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The Samurai, the Mountie, and the Cowboy: Should America Adopt the Gun…

by David B. Kopel

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282697,247 (4.25)1
Gun control remains one of the hottest topics on America's agenda. Increased violence, gang wars in metropolitan areas, and the prevalence of guns in the United States frequently bring this debate to new crescendos of public concern. How can we find answers that maintain safety while protecting individual liberty? The Samurai, The Mountie, and The Cowboy offers a compelling look at how other democracies have attempted to solve their own gun problems, and what we can learn from these countries.… (more)
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gun control and arms use in other nations compared to USA, recommends responsible gun use encourage, not ban
  ritaer | Mar 18, 2021 |
My reactions to reading this book in 1993.

Kopel makes his case – that violence with guns (suicide seems markedly unaffected by gun control) is more a function of culture and social values than gun laws with a massive, varied body of evidence. He shows, by examining America and several British Commonwealth countries (and ex-Commonwealth) like England, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Jamaica as well as Japan and Switzerland, that gun laws, when enacted seem to have little effect on overall crime rates and gun availability. However, armed robbery seems to go up as does burglary.

Kopel demolishes the argument that America’s gun laws cause America’s high crime rate. Burglary is more common in England where criminals don’t fear armed homeowners unlike America where a burglar’s chances of being shot by a homeowner are equal to being arrested. America’s crime rate for crimes not even involving guns is higher in almost all categories than other countries’. (Kopel postulates several reasons: poverty, modernity, urbanization, ethnic tensions.) Kopel also points out that many gun homocides are justifiable. Seemingly other countries take their justifiable homocides out of the count or – as is often the case, especially in Britain – don’t have a strong legal or cultural tradition of self-defense. In Japan, mass murders of families are sometimes counted in the suicide statistics.

In America, women often use a gun as equalizer in domestic disputes. Kopel presents some interesting historical data regarding the settling of the Canadian West, New Zealand’s Maori Wars, the struggles in 17th century Britain by the king to establish a standing army – and take force out of the hands of citizen militias. The latter clearly shows the political motivations for the U. S. Constitution’s 2nd Amendment – to keep a monopoly of force out of government hands and to provide a bastion against tyranny. Gun control in England began with Henry VIII. And, of course, there is the matter of violence in America's (revolution, the frontier, vigilantism) which, he rightly points out, has been exaggerrated. Mayor Marion Barry was rightly scorned for, in the context of supporting gun control, saying Washington D.C. was no Dodge City. Dodge City had a lower homocide rate than Washington D.C.

Kopel traces the history of gun control in each country and the place of each type of gun (rifle, handgun, shotgun) in that history and the general culture. He finds, especially in the Commonwealth countries, a disturbing link between limiting other civil rights when guns are controlled. Gun right advocates have long claimed this as they have also claimed that supposedly moderate gun control laws lead to more severe restrictions. Kopel finds evidence for that view.

Only America has a culture steeped in all three types of guns. Kopel examines countries from the ultra-strict Jamaica (where merely possessing one cartridge could, at one time, mean life imprisonment – Jamaica still boasted a higher homocide rate than America) to Switzerland. The latter country is often seen as an example for little gun control. (Oddly, some gun control groups have printed erroneous information claiming the Swiss example supports their argument.) However, Kopel points out that Swiss culture is too different from American to be of much help to either side of the debate. He characterizes Switzerland as authortative, conformist – criminals, as in Japan, rarely serve time in jail – and providing fewer civil liberties. As Kopel aptly puts it, in America you are allowed to own a gun and train with it. In Switzerland, it’s required. Kopel also gives some disgusting examples of American police illegally hassling gun owners and would-be owners. The lesson seems to be that waiting periods, background checks, and license fees are frequently abused by authorities to administratively and de facto restrict gun ownership. The uneasy relationship between gun owners and the police is present in all the countries examined except for New Zealand. There the police have intelligantly, till recently, loosened the gun laws and promoted responsible gun use and safety. Kopel sees a similar attitude and program helping America’s gun problem. A more armed citizenry trained in responsible gun use would curb the superstitious fear of guns many have and stop making them attractive as forbidden fruit.

The historical material alone makes this book worth reading. ( )
  RandyStafford | Feb 22, 2013 |
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Gun control remains one of the hottest topics on America's agenda. Increased violence, gang wars in metropolitan areas, and the prevalence of guns in the United States frequently bring this debate to new crescendos of public concern. How can we find answers that maintain safety while protecting individual liberty? The Samurai, The Mountie, and The Cowboy offers a compelling look at how other democracies have attempted to solve their own gun problems, and what we can learn from these countries.

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