Fear campaign by gun lobby
by Tom Pearson The shooting fraternity's fanatical fringe — the powerful vested interest of the gun lobby — has taken its pro-firearm offensive onto the Internet with incitement to harassment. The Australian Firearm Owners' Association has opened a website containing the names, photos and addresses of individuals who have publicly made known their opposition to the unfettered right to own guns. President of the Firearm Owners' Association, Ron Owen, who owns a gun shop in Gympie, Queensland, has called on members of the organisation to visit or phone those targeted on the site. In one instance a name and address was put on the site after the tenant, John Crook, had moved out and someone else had taken up residence. John Crook is President of Gun Control Australia. They have since removed the address and apologised if anyone had been "ill- effected", a blatant admission that the intention is to use fear and intimidation to stop opponents from expressing their views. The site at first carried the names of politicians, then Mr Crook and some high-profile media personalities were included. Gun Control Australia were added to the list because of their ongoing activity for stricter laws to control the sale and ownership of certain types of guns. Six months ago Gun Control Australia began a three-pronged campaign to have stronger laws for controlling hand guns. First, they called upon the upcoming June meeting of state and territory Police Ministers to form a sub-committee to examine the growing problems arising from the proliferation of hand guns. Second, they wrote to the Olympic and Commonwealth Games organisations in Australia asking them to consider scrapping hand gun events. Third, they proposed that all hand guns in collections be made permanently inoperable. Studies by Gun Control Australia have shown that most of the hand guns used in criminal cases come from gun collections that have been stolen. "They want to silence us", John Crook told The Guardian. "Ever since we started this campaign a number of unpleasant things have happened." Their private letter to the Commonwealth Games Association was handed over to the gun lobby, who published it on the Internet. There followed a string of threatening letters to Gun Control Australia. "We believe that this was a quite improper thing to do by the Commonwealth Games Association", said Mr Crook. On Anzac Day last month a forged media release, using Gun Control Australia's letterhead and a forgery of John Crook's signature, was put out. It said that "John Crook is calling upon all anti-gunners to desecrate war memorials with spray cans and hammers". "It's not realised how important the Olympic and Commonwealth Games shooting events are to the gun lobby. They see them as a way of gaining respectability. "We believe it is wrong to make a sport out of implements such as hand guns which are specifically designed to kill human beings." To try and tone down its obviously threatening intent, a Queensland One Nation MP, David Dalgleish, volunteered to have photographs of his home put on the site. Given the close association between One Nation and the gun lobby, it is highly improbable that gun fanatics will threaten him in any way. In fact One Nation and the gun lobby fringe element are squarely in the same pro-gun camp, with One Nation playing the role of its openly political arm. "This guy [Dalgleish] says `I'm only too happy to be on the website'. This quite obviously is a way of Owen trying to sugar-coat his ugly pill", said Mr Crook. "And he's also tried to sweeten up the criticism by putting a photograph of himself and his own address on it." The gun lobby disseminates its ideas through the five shooting magazines sold in Australia, and the gun trade itself, from where much of its finances come. This means they also have the funds to advertise in the mass media when they feel the occasion warrants. Such was the case in 1996 when they ran a panic campaign to rally firearm owners against planned national gun control laws following the Port Arthur massacre. Nonetheless, measures were agreed to by the meeting of Police Ministers on May 10 that year. These were: a buy back scheme for illegal guns; the outlawing of military-style, self-loading semi-automatic and automatic weapons; a ban on the importation of those weapons; an integrated licensing system and national register of firearms; and tighter control of the sale, advertising and transfer of all firearms and ammunition. Gun manufacturers, importers and retailers have worked to undermine these measures ever since.