Just days after the Christchurch mosque massacres that left 50 people dead and more than 50 injured, the New Zealand government banned the sale of automatic and semi-automatic weapons in that country.
The move is an attempt to prevent such an incident from happening again.
The weapon used in New Zealand, as well as the weapons used in the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting and the 1989 Montreal massacre in Canada, were all acquired legally.
If weapons bans had been in place, these tragedies would have played out differently.
However, some have suggested strict gun laws do not deter terrorists and mass murderers.
Gun control, it has been said, only serves to remove guns from law-abiding citizens, leaving them powerless if an attack occurs.
Criminals will not respect gun control laws and will find ways to smuggle weapons into jurisdictions where they have been banned.
This is why, after many mass shootings, some will suggest easy access to guns as a public safety measure.
The reasoning is that a good person with a gun can stop a bad person with a gun.
The argument is that if just one of the worshippers in the Christchurch mosques had been armed and had taken aim at the gunman, the result would have been far less tragic.
As a pacifist, this line of reasoning makes me feel extremely uncomfortable.
Not only that, but the thought of firing a gun in a place of worship seems inappropriate.
But my feelings are meaningless here — especially if my support of a weapons ban allows future shooters to go unstopped as they commit mass murders.
Would I be willing to speak to every family member and every friend of every victim of a massacre to tell them my personal feelings as a pacifist are of a greater value than the lives of those who perished?
This would be the ultimate insult to those who are in mourning.
If a good person with a gun can stop a bad person with a gun, would it not make sense to deputize the entire population by allowing law-abiding citizens free and unrestricted access to weapons?
Would an armed bystander take the appropriate action and act quickly enough to stop a mass murderer or at least limit the damage?
There are some examples from the United States where an armed bystander has stopped a mass shooter. But mass shootings still continue to happen in the U.S., far too frequently. And the stories of bystanders stopping mass shooters seem to be the exception rather than the rule.
This leaves me wondering if an armed population could be effective at stopping violent crime.
I’m equally concerned that some civilians, if given easy access to weapons, would shoot too quickly.
Perhaps a good person with a gun can stop a bad person with a gun, but what will happen if a nervous person with a gun is frightened by a sudden movement or unexpected sound nearby?
And what if a civilian with a gun also has biases or prejudices causing him or her to view with suspicion members of a visibly identifiable group?
This is why it is far better to leave the protective role to trained police or law enforcement personnel.
Would the average citizen know when to shoot and when not to shoot?
The wrong decision could result in the death of an innocent person — and once that has happened, there is no way to undo the action.
I wouldn’t want anyone to have to live with the regret of a wrong decision.
John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.
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