President Barack Obama today issued executive orders to urgently limit gun violence. Obama’s self proclaimed ‘common sense gun safety measures’ aims to reduce gun related fatalities. In light of this we spoke to Gun rights advocate and attorney, David Kopel, about why Americans are adamant about their civil right to bear arms.
“One thing that foreigners often do not understand about the US is the deep and enduring connection between firearms and lawful self-governance. The American attachment to firearms is not solely a vestige of the frontier experience.”
This is the importance of America’s gun laws, according to David Kopel, an author, attorney and advocate for Americans to keep their guns.
Gun control has become one of the most controversial topics in Western media in the last decade, not least because of the US' popular argument that access to firearms is their right, a claim that has caused controversy in many countries that have watched a seemingly endless stream of publicised mass shootings and homicides in America.
However, Kopel, who is also a Research Director at the Independence Institute of Golden, Colorado and Associate Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute, explained to the International Business Times AU that America’s attachment to their right to bear arms runs much deeper.
Kopel explained that the urge to keep The Second Amendment is a deep connection that Americans have to their sense of freedom, arising from a historic connection that the US draws between their citizen’s freedom and rights, and the governing bodies who tried to suppress that.
The most compelling example of this history that Kopel described can be found in former slaves being allowed to keep firearms in their residences after gun laws were instilled following the Civil War.
The Ku Klux Klan, America’s first domestic terrorist organisation and first gun control organisation, would raid former slaves’ homes to take away their guns, which were their only way of self defence. The government-mandated amendments allowed individuals to keep their firearms and effectively fight off racial persecution and tyranny in America.
Kopel makes it clear that American citizens fear oppression and subjugation deeply, and reasoned that “the perpetrators of genocide always attempt to disarm the intended victims beforehand.”
“Disarmament does not always lead to genocide, but genocide is always preceded by disarmament,” he added.
When asked what he thinks about background checks, an issue of frustration for supporters of gun control, Kopel said he “is not against them.” In fact, Kopel supports background checks that are “well structured” and only rebuffs checks that do little for American citizens.
Kopel’s arguments may not move the average Australian, who grew up in a gun culture and environment that is palpably different from America’s. Australia is in general anti-gun after the implementation of gun control measures in 1996, which effectively eradicated mass shootings, and led many figures such as President Barack Obama and John Oliver to use Australia as an example in promoting stricter gun laws.
Although it is almost unanimously agreed upon in Australia that gun laws are effective and positive in our instance, Kopel believes “it is it is fanciful to imagine that Americans would imitate their Australian or English cousins by registering their guns.”
When quizzed on his opinion of Australian citizens’ safety with our current gun laws, Kopel said this signified a trust in the government.
“When the people of a nation voluntarily surrender their arms, they are making a long-term bet that the government which rules them will never become tyrannical and murderous.”
He also described why Americans are seemingly becoming more and more obsessed with guns, saying: “the more that politicians talk about banning and confiscating guns, the more Americans buy.”