arthur]. […]

  17. Chris Marshall says:

    But that cannot be attributed to the current laws, all it can possibly be attributed to is the fact that no other nutter has happened to decide to take out 30 or so people.

    For all we know, that may well be due to anything from weather to al-Qaeda providing such people an outlet.

    The real point is that statistical correlations are irrelevant as no one has shown that gun laws actually prevent criminals acquiring firearms. Exactly how restrictions on legally registered firearms owned by law abiding citizens prevents people smuggling automatic weapons into the country is a question no one seems willing, or able to answer. Can these laws stop someone stealing ADF weapons? Evidently not, as the theft of the F1 SRAAW’s shows.

  18. Kim says:

    The LDP has lost me on the guns stance. It’s like all organisations that don’t temper their policies; a pointless echo chamber filled with fundamentalists.

    The argument that the gun buyback hasn’t caused a drop in gun-deaths is fairly weak. Here’s a quote from this article: http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/gun-deaths-in-rapid-decline-since-buyback/2006/12/13/1165685752421.html

    “The director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics, Dr Don Weatherburn, said that while the two papers might seem to be in conflict, they were not.

    “Both found that the rate of gun suicide declined faster after the gun buyback and neither found any significant difference in the rate of decline in gun homicide before and after the gun buyback,” he said.

    “The Chapman paper points out that there has been no mass shooting since the gun buyback. The earlier paper should have mentioned this, but didn’t.

    “The results on gun suicide and mass shootings are enough reason to be very cautious about reducing the restrictions on gun ownership.””

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