Opinion by Tony Orman

Recently there was a stabbing spree overseas that left two dead, including the attacker who was fatally shot by police. Naturally people were horrified but there was no visible reaction that stricter controls were needed on knife ownership. 

In contrast, there is a massive debate around firearm control, particularly in the US in the aftermaths of gun rampages by mentally deranged individuals.

How much do firearms feature in crime in New Zealand? I went searching. Chaz Forsyth of Dunedin in 2013 wrote a book, New Zealand Firearms: An exploration into firearm possession, use and misuse in New Zealand.

Just 13 percent

Chaz Forsyth meticulously analysed statistics on the use of firearms in crimes. In homicides for the year 2009, firearms were used in just 13 percent of murders. In “combined assaults,” firearms comprised less than one percent.  In the same category ”manual” (i.e. fists, boots etc) made up for 90 percent of methods.

It’s a cliché but very true: “Guns don’t kill people — people kill people.” People can be violent and guns are but one tool available.

The undeniable fact is that society under a laissez-faire wave of liberalism that arrogantly demands no rules nor boundaries for human behaviour has in turn, become more violent and individualistic.  

Self-centred attention-seeking groups clamour for more rights and little or no thought for the total community and well-being of society.

I came across a recent news item about a school teacher, 41 year old Kelly Guthrie Raley, who was named ‘Teacher of the Year’ at her Florida school. 

“Until we, as a country, are willing to get serious and talk about mental health issues, lack of available care for the mental health issues, lack of discipline in the home, horrendous lack of parental support when the schools are trying to control horrible behaviour at school (oh no! Not my kid! What did you do to cause my kid to react that way?), lack of moral values, and yes, I’ll say it –- violent video games, tv programs and movies that take away all sensitivity to any compassion for others’ lives – as well as reality TV that makes it commonplace for people to constantly scream up in each others’ faces and not value any other person but themselves, we will have a gun problem in school,” the sixth-grade language arts teacher wrote.

Kelly Raley, loves hunting and four-wheeling in her spare time mentions how she also grew up with firearms in her home. Kelly’s parents never supported any bad behaviour from her. 

“I never dreamed of shooting anyone with his (father’s) guns. I never dreamed of taking one!  I was taught respect for human life, compassion, rules, common decency,” she added.

Wise Words

The problem of firearm misuse is not caused by the firearm; it’s a behavioural problem of the person.

Nor is the problem a firearm control issue — with the acknowledging that firearm rules and regulations need to be common-sense and practical. Chaz Forsyth summed it up when he wrote it is far greater than that – “it reaches into the area of social attitudes, citizenship, health (including mental health), and social deprivation. “

“Violence, reportedly an increasing component of offending in our society, reflects, quite apart from the obvious, an underlying social malaise (or series of social malaises). The amalgam of the “mad” and the “bad” then, is the driver of these statistics.”

In an increasingly crowded world there is a factor spawning irrational and violent behaviour. It is population pressure as people crowd into urban areas particularly big dominant cities. The ethologist John B. Calhoun coined the term “behavioural sink” to describe the collapse in behaviour which resulted from over-crowding. Over a number of years, Calhoun conducted over-population experiments on Norway rats (over 1958–1962) and mice (over 1968–1972). Calhoun’s work became used as an animal model of societal collapse and his studies became accepted by most as a basis of urban sociology and psychology in general.

Calhoun found many female rodents failed in their maternal functions while males increasingly showed behaviour disturbances ranging from sexual deviation to cannibalism, “frenetic overactivity” and “pathological withdrawal”.  

Sick Societies?

The social organisation suffered pronounced disruption and dysfunction. Sound familiar?

Calhoun’s experiments were to become widely accepted as an analogy for human behaviour. Yet the world continues to become more crowded with people who invariably are drawn to dominant cities such as London and Auckland. Growth is the mantra while population policies languish.

New Zealand has generally sensible firearm laws that require the owner to be fit and proper rather than illogically licensing the firearm. It recognises a firearm’s trigger needs pulling by a person. People kill people, sometimes with a firearm, but mostly with a weapon such as a knife.

Tony Orman is a conservationist and hunter with over 60 years experience with firearms.