Perhaps the anti-firearms lobby just can’t help themselves

by Peter Assfalg

Put aside for a moment the sensationalist, emotive and largely inaccurate reporting by the mainstream media with respect to firearms use and misuse, which may tend to fool and/or sway the uninformed and uncommitted members of the public.

Then put aside the anthropomorphic and emotionally driven mindset of individuals who equate human rights and value systems to animals and accuse ethical hunters of ‘murdering’ animals, yet through the same logical progression fail to recognise the ‘responsibility’ of carnivores in ‘murdering’ herbivores. Also put aside the assertion that the big cats are merely behaving naturally in hunting their food, as opposed to humans who presumably were never at any historical stage behaving naturally by hunting and gathering food themselves, clearly due to the availability of shopping centres throughout history.

And put aside the moral high ground, often occupied by vegans who won’t make a commodity out of animals, but apparently don’t see a link between land being cleared for food crop production and the subsequent loss of natural habitat, which remains the greatest threat to the survival of many species.

Finally, put aside the introduction of invasive feral species, whether by accident or design, which degrade the environment and threaten native species.

Now that we have identified some of the potential motivations for the anti-firearms mindset, it begs the question, why is it so? I read an article recently which may go partway to explaining the psychology behind the irrational prejudice of the anti-firearm, anti-hunting, anti-shooting zealot and their ongoing campaign of vilification towards shooters and hunters. The article I make reference to, titled ‘How to understand both liberals and conservatives’, was written by Dr RBA Di Muccio (2015), contributing to the Centre for Vision & Values. It critiques Jonathan Haidt’s 2012 work The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, which in the United States context, refers to the moral reasoning mindsets of liberals and conservatives as the opposing viewpoints – my interpretation of the terms in the Australian context would be ‘liberal’ being ‘socially progressive’, as opposed to ‘conservatives’ being ‘morally conservative’.

Having read the article, the pro- and anti-firearm, anti-shooting, anti-hunting lobbies appear to fit relatively neatly into the moral reasoning parameters purported by Haidt. While the legitimate pro-firearms and pro-hunting adherents may be disappointed by the misguided and often incorrect assertions of the anti-firearms, anti-hunting adherents, that courtesy is not reciprocated, in that ethical hunters and shooters are often perceived as heartless villains.

Further to this is that the generous provision of facts and research to counter the often emotionally driven assertions of the anti-zealots will generally have little or no impact, but I suspect that may be the case irrespective of any firmly held belief or value system.

The overwhelming majority of licensed firearms owners meticulously comply with legislation, policy and procedures to be entitled to participate in their chosen sport or recreational activity – any non-compliance could easily result in the loss of that privilege. Equally, the overwhelming majority of hunters pride themselves on the ethical conduct of their hunts and often harvest for food the product of their labours. Regrettably, the liberal anti-shooting, anti-hunting lobby do not appear to be able to escape their moral foundations.

While Australia is a nation that prides itself on the concept of a ‘fair go’ for all, the prevailing liberal moral foundation against the legitimate shooting fraternity demonstrates that a ‘fair go’ will be virtually impossible to achieve due to an impassable mindset of some and a reluctance to accept ‘off their personal script’ facts and research.

So does this mean the shooting fraternity should throw its hands in the air and give up? Absolutely not! I urge you to follow the lead of the SSAA executive and persevere with bringing facts and respect for opponents to the discussion table, articulating the facts and correcting deliberate or accidental mistakes. I was heartened by the emailed special message from SSAA National President Geoff Jones in October 2015, ‘We don’t let lies go unchallenged,’ which needs to become the mantra for action by all SSAA members Australia-wide.

While changing the mindset of the socially progressive types appears to be ‘mission impossible’, the morally conservative types need to present a reasonable and informed voice to assist the non-committed members of society to hopefully put aside the often negative, inaccurate and hostile agenda being pursued by the antis and at least accept, if not outright support, the recreational and hunting pursuits of legitimate shooters and ethical hunters. I suspect that is the best that the shooting fraternity can hope for.

The suggestion by former Greens leader Senator Bob Brown from Tasmania that ‘hand machine-guns’ were to be commonly found in vehicle gloveboxes of licensed handgun owners in Australia (‘No guns in the glovebox: Greens’, The Sydney Morning Herald, September 24, 2008) is an example of the type of claim that needs to be refuted, as was done by Tim Bannister, of the SSAA.

The current controversy surrounding the Adler lever-action shotgun is described as “This new technology lever action shotgun is a game changer” (‘Conservation groups up in arms as legal “semi-auto” shotgun sells out’, The Age, June 24, 2015) or that the Adler somehow will “bypass strict bans on semi-automatic firearms” (‘Shooters fired up over imported Adler shotgun’, The Weekly Times, June 24, 2015). Both of these assertions are factually incorrect on multiple levels and should not go unchallenged in terms of facts and respectful firmness. Shooters and hunters should be ‘calling out’ anti-firearms zealots and exposing the false perceptions they hope to create.

Finally, shooters and hunters need to articulate the long-term consequences of being deprived of their chosen pastime, whether it is loss of a sporting/recreational activity or the degradation of the environment and biodiversity through the unchecked onslaught of feral species. Shooters and hunters largely have the conservative advantage on their side, the ability to see most sides of an argument yet still be able to act for the greater good of society.

I would urge you to remember the maxim of ‘what you permit – you promote’. I also urge you not to allow distortions, mistruths and outright lies to go unchallenged, as they will have a long-term influence to our detriment. However, any redress should be conducted in a respectful and courteous manner, even if that means the occasional alienation of a friendship or being looked down upon for not bowing to the altar of political correctness.

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