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by Dr. Joanne Eisen and Dr. Paul Gallant
Copyright 2000 by Dillon Precision Products.
Reprinted with permission from The Blue Press, January 2000.
All rights reserved.

"...So much for earnest gun lobby talk about [gun-owners being] law-abiding..." - Simon Chapman

Suppose you're a gun-owner and awaken one morning to find that the government has declared one of your guns "illegal". Nowadays, that's not just some hypothetical construct.

You have two choices: you can comply, or you can defy. If you choose defiance, are you then no longer a "law-abiding" person?

Just what does "law-abiding" really mean? The term appears to be simple enough: it refers to one who "abides by the law". As a society, we are conditioned to believe that those who "obey the law" are "good" people, and that those who "disobey the law" - outlaws - are "bad" people.

But when Pharaoh of ancient Egypt decreed that all newborn male Israelites be put to death at birth, were those who obeyed his law good people? Did his daughter become a criminal when she rescued infant Moses from certain death?

And does the refusal to surrender your gun transform you into a bad person? That's exactly what Simon Chapman would have us believe. Chapman is an Associate Professor of Public Health in Sydney, Australia, and an outspoken gun-control advocate.

Chapman's account of the Australian gun ban, which followed on the heels of the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre, is contained in his book "Over Our Dead Bodies". In it, Chapman clearly spelled out the "good-citizen/bad-citizen" word game scam which he and other firearm-prohibitionists have begun to employ:

"The gun lobby thus sought to frame...[Australia's new gun ban] as the Government 'criminalizing' people who had previously possessed guns totally within the law. It would turn 'ordinary, law-abiding shooters into criminals', they claimed. But this claim failed to recognize that it would be only those shooters who deliberately chose to break the law who would become 'criminals'."

In equating "law-abiding" with "good", Chapman made an implicit assumption - namely, that all man-made laws are morally just. He banked on the failure of non-gun-owners to recognize the fatal flaw in this equation, and on the failure of Australian gun-owners to handle the emotional conflict of non-compliance.

And he counted on the charge of "Criminal!" to blind the Aussies to the reality of a higher law: the responsibility we are charged with, and which no one else can accept - to protect our families from harm.

Chapman's bet paid off, and it's only a matter of time before Sarah Brady & Company adopt the same ploy here in the States. But will it play in America as well as it did - and still does - in Australia?

While there are many cultural similarities between Australia and America, there is one significant difference: Australia was founded in 1788 as a British penal colony. Australians are understandably sensitive about that aspect of their history, and the very term "law-abiding" has been the Achilles heel of Australian gun-owners in the fight to hold onto their firearms.

That attitude is reflected in an August 3, 1999 interview with John Crook, head of Gun Control Australia, who repeated Chapman's charge:

"...gun owners, for whatever reason, do tend to be not as law abiding as the shooting fraternity leaders claim they are."

Gary Fleetwood, of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (Australia's largest firearm organization), was also party to that interview. But Fleetwood's response to Crook allowed the firearm-prohibitionists to again set the rules of engagement:

"...we are law abiding people who had to go through the licensing process to take possession of what are dangerous items, firearms...those rules are only as good as the people willing to obey them...[If] any of our members stray and go outside the law, they're no longer members of this Association...Anybody that goes outside of that system...will feel the full brunt of the law, and WE SUPPORT THAT TOTALLY." (emphasis ours)

In contrast to the Australians, we Americans have a robust historical tradition of rebellion against tyranny and unjust laws. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and move to the rear as required by city law in 1955, she became a "criminal". But her act of civil disobedience sparked a social revolution. Today she is revered as an icon of the civil rights movement, and a catalyst for bringing an end to social injustice.

Today, good, peaceable American gun-owners have seen a civil right they cherish - the lynch-pin of liberty - come under siege.

They have seen "the law" become perverted by those who use "public safety" or "crime-control" as transparent pretexts to enact harsh new restrictions on Constitutionally-guaranteed rights. They have been witness to the brazen double-standard of a litany of crimes committed in high places going altogether unpunished.

And they have seen themselves transformed into second-class citizens - no less than Rosa Parks was considered to be, back in 1955 - by those whom they entrusted with safeguarding their rights.

But many once-"law-abiding" gun-owners recognize a higher law than those imposed upon good people by corrupt politicians, or by intellectually bankrupt politicians who adamantly refuse to distinguish between right and wrong. It's the same higher law which told Rosa Parks she had the right to keep her seat on that bus in Montgomery. It's the same higher law which Australian gun-owners have forsaken out of fear of the appearance of "criminality".

That higher law tells gun-owners they have the absolute right to protect innocent parties - themselves and their families - against the evil which will always exist in society. Because of all this, many once-"law-abiding" gun-owners now opt for Plan "B": defiance of the law.

"No longer law-abiding" gun-owners? Simon Chapman would, of course, agree with that. But to paraphrase Bill Clinton, it just depends on what one's definition of "law-abiding" is.

Dr. Paul Gallant practices Optometry in Wesley Hills, New York. Dr. Joanne Eisen practices dentistry in Old Bethpage, New York. Both are research associates with the Independence Institute, a civil liberties think tank in Golden Colorado, We are happy to welcome them as contributing members of our writers.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The good doctors are, of course, wholly correct. The term "law-abiding" is one we as gun owners must now reframe into "lawful" and "peaceable" and "long-suffering" in our commitment to our whole, natural, inherent, innate drives toward self-defense, defense of family, defense of others, and defense of liberty. To be "law-abiding" in some states means to be victimizable, easy prey. Civil disobedience is essential in the American Reclamation process. ~ KABA

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Can our form of government, our system of justice, survive if one can be denied a freedom because he might abuse it? HARLON CARTER

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