Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Whilst I'm On The Subject

You know what the percentage of gun owners in Australia is? It's about 5%
I know they're available but mostly what would be on the shelves would be rifles and shotguns, things suitable for hunting the selection of animals that our citizens are allowed to hunt.

As far as I'm aware we don't really have a large selection of handguns available and even if we did I think you'd have to really proved that you were in a profession where you needed it in order to get licensed and be allowed to purchase it.

If somebody asked you 'Why do you want to buy this gun?' and you said 'Self-defence' they'd blink at you and say 'You're shitting me right? Who are you? Bloody John Connor?' and they'd carefully jot your name down on the Whackos List because you're obviously paranoid and delusional and think that someone is hunting you down. Nutbar.

As a country we haven't needed guns much in our day to day.
Apart from hunting and our early adventures in genocide we haven't had to protect ourselves against many aggressors, haven't thrown off our colonial overlords (ie, the British) and as a result there are some mind-sets we just haven't developed.

A lot of self-defence/home-defence examples given when describing personal use of guns in the USA is in relation to home invasion and the like.
I don't know if America is just riddled with crime but honestly the idea of someone breaking into your house or threatening you on the street and you saving the day with your gun...
Well, in Australia it's just not something we think about that much.

Obviously home invasions occur but they're not regarded as that common outside of bad neighbourhoods, are seen as freak occurrences and don't often end in death.
Possibly because we don't have guns to point at each other, I don't know.

Articles like this one make for interesting thinking about how guns are the new 'speak softly and carry a big stick' and what that can mean for good and bad.

I had a bit of a google around to see if there were any gun ranges in Victoria that I could visit to have a proper go at shooting and see a few guns and therefore have at least some experience with which to back up the comments I've been making.
I know that at the moment my inexperience may cause some of my observations to come across as naive and possibly a little insulting to some people.
Heck I may even be wrong about the types of guns available and legal for purchase in my own country, I simply don't have the information yet.

In any case, the only ranges I could find were for sport shooting, either Olympic style pistols or clay pigeon ranges.

No easily found gun shops with ranges and no gun shops that seemed to be offering hand guns at all.

I'm curious, I would like to know more but I think I might have to leave the country to get any kind of hands on experience.
Assuming foreign nationals are allowed to handle firearms in firearm friendly countries.
I don't know that either!


Erin Palette said...

God, you're gonna love me tonight.

See previous comment re: lack of handguns in Oz. I think you need to be in the military, police, or on the Olympic team to legally own one.

Regarding crime in Australia: Permit me to drive some traffic towards the blog of fellow gunnie Sean Sorrentino. One of his regular features is titled Meanwhile in Rebecca Peters paradise and it details all the ways that gun control has failed to keep handguns and automatic weapons out of the hands of Australian criminals.

Regarding home invasions and the like: You're right, they don't happen very often outside of major metropolitan areas. But let me share two interesting pieces of data with you.

1) About 25 years or so, my family had recently moved to Florida and we were the only house on the block. One morning, my parents opened the back door to let out our rather large German Shepherd and noticed that the screen door had been cut right above the handle. They called the police, and some forensic investigation proved that someone had cut the screen, opened the door, and was on our back porch -- probably watching us watch TV.

When this guy was later caught, we found out two things. One, the only reason he left us alone was because "the dog was too big." Two, while I'm not sure if this guy could be considered a serial killer, he'd definitely murdered a few people in his day.

Three of us -- two adults in their 50s, and me in my teens -- in the only house on a darkened street. He could have done whatever he had wanted to do to us, if our dog hadn't been there and he'd surprised us. (Yes, Dad had guns, but he would not have been able to get to them in under 5 minutes.)

So yes, bad things can and do happen outside of the city.

2) Not sure of Australia has heard about the kerfuffle regarding the shooting of Trayvon Martin (if not, Google it), but here are the relevant bits as they apply to me:

a) The city where it happened, Sanford, is an hour away from me by car.
b) There has already been race-related violence in retaliation.
c) I feel bad just saying this, but I'm a five-minute drive from a very poor, very black part of town.

Short version: if any of this seething cauldron of tension erupts into violence, my family -- my entire neighborhood -- has the potential to be targeted by rioters, looters, and vandals, a la the Rodney King LA riots of the 90s.

This is why I have a 12 gauge shotgun, 9mm carbine, and a bunch of ammunition. Because while it may never happen -- and oh lord, I hope it never does -- I'm going to be ready as a defender and not as a victim.

Finally, yes you can indeed come to the States and shoot my guns. You just need to be in good physical health (can safely hold the gun & handle the recoil), mental health (not be drunk, high, stoned, or otherwise impaired), and emotional health (not suicidal, distraught, depressed, or angry and ready to take it out on someone). Oh, and you can't have a criminal record.

Japanese tourists come to Nevada all the time to shoot high-power military weapons, like full-auto .50 caliber machine guns.

So if you're ever in Florida, I will be thrilled to let you shoot as many of my guns as I have ammo for. :D

Ricochet said...

Of course I do!
Information and feedback, mmmmmmm!

Oh I know you can't stop criminals getting all sorts of interesting things but if you have to be a criminal to get them then it isn't a case of Joe Bloggs losing his job or girlfriend or mind and then taking his legal weapon and going nuts or taking to a life of crime.
You have to be willing to walk into some pretty dangerous situations to get them and if you aren't already that kind of person you mightn't be welcome there.

There are less of these weapons in Australia overall and mostly these criminals seem to point them at each other but yes they do sometimes get turned on the general public or law enforcement.

If you check the news you'll see Sydney has actually had a raft of drive-by shootings recently, mostly connected to bikie gangs. There have been no fatalities so far in this recent spate.

I know some gun rights proponents in the USA made a big fuss about how gun deaths went up by 300% or something similar in the year after automatic and semi-automatic weapons were banned in Australia but that meant they went up from 5 to 15 or something like that. So it wasn't exactly the argument ender they'd like it to be. With numbers like that it could easily be a statistical anomaly.

Wow. OK, yeah that'd be pretty scary, especially if you found out the person had a violent criminal history.
Just because something is a once in a blue moon occurrence doesn't mean it isn't terrifying for the people under that moon.

I've definitely heard about Trayvon Martin.
We have our share of social problems (google Cronulla riots for an example) but given our smaller and less densely gathered population I don't think we have as much potential for that kind of truly dangerous civil unrest that would require you to defend your home/business/neighbourhood.

I expect the 'if George Zimmerman hadn't had a gun then Trayvon would still be alive' point has been made... and I know things are never that simple but coming from a less gun-familiar culture I keep coming back to that idea.

In good news I am healthy, happy and have never so much as gotten a speeding ticket so one day I might get to take you up on that offer :-)

Ricochet said...

PS. Ha! Just read the Meanwhile in Rebecca Peters Paradise
post and realised you already know about the Sydney shootings then :-P

The thing about the post is that even if local Aussies were armed we probably wouldn't jump out on our front porch and gun down local marauding bikies who were shooting up the house opposite.

We're just not wired for that kind of response, at least not yet. There'd have to be prolonged exposure to that kind of danger for us consider that the only course of action open to us.

Without an established 'you won't get sent to jail if it's legitimate self-defence' set of laws I think most of us would be sure we'd get locked up even if the shooting was 'righteous'.
So stopping these sorts of shootings is left as the responsibility of the police.

Of course, here I am claiming to speak for an entire country, but as a continent-country that has had nowhere near the amount of conflict on our home soil I just don't think we have the same level of 'have to protect what's mine' that comes so naturally to many Americans.
No-one has really tried to take anything away from us yet and to be honest if anyone ever does it'll probably be a country so populous and powerful that we'd stand no chance armed or unarmed.

Erin Palette said...

Yeah, um, I'll do us both a favor by not telling you what I think of your country's lack of a Castle Doctrine.

I won't debate Trayvon Martin, either, but I will say that both participants made mistakes -- Zimmerman got out of his car, and Martin came back to confront him -- and if one or both of those things hadn't happened, both would be alive.

And I know for a fact Zimmerman regrets getting out of that car, and would do it differently if he had the chance.

Julie said...

I've just left a lengthy comment on your previous post :) ...

BUT a couple of things you might like to thing about Ricochet - just because you don't hear about home invasions doesn't mean they don't happen. For a large number of years I had a police scanner and I can promise you the media only report a minuscule fraction of what happens around the place an home invasions aren't confined to 'bad suburbs' (I'm speaking WA of course).

Our media, over here, is getting better at reporting what is actually going on and it is scary.

Now to quickly touch on the other high points of the post:

You mention 'genuine need' and reasons to own guns. "Self defense" is not an "accepted" reason for owning firearms in Australia - ... we don't have a RIGHT to self defense here. It's one of the grayest of grey areas and if you put 'self defense' down on your application for a firearms license you'll be rejected (AFAIK). My rant on this can be saved for later posts.

The second point you made about trying out shooting.

I KNOW there are clubs in Western Australia where you can come and shoot without a firearms license.

There are also some in Qld and AFAIK there's some in NSW. So you needn't spring for an o/s holiday yet :)

I'll have a check around and see if I can find one a bit closer to home ... but if not, feel free to come and visit :)

Julie said...

OOh, i also went to one in SA ....

Julie said...

Have a look at this:

Women Give It A Shot! Program

One of the most successful, and important, participation programs that have been developed through the Partnership for Health scheme is the Women Give It a Shot! program. This womens participation program is aimed at developing strong ties within the community and introducing women to the sport of shooting via a controlled and safe environment with the support of other women.
From time to time the SSAA runs a Women's Introductory Course. This a four-week introductory program designed to introduce ladies of all ages to the sport of shooting where they will be exposed to the importance of safety, proper use of .22 scoped bolt action rifles, introduction to air and .22 pistol shooting and turning target Competition. But most of all you will make new friends and have a lot of fun! The cost of the four week program is $80 per person (heavily subsidized by the SSAA) All inclusive - use of firearm, ammunition and a social drink after the shoot.

If you are interested in participating or want to know more about the Women Give It a Shot! Program, contact Brad at the state office on (03) 8892 2777 or by email at


Julie said...

Two additional links for you:

But you're right, I'm having difficulty finding a range where you can undergo an onsite safety course and shoot a pistol in VIC.

I can give you addresses in SA & WA - if you feel like a short holiday :) (WA is best as I can then take you :) )

Erin Palette said...

See, Ricochet, I *told you* that a bolt-action .22 was the way to go. :D

Ricochet said...

There was a 'come and try' day at a regional range but I found out about it a few days after it was on and I'm not sure when the next one is on.

Wow, that 4 week course sounds amazing for the price. How did you find it? Was it all day Monday to Friday?

I had a quick look at locally available .22 bolt-action guns. Which would be better for a beginner to try, centre-fire or rim-fire? Is there much of a difference?
(I know 'better' isn't a great term, maybe 'more appropriate' or 'more versatile)

Thanks for all the information and links :-)

Julie said...

Hi Ricochet.

I'm thinking the four week course is a couple of hours once a week for four weeks - but give the guy a call and see.

When I was helping running the training at my club it was not unusual for females to turn up on their own and say 'I would like to learn to shoot' or at the 'Have a Go Days' I used to run 'I would like to have a go'. No one thought they were particularly weird or anything.

Anyway getting back to you ... and your question - it really doesn't matter. A .22 in anything is a great way to start, if however someone offers you the chance to shoot a 9mm or a .357 or a 38 or actually anything at all GO FOR IT. Ask all the questions you want (how do I hold this, how do I stand etc) and then GO FOR IT. If the guys at the range where you're shooting are anything like the guys at the range where I shoot they'll be happy to answer the questions and help you.

(Note, in my searching today it seems that you might need a 'provisional licence' to try shooting. This is not a requirement (AFAIK) in any other state.)

Ricochet said...

That makes more sense!
Even as I was typing it I thought that sounded a little unlikely. That'd be a camp of some kind rather than a course and a lot pricier.

I know there was a club around somewhere that focuses on deer hunting that had a 'come and try' day or a 'expressions of interest' day a while ago.
I'll have to see if I can rustle up their details.
I'm not looking to shoot deer but they'd know all the relevant local information.

Erin Palette said...

As Julie said, when it comes to trying things out, take whatever you have the opportunity to shoot! Different calibers and models have different characteristics.

That said, what I think you really meant was "Which should my first gun be?" and again, I have to go with a .22 for these reasons:

* They're less expensive -- here in the US they're about half the price of centerfire rifles

* Ammunition is VERY cheap. I know prices in Oz will be different, but as an example I can buy 50 rounds of .22 for $2, whereas 50 of 9mm costs $12-15 and 20 rounds of commercial 7.62x54R (for my Mosin) costs $20. If you buy a "brick" of .22LR, that's 500 rounds and you can shoot all day for very little cost.

* Recoil is very low (even less if you get a semi rather than a bolt-action, but those cost more). Not only will you not have a bruised or aching shoulder the next day, you will not be as afraid of the recoil and therefore you will quickly overcome the tendency to flinch in anticipation of the bang.

* It's considered a varmint round, not a "I'm going to go kill a person" round. It is THE caliber for plinking, practicing, and pest control, and therefore you will not be looked at askance for shooting it.

And just to clear up some potential confusion: all .22 calibers (short, long, long rifle) are rimfire. Everything higher than that is centerfire. Everything below that is an airgun.

Julie said...

I have to laugh Erin, for a handgun, once Ricochet makes up her mind that she wants one, she has at least a 9 month wait before she will own it.

For a long arm (rifle, shotgun) depending on how she goes about licencing it and the particularities of the Vic system but I reckon we're looking at a min of 6 months.

So I'm thinking the "which gun shall I go for question" is probably one of the last rather than first she should be asking.

It also depends what ends up being her reason for owning one. For me, here in WA, there are no IPSC competitions for .22. I got into shooting handguns to compete in IPSC - therefore a .22 wouldn't be worth getting first. (In the first six months you can only licence one handgun here).

Oh and just to really confuse you, you can get .22 in centerfire :)
AND you can get .17 in centerfire too

My advice with the 'which gun shall I get' is based on two things a) what do you want to do with it and b) how does it feel in your hand. Get your hands on as many as you can before you get your mind thinking down a particular path.

Erin Palette said...

I am boggled at all these restrictions.

Six months for a longarm? Nine months for a pistol? Good God, CANADA has a less restrictive system!

Combine that with Julie's superior knowledge of calibers (centerfire .22? For realz? I had no idea!) and I think it best if I just back off and cede the floor to her.

Julie said...

lol, don't do that erin :) The only reason I know about centerfire .22s is that I shoot one belonging to a mate - it's a really neat rifle and I was tempted to get one myself, but I'm hoping I can swing things for a .223 instead.

(By swing things I mean figure out a 'genuine need')

Ricochet said...

Well we *are* a convict colony, Erin, they can't be too careful :-P

Erin Palette said...

That's what surprises me. For such a fiercely independent sort of people you're so very British when it comes to guns!

I mean, look at us and look at Canada. The US has a long history of saying "Fuck you, king! BANG BANG BANG!" which is why we've always had guns. We have this cowboy attitude and it's helped us win wars and expand our nation westward.

Then there's Canada, which still had the Union Jack on their flag as recently as 1965. They didn't rebel, they were good British subjects, they were slowly given sovereignty. They have restrictive gun laws and handgun registries and the like... although, as a nation of hunters, they have quite a few rifles and shotguns owned by civilians.

You Aussies are descended from people the British wanted to punish forever and yet when it comes to guns you're more British than the Canadians!

I say, work that ANZAC Pride and shoot stuff while shouting "Fuck you, Queenie!" ;)

Ricochet said...

You keep saying 'British' but I'd say that the UK would have more relaxed gun licensing periods and more guns per person than Australia would. If you watch an episode of Midsomer Murders you'll see people striding about cheerfully shooting pheasants and every farmer and his mum owns a rifle.
I have no idea where the current Australian laws and attitudes came from but it isn't from the Empire, the Empire likes a bit of a shoot what what.

After saying on Julie's blog that I don't know anyone who shoots, I remembered 'doi, I know people in the military' so of course I do. They just don't talk about it all the time the same way I don't talk about paperwork.

An interesting point made by a military member is that some Aussie gun clubs are a bit more private now (less photos of competition winners and members on websites etc) because they had bikie members actually targeting these members for robberies :-/

Julie said...

Ricochet, gun laws in the UK are more restrictive than here - esp for handguns ... this was changed after Dumblane (AFAIK) ... this guy is from the UK and worth a read

I think our basic issue is that we're comfortable being a socialist nation ... we've been brought up to expect the .gov to do stuff for us ... to the degree that most of us don't realise it.

A lot of the states have always had gun registration and restrictions from day 1. This wiki article is worth a read