Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Guns, courts and white supremacy

Okay this story raises a few interesting issues. Keep in mind that this is Australia, not the US.

Jew hater Darryl Potts given okay for gun
by Joe Hildebrand in The Daily Telegraph
A MAN declared a white supremacist by police and ruled a possible risk to public safety by a psychiatrist has been granted the right to possess a handgun.
Darryl Potts, who believes there is a Jewish conspiracy to destroy other races, had his AB firearms and probationary pistol licences revoked by police after he expressed "white supremacy views" to officers during an incident involving domestic violence. But, in a landmark case, the Administrative Decisions Tribunal has ruled that, even though Mr Potts might hold extreme and offensive views, that does not mean he is mentally impaired and he is legally entitled to a firearm licence (read the Tribunal's ruling in full).
The decision was at odds with the opinion of police, the Firearms Registry and a psychiatrist's clinical assessment that Mr Potts had the potential "to put public safety at risk".
Mr Potts, an elevator technician at Federal Parliament, pursued the case because he believed having a revoked firearm licence could affect his security clearance to work in government buildings.
He said he wanted to take a stand against the trend of removing people's firearms.
Both during the case and in extensive interviews with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Potts made a series of bizarre claims about Jewish people.
He told the tribunal he did not believe six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
"I say the six million is a load of hogwash," he said.
After having his licences reinstated, he said he believed Jews were plotting to dilute other races by encouraging mixed-race children and he had unwittingly played into their hands by having children with his Korean-born wife - from whom he has separated.
"If I had've known this information I would not have participated in mixed-race marriage," he said.
He also said Jewish spies, posing as "Israeli art peddlers" were visiting his house because he was "a person of interest" to them.
After the 2009 domestic dispute at his estranged wife's house, the Firearms Registry referred Mr Potts to a psychiatrist on the basis that he "has expressed white supremacy [sic] ... views that have raised concerns regarding his mental health".
After Mr Potts stated, "I am a very angry man", the psychiatrist diagnosed him as having a personality disorder.
ADT member Peter Molony rejected the psychiatrist's opinion and ruled, "Mr Potts is an intelligent, manipulative and calculating man".
"The fact that he holds political and religious views and opinions that are offensive is not, in my opinion, sufficient to find that the public interest requires that he no longer hold a firearms licence," Mr Molony found.
"To do so would be to embark on a slippery slope ... to totalitarianism."
So, at what point does someone cease to remain eligible to own a gun?

Having extreme anti-Semitic views clearly indicates that someone is, for want of a better term, a f*ckwit. However, strictly speaking, being a f*ckwit is not illegal. Does possession of such views clearly mark someone out as being dangerous? From a purely objective point of view, that's questionable, although you'd have to guess that an angry man with rabidly anti-Semitic views is probably more dangerous than an angry man without such views. The fact that in talking to police about an incident which apparently has nothing to do with Jews, Potts cannot stop himself blurting out bizarre Zionist conspiracy theories, indicates that his mental state is highly questionable.

The suggestion of domestic violence in this case does not appear to be quite concrete enough for the court to conclude that he is a threat. But put together, the possible violent and controlling tendencies combined with paranoid racist conspiracy theories might seem to be enough to disqualify Potts from gun ownership. But it seems that legal decisions don't work that way.

I for one am no supporter of gun rights. I don't believe that anyone has an inalienable right to bear arms, unless they need it for a specifically defined purpose (ie. police, soldiers, farmers). I am eternally grateful that Australia never went down the American route of enshrining gun rights in the constitution. It means that firearm-related deaths are kept to a minimum. Sure, criminals can get them if they really want, but they are still more difficult to obtain. But the other crucial aspect of reducing guns in the community is to keep them out of reach of people who are not yet criminals, but psychologically may be dangerous given the right circumstances.

I noted with interest that Jared Lee Loughner (whose shooting spree in Arizona recently killed 6 and injured 14 including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords) was known to police due to arrests for vandalism and possession of drug paraphenalia. In addition, his mental stability was of concern to his former educators, who perceived him as potentially dangerous and capable of a school shooting, and he had several run-ins with campus police.
Despite all that, Loughner had little trouble purchasing a Glock pistol, and later its ammunition.

This is not to suggest that Darryl Potts is about to go on a shooting spree. But given his extreme views combined with anger at the world and possible violent and controlling tendencies, it's not far-fetched to say that he is a prime candidate for some kind of violent incident.

If we are going to accept that the law allows for the average person to possess a firearm, shouldn't we at least be ensuring that only the sane and well-adjusted members of society can keep them? Link the records of those who have guns and gun licenses to police records; any criminal conviction leads to an immediate suspension and possible cancellation of the license, accompanied by a seizure of the weapons.

This may sound like Big Brother to some, but I'm less afraid of Big Brother than I am a gun-toting madman.

Even if the policies I mentioned were in place, Darryl Potts might still keep his weapons. Inevitably some slip through the net, but it would nonetheless minimise the risks considerably.

Individual rights are important, obviously. But one of the most important of those is the right not to be shot at by murderous angry loners.

Here's a sample of some of the angry rantings Potts left at an anti-fascist anarchist blog.

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