09 October 2015
by Kaye Lee

Libertarian loony or Tea Party turkey?

It is time that people started paying more attention to the harm that Senator David Leyonhjelm is doing to our country.
As gun deaths in the US rapidly approach 10,000 in 2015 alone, our libertarian wheeler dealer wants to send us down the same path.

This is the same guy who wants to get rid of pool fences and bike helmets while thanking Australian smokers for their ongoing contribution to the economy (not to mention the political donations from the tobacco companies). He’s anti-nanny state – unless it’s those evil wind farms in which case we must mobilise all forces to destroy an industry which is apparently causing great anxiety for a few people who find them noisy, ugly things. (Tell that to the people in the Hunter Valley.)

Leyonhjelm will unashamedly sell his vote in the Senate to get his way.

In August, he forced the Abbott government into a partial retreat on a ban on imports of a new rapid-action shotgun. Leyonhjelm boasted in the Senate that he had undertaken political “blackmail” – in return for the government’s backflip, he abandoned a plan to vote for an entirely unrelated Labor amendment that would have required an adult or guardian to be present when blood, saliva or fingerprints are taken from children by the Australia’s Border Force.

“We are not happy the federal government has placed a ban on imports of lever-action shotguns with a capacity of more than five rounds – commonly called the Adler ban – while it reviews the National Firearms Agreement … Last week I managed to blackmail the government into adding a 12-month sunset clause to its Adler ban,” he told the Senate.

When Lenore Taylor wrote about his complicity, Leyonhjelm responded with a tweet:

“Lever actions are over 100 years old. Lenore Taylor and her ilk should stick to things they know, whatever that is.”

During the week, Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson said “The idea that taking guns away from the law-abiding will make us safer is insane and childish.”

“What people always throw out there, is look at Australia, they have no gun violence, they don’t have guns, their citizens aren’t allowed to have guns. But they have no freedom, you can go to prison for expressing unpopular views in Australia and people do.”

When Ben Pobjie wrote an amusing article for the Drum in response to this ridiculous claim, Leyonhjelm tweeted:

“People who don’t understand freedom shouldn’t write about it. Especially when they try but fail to be funny.”

What is not funny is this man’s ignorance.

The 1996 National Firearms Agreement (NFA) banned semi-automatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns, bought back more than 650,000 of these weapons from existing owners, and tightened requirements for licensing, registration, and safe storage of firearms. The buyback is estimated to have reduced the number of guns in private hands by 20%, and, by some estimates, almost halved the number of gun-owning households.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that after the buyback, the percentage of robberies where the assailant used a firearm did drop significantly. There was little change in “unlawful entry with intent,” one of the few types of crime where one might make a case for a possible deterrent effect of having a gun in the home.

The massive Australian gun buyback occurred over two calendar years, 1996-97. Firearm homicide and firearm suicide dropped substantially in both years, for a cumulative two-year drop in firearm homicide of 46% and in firearm suicide of 43%. Never in any two year period, from 1915-2004 had firearm suicide dropped so precipitously.

Since the gun laws were introduced there have been no mass shootings in Australia. In the US, at last count, there had been 297 so far in 2015. While almost a million guns were handed in and destroyed in the post-Port Arthur amnesty, imports have now taken the national gun inventory back to 1996 levels.

Leyonhjelm has already said that he will contest the 2019 election to rewin a Senate seat for the Liberal Democrats but has no intention of serving the term. We must make absolutely certain that this does not happen. Until then, we are reliant on the other crossbench Senators to keep this Tea Party turkey at bay.