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Posted by on Jan 18, 2013 in In the news | 2 comments

John Howard on gun control

Former Australian prime minister, John Howard, has an op.ed. piece in The New York Times about his experience in Australia in introducing dramatic new restrictions on guns, back in 1996. I’m not much of a fan of Howard – he’s a very conservative politician, both socially and fiscally. I’m all for fiscal responsibility, but the “social conservative” part is a long way from my politics.

And yet, Howard led the push on gun control, gaining support across the board in Australia, from both liberals and conservatives like himself.

This underlines my point that there is no inherent reason why someone with a socially and fiscally conservative approach to politics should favour unregulated, or very loosely regulated, markets in deadly weapons. (The converse is that liberals in the Millian tradition will not necessarily favour gun control laws – we need to see some facts that add up to a case for restricting individual liberty to purchase whatever goods you like.)

Howard’s article, which is factually accurate as far as I know, provides one more resource for the debate currently going on in the US. One part of the message should be that it’s okay to be a social and fiscal conservative who favours gun control. There is nothing inherently against gun control in such a position – it’s more a matter of historical and expedient alliances. However, it will take some leading American social/fiscal conservatives to come forward and make that point if it’s to sink in. Will it happen? Well, I can’t say. Most of my readers are probably in a better position than I am to make that call. But if someone with good credentials does so, I’m betting that others will follow. And this could be key to getting changed laws.