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“Australian perspective on freedom and guns”
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“Australian perspective on freedom and guns”

Jake Elson

A debate on gun control prompts Jake Elson, 21, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Bunbury in Australia, to examine Australia’s stance on individual freedom. 

Is Australia a free country? According to Tucker Carlson, the answer is no.

In a debate on gun control (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM7jxfxjphk), Mr. Carlson made the claim, when Australia’s successful gun control was mentioned, that Australians can be put in jail for putting forward an unpopular opinion.

Fortunately, this claim is not true. If it were, Australian prisons would be clogged with journalists, right wingers wouldn’t have the gall to accuse the Australian Broadcasting Corporation of bias (likewise with left wingers and NewsCorp), and politicians would almost never take criticism on the chin. It is a real shame that, in attempting to justify his point of view, a respected political commentator has to make a claim that even a grade three student would know isn’t true.

Australia has no Bill of Rights. Only the rights to vote, trial by jury, protection from unjust compulsory purchase, nationalism and freedom of religion are protected. Yet the country is regarded as one of the freest nations on earth. Though freedom of speech may only be an implied right [David Lange v ABC], it is long-entrenched in Australia’s social fabric [ACT Pty Ltd v Commonwealth], so much so that if what Mr. Carlson claims were to occur, the outcry from the public (and more so the media) would cause a political earthquake bigger than the Eureka Rebellion.

If anything is close to Mr. Carlson’s claims it is Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. The section may at times stifle freedom of speech, but the idea of the section is to protect freedom of dignity: that no person should have their dignity besmirched on grounds of race, religion, gender or disability. For Australians, it has become a widely held belief that freedom of speech does not cover selfish individuals wishing to make others’ lives miserable by vilifying them.

Still, even with such a clause, Australia’s Press Freedom rankings are respectable. When it comes to press freedom, Reporters Without Borders 2015 survey ranks Australia at 25th in the world. USA languishes at 49th. Rating overall freedom, the Cato Institute ranks Australia in the top ten, while America has slipped from 17th to 20th in a space of seven years. In short, Australia is one of the freest countries on earth.

It’s rather ironic that Mr. Carlson brings Australia’s status as a free country into a debate about gun control. Many gun rights supporters claim that gun control is a violation of individual rights. But should gun ownership on the scale of the United States be considered an individual freedom? It’s suggested the freedom to own guns causes the reduction in both the freedom of safety and freedom of fear. Some would say that it is a selfish freedom, one maintained by the suffering of others.

However, it must be remembered that individual freedom is the crux of liberty. The right to self determination on one person’s terms alone in the pursuit of happiness is humanity’s ultimate right. Yet this right for someone to bear arms is hurting America’s back pocket. The social costs and damage are far too high. A study conducted by Mother Jones found the annual cost of gun violence is $229 billion.  In comparison, Apple’s average revenue is $174 billion. This is not to mention the cost for the victims. As medical costs are not covered by the state, it is common for the bill to be in the thousands.

All this should be a stark reminder to all Australians as to why gun control laws were introduced. The Port Arthur massacre, in which a gunman killed 38 people at a tourist site in Tasmania using sub machine guns, appalled the nation. This only came six weeks after the Dunblane massacre. After a decade of serious massacres and gangland warfare incidents, many had had enough. A government buy-back scheme was enacted, in which over one million firearms were sold to the government for destruction. Some of the world’s strictest screening and sale laws were introduced. Twenty years later, the change is visible. The death rate from firearms dropped considerably (now 1 per 100,000), as did the use of guns for criminal purposes.

Tucker Carson may criticise Australia for having no freedom. But what is freedom without “pith o’ sense or pride o’ worth”, to quote Robert Burns? Dignity is the one virtue of freedom that should never be besmirched, neither by the selfish nor by fear. Australia has developed a system of freedom which individualism and dignity of others coexist, sometimes with friction, but most times harmoniously. Without the need for guns, it is a freedom of which Australians can be proud.

photo credit: Smith & Wesson 639 9mm Pistol via photopin (license)

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About me:

I am a history buff, but also am into soccer. I referee soccer, and would like to go FIFA one day.  I’m currently studying politics and international relations at Edith Cowan University. My aim is to become a police officer in Western Australia, and I would like to be Prime Minister one day.

I am a Conservative and a Monarchist, and believe in the role of the Commonwealth as a tool for good.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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