Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gun Rights – Taiwan and the US

The blog posts are coming fast and furious these days. Maybe it’s the workings of a tired brain thinking during the bus rides back home, or maybe it’s the rainy weather forcing me back inside. But hopefully, if nothing else, you’ll learn something new.

In America, there seem to be only two sides: Either you are a “red-blooded American who values our fundamental freedoms laid out in the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution of the US and believe that it is a fundamental right to have the ability to own a firearm” or you are “a liberal who believes in the principle of protection by the State towards the individuals and that the privilege of owning firearms is a poisoned tree that causes more problems than it solves.”

There really is no room for middle ground. It’s a politicized issue that to both sides is a tautology – yet neither side agrees on the same tautology.

In Taiwan, the private ownership of firearms is illegal – mostly. There are 5000 legally owned firearms in Taiwan, with 4000 of those being registered by aboriginal people for hunting purposes. At the end of the 1940’s, as Chinese Communist were winning the war in mainland China, the KMT government and many of those fleeing to Taiwan brought with them firearms. In reaction to this, the government-in-exile in Taiwan passed The Statute for Management of Self-Defense Firearms, which states that the gun-owners are required to receive a regular inspection every two years as well as random inspections anytime by the police.

In addition to this, unless under extremely limited circumstances, the importing and purchasing of firearms was made illegal. The only exception to this rule is for guns or rifles over 60 years old. These antique weapons are allowed to be replaced with newer weapons without requiring any special permissions.

As recently as October of 2009, the issue of whether to liberalize the policy of gun ownership in Taiwan had up again in the government. The DPP was for a more liberalized policy that would mirror that of the current US structure. A major reason for this is that mob-related activities would be deterred by the private ownership of weapons. The KMT felt it unnecessary for gun ownership to become liberalized, as they felt it would cause, among other things, an uptick in violent crimes.

Some statistics based on Intentional homicide rates per 100,000 population from 2000 shows some interesting numbers. Now not all intentional homicides are gun-related, but keep in mind, nearly all gun-related murders would be classified as intentional homicides. America, which allows for private ownership of weapons, had a 4.5 per 100,000, but 65% of all homicides were done with a firearm. In respect to other countries, both those that do and do not allow for personal ownership of firearms, America is very low on the overall homicide rate per 100,000.

Information about this topic for Taiwan, to my knowledge, doesn’t exist – at least not in English! But I can assure you, gun-related violence is very low here. So low, it would be insignificant.

So going back to the point of this: Are there more than 2 views to take on this subject? Could someone who is a proponent of gun rights tell a mother who lost a child as a victim of gun violence that she is a liberal who can’t see that taking away the right of gun ownership would cause an overall loss of freedoms and that she should jump on board the gun-rights wagon? Can an academic tell a father who protected his family by using a firearm during a botched robbery that he should give up his weapons, because his ownership of a firearm is contributing to the gun-crime statistics?

As mentioned during a previous post, there was a time of authoritarian politics here in Taiwan (The White Terror). Would have allowing individuals to own firearms have prevented this from happening? Gun ownership did nothing in causing the liberalization of politics, economics and freedoms in the past 20-years in Taiwan. And the last time I checked, Western-Europe hasn’t relapsed or descended into some form of Fascist-Communist-Authoritarian geopolitical nightmare either.

So with the issue of Gun Rights always looming in the near-horizon in American politics, maybe a step back from a tautology-based solution, and more of a Constitutional, but also practical approach, should be taken in the regulation and ownership of firearms.

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