The Problem Isn’t Firearms but a Dysfunctional Society

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 aftermath of gun rampages by mentally deranged individuals.

Just where 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 cliche but very true – “Guns don’t kill people – people kill people.”

The factor in violence, murders and crime generally is people. People can be violent.

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 US 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 programmes 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 with firearm misuse is not the firearm but a behavioural one by the person.

Nor is the problem a firearm control issue –  while 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 (in 1958–1962) and mice  (in 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.

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


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7 Responses to The Problem Isn’t Firearms but a Dysfunctional Society

  1. Chaz Forsyth says:

    This needs a far wider distribution

  2. Paul Peychers says:

    Correct Chaz. Politicians have ignored this but the situation really needs attention. It can only get worse as the population increases. Crime stats are not a good look these days so the incoming government need to be pressured on this.

  3. Jack Tuhawaiki says:

    I looked up ACT policies and found:- “ACT made a commitment to licensed firearms owners that we would start again and rewrite the Arms Act. Now we are making good on that commitment.
    Labour’s knee-jerk response to our nation’s tragedy in Christchurch on 15 March 2019 punished licenced firearms owners (LFOs) and at the same time failed to make New Zealand safer. ACT will put that right.
    Several rounds of rushed legislation have created a broken licencing system which is costly and needlessly bureaucratic. Two rounds of firearms and ammunition ‘buy-backs’, the establishment of an ‘independent’ Firearms Safety Authority, and the creation of a firearms registry has cost hundreds of millions of dollars to date.
    Despite these changes – or perhaps because of them – New Zealanders are now experiencing increasing rates of firearms-related crime and feel less safe. Half of New Zealand’s annual average of fatal shootings have occurred in just 17 days, between 20 July and 6 August. Criminal gangs continue to use illegal, unregistered firearms as they always have.
    There is deep frustration in the firearms community with the current Arms Act, and the fact that law-abiding LFOs must navigate a needlessly complex, confusing, and bureaucratic system.
    ACT has committed to repealing Labour’s rushed legislation and implementing a fair, fit-for-purpose Arms Act of which New Zealand can be proud. We do not want to make the same mistakes as the Labour Government and rush through poorly thought-out changes, which is why we have released this discussion document today and are seeking feedback on it.”
    That sounds pretty good to me. By the way, I’m not a member of any political party and therefore not of ACT. But I do vote and will do so on election day.

  4. Frank Henry says:

    The police’s new firearms registry won’t stop firearms falling into the wrong hands.
    Canada tried a firearm registry and gave up, discovering like several other countries that attempting to identify every gun in the country is an expensive and inevitably unproductive exercise. Criminals, of course, don’t register their guns.
    Canada spent well over 2 billion on a fruitless exercise.
    Surely Police Association Chris Cahill – a loud advocate for a registry – knows this or perhaps he choses to ignore it?

    • GERARD DODD says:

      The new licensing system links the costs of administering the new system to be passed on enitirely or majorly to the registered firearms licence holders. That’s because the objective is to stop people owning firearms period. The way they are doing that is pricing it out of reach of the general public. The bigger and more inefficient the system is, the more it costs and so the higher the licence fees. More people will drop out of the system. As people drop out the costs are spread over a smaller database and so the effect is exponential.

  5. Bud jones JonesQSM says:

    Excellent essay here by Tony. Could I please add:
    I am pleased to see that the hinge pin here in firearms use & safety is complete self control behavior education & responsibility & a firm moral code of right from wrong,[ must be learned at home].
    There is an endless ranting about those awful Americans & their gun “problem”.
    Actually, USA is an exemplary model of the proper use of guns , [as a tool for harvesting game for home table fare]. I come from Colorado, & I’ve hunted extensively in Montana, Wyoming Idaho, Alaska & of course Colorado, 1960–2010. American sportsman hunters are the finest most disciplined followers of a moral ancient code of sport hunting/shooting of any other equivalent group on the planet, taking their guns seriously into the field for the autumn game harvest in 100’s of thousands, strictly regulating their behavior with guns derived from tradition & an ancient code handed down from many 100’s of generations. Wildlife science & game management produce very strict books of regulations dictating every aspect of taking game & the proper use as table fare of the carcass. Asmall sample would read,”all edible portions of a kill must be removed from a kill site, including the ribs of all deer & goat species. Game Wardens are numerous visible & have full force of law. Non compliance with regulations can be severe, including confiscations of property & jail time. This serious no no no nsense law must appreciate this is achieved. with a freedom to own & purchase guns.Where the law clamps down is on behavior & use, not encroaching on private ownership of sportsman.
    The knock on result of this regulatory code is proper use & safety, respect, behavior with firearms handed down through generations where kids hunting with dad or grandpa learn about what a gun is capable of, & the dangers of misuse.

  6. Honest Dave says:

    You all have to keep in mind that 90% of our politicians ( & those in most western countries) have dedicated themselves personally & politically to ensure that they strive to carry out the dictates in the UN’s “AGENDA 2030” , which among other insidious items requires the banning of civilian ownership of firearms!!!! Just law abiding citizens, not the criminal element, who will always have access to sources of illegal firearms.



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