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Rok Stupar
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The following theme is most likely to find you, the reader, with a strong opinion. I don't intend to change anyone's beliefs but would like to express mine. Firearms, or guns, as they are more commonly referred to, tend to provoke strong emotional reactions, mostly from people that disapprove of them. My position here is simple: I like guns. I have liked them since I was a little boy, running round with a toy rifle my father made for me for when we played 'partisans and Germans' or 'cowboys and Indians' or 'cops and robbers'. I admired how firearms looked, how precisely they were made and how they fitted in one's hand before realising they were primarily designed to kill.

How can you like a weapon?

How can you approve of them or go to a fair where they sell such 'tools of death'? It is all about realising what the world in which we live is like. A long time ago our technology oriented civilisation brought us to the point where weapons were necessary. Different arms have been invented through history and history itself has been made with them. Indeed civilisation needs arms to exist. I won't try to prove this thesis but no state seems to be declaring complete disarmament just yet. Weapons have always had negative and positive connotations. They are good for those who used them to defend themselves or successfully fight against oppression and bad for those that the weapons are brutally used against. There are many sayings about guns, here are just three: 'God created men, guns made them equal', 'There are no good or bad guns, there are just good and bad people. A gun in the hands of a bad man is a threat to everyone but a gun in the hands of a good man is no threat to anyone, except the bad' and 'Guns don't kill, people do'. They are all 'pro gun' arguments that can be challenged. So, who knows if someone is good or bad, better to ban all weapons and solve the problem. The sad truth is that banning weapons will only keep them from the hands of the law abiding or 'good' people. This is because of the technological state of our civilisation. Ordinary firearms are by contemporary standards terribly archaic contraptions. Most guns that expel inert projectiles with pressure created by burning propellant powder and are considered 'modern' or 'state of the art', are still functioning on principles discovered a few hundred years ago and perfected more than a century ago. In fact some firearm designs that were conceived and manufactured at the beginning of the past century are still in production today.

So every firearms enthusiast is actually into antiques...

Modern guns can be purchased illegally by anyone, no government can efficiently prevent it. And even if it could, firearms are simple enough that they can be made by anyone with a moderate technical knowledge. Arms - or a right to possess personal arms has been, and still is, related to freedom in the basic sense of the word. Enslaved peoples or individuals were never allowed to have weapons since these were a means of resistance to their masters. Free peoples and individuals carried arms to show that they were in fact free men and women and intend to stay that way. The 'armed citizen' principle may not be too popular or seem necessary nowadays with democratic governments in power, but history teaches us otherwise and some of the more stable countries still practice it, Switzerland being the most obvious example. In this manner, government clearly demonstrates it has no fear of its own people standing against it.

This doesn't mean that guns should be readily available to anyone. Every government has a responsibility to minimize the misuse of any technology, firearms being just one example. Restriction of firearms availability is therefore logical and acceptable, even to the extreme pro-gun advocates, but its extent is certainly debatable. Firearms used for target shooting, hunting and personal defence are usually released to civilian markets while offensive or 'assault' weapons aren't.

But how can you decide which is which?

All firearms can be misused, even ones made specifically for hunting or sport. Most commonly 'assault' weapons would be ones firing explosive ammunition or being capable of a fully automatic function. So if gun will only fire inert bullets and one shot at a time, repeating or semi-auto it can be purchased by a civilian. But distinctions can be blurred, differences not so obvious and looks can be deceptive.

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Not so long ago 'the public' was very concerned about assault rifles appearing in advertisements and at civilian firearms fairs. It should be clear that these guns are no more 'assault' than any other semi-automatic firearm, but their mean or military look led to bans in different countries. These bans have been lifted in most by now, only to be applied in others and history repeats itself. These authorities must have been listening to statements such as, 'civilian semi-automatic assault weapons… are arguably more deadly than military versions, because most experts agree that semi-automatic fire is more accurate - and thus more lethal - than automatic fire'. Maybe these 'experts' are aiming at loosening the restrictions on automatics, since they are so imprecise, - therefore less deadly - but I doubt it. The fact remains that any guns can be put to bad use.

So ban them all

Legally owned guns are seldom used in violent crimes, they sometimes are, but it is negligible when compared to the misuse of illegal ones. And since laws can really affect only those who abide by them, they will only directly affect the legal possession and trade in firearms. Nevertheless when guns are used in crimes (legal or not) and innocent people are killed, the public tends to demand action. Politicians don't know what to do, but realise something must be done and gun laws can always be tightened, arms banned... It will have no affect on the future criminal misuse of guns, but still - something has to be done. In fact I am wrong here, because there is at least one direct impact stricter gun laws have on firearms black markets - they make them bloom. Demand and supply. A definite rise in criminal handgun misuse took place in the UK after a complete handgun ban was introduced in 1997. When you can't own something that you like, legally, you might be tempted to acquire it otherwise. So you have people purchasing guns from dodgy dealer in dark alleys, breaking the law, who would rather buy them in legal manner. And they will be prosecuted if caught, even though they had no wish to use a gun in crime.

They must be sick to want guns in the first place...

On the other hand, when firearms ownership is not too restrictive, law abiding citizens being a majority, demand drops and the black market suffers. So even criminals find it harder to get tooled up. Whenever the firearms market is regulated in a reasonable manner, people who use, make, sell or just own guns according to the law, tend to organise gun shows, exhibitions and fairs. And while military gun fairs are designed for governments that buy and sell arms actually intended specifically for killing people, civilian gun shows and trade fairs are there for those who use guns for other purposes or just admire them for any number of reasons. So whenever I go to a gun show I don't feel as if I'm surrounded by maniacs or weirdos. These can't be the people so called 'gun control' activists are trying to stop. With such a concentration of evil devices something should be bound to go wrong, but nothing does. Like at any other fair, people are checking out what's new, which old cannon is being passed off as new, what's the latest gimmick and what the prices are. Since sporting guns are mostly associated with outdoor activities, many things intended for camping and trecking are also for sale. There are fairs specialising in antique and collectors' firearms, where old and/or rare guns can be seen and purchased. It is not unusual to see someone with two rifles on their back, still on the look out for a third... Then there are trade shows intended solely for arms manufacturers, arms dealers, retailers, gunsmiths and of course the gun press. There the newest developments are presented, prices are revealed and true experts familiar with every technical aspect of their product can be met and consulted. I would dare to guarantee no murky business is done there.

Even though I like guns, I have always considered myself a pacifist. But I am not kidding myself - if there were a referendum on making all guns disappear from the face of the earth, I would vote against it. Because it wouldn't end the bad things in the world, but it certainly would end the world as we know it.

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