The main purpose of the Umut Foundation is to underpin trust in the state of law in our country and in our region. With this purpose in mind, and as part of our effort to attract attention to the terrifying increase of individual arming in our country and search for the reasons why people require arms, as well as raise consciousness of this subject among the general public, the Search Conference on “The Role of Media in Individual Disarming” was held on 28 September, 1998 at the Istanbul Dedeman Hotel.
The Umut Foundation has been contributing to peace on a national and international level and leading the promotion, education and implementation of peaceful reconciliation methods in Turkey, Europe and the Middle East.
In our country, reports of injuries or deaths resulting from the unconscious use of weapons regularly appear in the press. Individual arming not only affects innocent people but also strengthens illegal powers and helps form groups with violent tendencies.
On this year’s “Individual Disarming” day, we wanted to emphasize the role of the media in individual disarming. The meeting started at 1:30 PM with an opening speech in the Istanbul Dedeman Hotel. In the first part of the meeting, emphasis was given on international circulation of individual arms sales and its effects and that individual arming is no longer only a national problem for countries, but has taken international dimensions.
This subject was brought up by Mr. Ali Kaan Orbay, a member of the Foreign Ministry’s General Directorate Deputy Office for International Arms Control and Disarming. There were explanations of the United Nations’ activities and the global structure of the issue.
The activities of related non-governmental organizations’ in a range of countries on individual disarming were explained by the representatives of those organizations.
Speaker Richard Aborn will explain the situation in the USA. Richard Aborn supervised the “Center for Preventing Armed Violence” organization with his experience as a deputy district attorney in New York, and he has started a training program entitled “Talking openly about Risks”, illustrating the undesired results of keeping weapons.
A search conference was held on 28 September 1998 with the participation of many members of the press. Guest speakers provided a range of information in the first part of the conference. Figures provided by Ms. Nazire Dedeman in her opening speech, founding President of the Umut Foundation, showed how rapidly individual arming had advanced in Turkey. Speaking on the issue, Ms. Dedeman said that “The number of weapons sold in Turkey has increased 358% in the last 8 years, while the number of unlicensed weapons, captured only in areas controlled by the police, was 95,114 over the last 10 years. The number of weapons captured has increased by 612%, from 1987 to 1996. These figures do not include the area controlled by gendarmerie. As people are aware, these weapons are resold in the market”.
Later, guest speakers spoke about their organizations’ activities in this area.
Mr. Ali Kaan Orbay, a member of the Foreign Ministry’s directorate on the control of International Weapons and Disarming, spoke about international activities supported by Turkey regarding removal of small arms and light weapons. He cited that studies show that 91 out of 96 conflicts which broke out between 1989-1995 were civil wars, caused mainly for ethnic reasons and that it was usually small arms and light weapons that were used in these conflicts. He added that 90% of those harmed in these conflicts were civilians and that 85% of them were women and children. The seriousness of this has made the control of small arms and light weapons an issue for the United Nations since early 1990s, and has encouraged the United Nations play a leading role in this field. Apart from activities carried out by The United Nations, seminars and meetings have been held by different countries to discuss the control of small arms and light weapons. A conference was held in Oslo by Norway on 13-14 July 1998 , with the participation of 21 countries.
Since 80% of global weapons trade is carried out by OSCE (Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe) countries and most of the leading weapons sellers are member of OSCE, it has been said that Turkey has an effective role in the activities and will continue to support activities in this area with the belief that the OSCE has a special responsibility in this issue.
Representatives from the organisations later explained the steps being taken by other countries’ non governmental organizations. Mr. Richard Aborn, presided the ‘Centre of Armed Violence Prevention’ organisation shared the experience he had gained as a deputy district attorney in New York citing the long and hard struggle to issue a law called ‘Brady Bill’ in individual disarming in the United States took 7 years. Aborn said that when he started campaigning against individual arming in 1985, 60 people were dying by snub nosed bullets and 103 people by barrel bullets every day in the United States. That there was no control over buying arms in some states in the US while being forbidden in some states encouraged people to use arms in illegal ways. The law known as the ‘Brady Bill’ provided nationwide weapons control. This law allowed people to own arms after a certain period and prevented people from having arms whenever they wanted.
When Aborn was explaining the role of media in this progress, he highlighted the two different kinds of media as the entertainment media and the news media, and said that the entertainment media included many different kinds of violence. Some studies showed that a child under the age of 7 spends 5,000 hours watching TV and during these 5,000 hours they will watch 50,000 occurrences of violence, mostly committed with the use of arms. This reduces a child’s ability to distinguish between real violence from entertaining violence. Another obstacle they faced in their progress was the second Amendment of American Constitution, which guarantees the right bear arms as a right to live. For this reason, they followed a different way with media; firstly, by persuading the media not to broadcast acts of violence, secondly by explaining the reality of the second Amendment to media and thirdly, educating members of the media of the effects of violence in real life. The changing role of the media in the space of 7 raised public awareness and put pressure on politicians.
Australia’s National Authority for Weapons has continued the activities outlined below, which were determined in 1988:
1. A National Authority for Weapons should be formed to assess and reconsider the arming problem in Australia and propose solutions to the problem and to function as a data bank to collect information, statistics and studies to issue a law for weapons.
2. We want Australian States and Regional Governments to determine the minimum requirements to be applied to people who want to own guns. We propose that to gain a licence to own guns, people should attend a two hour course each week lasting for 20 weeks, and pass the written and applied examinations at the end of the course. Licences should be renewed every two years after brush-up courses.
As in the US, the Australian gun control lobby fought to issue a national control law among the states and worked in cooperation with media and ensured the collection of arms after a successful campaign. Twelve books have been published in order to inform the general public. Furthermore, Australia’s National Authority still continues its education programs for schools.
Our fourth speaker, Mr. Gill Marshall Andrews, is the president of the ‘Weapons Control Network’ organisation in the UK. After ten year struggle, all non governmental organizations in the UK successfully campaigned for legislation forbidding individual arming, and they succeeded in influencing public opinion in this direction. Andrews said how worked hard towards the enactment of legislation, and had carried out monitoring activities for the sale of weapons and motoring the implementation of the law. He said that the statistics were very important for them during this period and when they were evaluating the statistics they put emphasize on where they are going to, rather than where they are, and tried to take measurements.
In the second part of the conference, participants addressed their questions to speakers and discussed the situation in Turkey, citing how insufficient the data was, the measurements that the media and non governmental organizations needed to take, and proposed suggestions for the problem.
Here are the suggestions after the conference in which members of the media also criticized themselves.
1-Convincing the visual and print media that news about disarming, and refraining from broadcasting violence could also ensure exciting stories to increase viewing figures.
2- Clearly defining ‘violence’ to control ‘violence’.
3- Applying a quota to TV channels instead of closing them, as RTUK (Radio Television High Commission) does often.
4- Favourite family shows, in particular, should draw emphasis to this subject.
5- Each columnist should write at least 5 times a year about this subject.
6- Improving the third page journalism and making it a campaign journalism.
7- Monitoring and updating statistical data about individual disarming and sharing the findings with the media.
8- In evaluating numerical data, placing stress on where to go, instead of where we are.
9- Carrying out surveys on the subject in certain periods and publishing the results.
10- The families of those injured and killed in such events should come together and organize activities which would attract the attention of politicians.
11- Organizing another conference on this subject and encouraging the participation of newspaper owners, government representatives and politicians.
12- Establishing a ‘National Weapons Control’ unit consisting of lawyers, criminology specialists and representatives of other disciplines, which would be effective in issuing laws.
13- Avoiding inciting violence while broadcasting weapons related events.
14- In order to prevent accidents happening after supportive games, team administrators should avoid encouraging the use of arms in their speeches, and condemn such events.
15- Condemning the use of arms at wedding ceremonies; if celebrities behave in such a manner, they should be exposed and condemned.
16- Ensuring that obtaining an arms licence is more difficult.
17- Reconsidering the ‘media ethic law’.
18- The Umut Foundation starting a ‘Drop the Arms’ campaign
19- Requesting information from the Foreign Ministry and the Internal Ministry, and other Government organizations about disarming.
20- Pressure from non govermental organizations on media and news paper owners.
21- Encouraging the media to employ women administrators.
22- Doing frequency setups on TV channels. Carrying out necessary legal arrangements as quickly as possible and forbidding the violence in programs.
23- Consumer pressure on advertisers, preventing violence in television advertising.
24- The Umut Foundation should start a program for schools, organizing conferences at schools about weapons control and making education programs against ‘weapons culture’.
25- Encouraging weapons to be kept in locked places at home, if necessary.
26- Making sanctions against violence more effective with the introduction of programs.
27- Working in cooperation with radio stations to give positive messages.
28- Arranging internal training programs for executive editors.
29- After the campaign when the guns are collected, melting the guns and using them for the public good and making them a symbol.
Members of the media who participated in the conference:
1- Edip Emil Oymen, Milliyet
2- Nail Güreli, Milliyet
3- Musa Ağacık, Milliyet
4- Ayşegül Özkaragöz, Radikal
5- Zeynep Atikkan, Hürriyet
6- Mehmet Ali Birand
7- Serpil Yılmaz, Sabah
8- Ruhat Mengi, Sabah
9- Metin Münir, Yeni Yüzyıl
10- Funda Özkan, Yeni Yüzyıl
11- Savaş Ay, Yeni Yüzyıl
12- Fikret İlkiz, Cumhuriyet
13- Zeki Kentel, Nokta
14- Gönül Çınat, Viva
15- Murat Atı, ATV
16- Ferruh Doğan
17- Murat İnceoğlu, Çağdaş Gazeteciler Derneği
18- Füsun Özbilgen, Rota
19- Hüseyin Başusta, TRT
After the search conference, the Individual Disarming ‘Media’s Contribution to Peace’ award ceremony took place at the Dedeman Hotel.
In the last part of the conference, the speakers who contributed to individual disarming – the media members outlined below - who raised awareness of subject , received the Umut Foundation Honour Plaque.
1- Ali Kırca - ATV
2- Barbaros Talu - Cine 5 Sport Service Manager
3- Çiğdem Anat - EKO TV
4- Edip Emil Öymen – Milliyet
5- Haluk Şahin – Kanal D News Department Chief
6- Nail Güreli – Milliyet
7- Şansal Büyüka – Show TV Sport Service Manager
8- Zülfü Livaneli – Milliyet
9- Murat Atıl – ATV
10- Savaş Ay – ATV
11- Kürşat Başar – Yeni Yüzyıl
12- Zeynep Atikkan – Hürriyet
- Nazire Dedeman
Dear guests, my dear friends,
Today is 28th September, Individual Disarming Day, and I’d like to welcome you all to this fourth activity arranged by the Umut Foundation arranged on this subject. Today is the day, when five years ago, my son Umut was killed. It was called an accident – it was also called a murder…
The authorities mislead us on the incident, the evidence has been concealed. Although the Istanbul Forensics Institution’s report determined that a “semi-automatic Browning gun does not fire in such condition”, the suspect was finally fined 18,500,000TL for involuntary manslaughter. The Supreme Court approved this penalty, relying on the principle “the suspect should get the benefit of the doubt”.
As a result, our search for justice within the rules of a state of law ended with disappointment. We couldn’t have accepted, as citizens, the unfairness we experienced during the trial period, the evidence being covered practically by the officials. We couldn’t…
I managed to get the court to take action, upon my public explanations in denunciation, about the officials who had covered the evidence during preliminary investigations and committed another crime. Yes, the court was taking action. I found myself what action it would be when I was sitting on the suspect’s chair instead of the officials who ought to be suspects. This was fine, it was necessary just so the truth may come to light. But since then we could not see even a step in the right direction taken by the court and we personally applied to the public prosecutors and claimed a crime report for the investigation which the Directorate of Public Prosecutions should have initiated officially but however did not. The public prosecutors took a judicial decision to call off the action without examining our very serious grounds and even hearing our witnesses. Then we used our right to protest the judicial decision in accordance with the procedure and we are waiting for the results.
I still don’t know why my son was killed and the actual reason for his murder. Yet, I know a very important fact. My son was shot with a gun without a licence and he died. Therefore, I say “No to Individual Arming!”
Calamity affects its immediate victim! And this is my heartache. However, in our land this calamity has started to affect more and more victims. It was only for the last week, when we heard 11 people injured or died of individually owned guns. For example a doctor has a quarrel with a building manager about where to put garbage, he gets so angry he pulls out a licensed gun and shoots the administrator. If the gun was not present the manager wouldn’t have died and the doctor’s life wouldn’t have been ruined. After the fury is gone they could have solved the problem in peaceful ways.
There are other examples: One in Canakkale, the other in Istanbul. Two young boys get their fathers’ licensed guns and – in one instance at school, and in the other instance in the middle of the marketplace – they shoot people they hate. If the guns were not present at home, these unfortunate incidents wouldn’t have occurred. Therefore I say “No” to arms, licensed or not.
However they may say: “these are really unfortunate events but examples of use without an actual purpose. The real reason for having a licensed gun is defence. The state gives a licensed gun to a responsible citizen for his self-defence.” It may be correct. If the state cannot protect its citizens, it may pass the function to the citizen himself. But such a state can not claim itself to be a “legal/civil state”.
Some states may say “an honourable citizen protects himself”. Some states may not. In our research carried out in the last year we have always seen Japan given as an example. I am sorry that our friends we invited as representatives of this country are not with us today. If they were here they would have been able to say that in 1997, just 111 violence incidents with individual weapons took place in their country. 22 of these incidents resulted with death. As for the USA, which has double the population of Japan, the total fatalities resulting from violent incidents involving weapons in 1996 was 10,744.
In Turkey, sales of weapons have increased by 358% in the last 8 years. Again in our country, the number of guns captured by police was 95,114 in the last 10 years.
The number of captured guns increased by 612% between 1987 and 1996. Note that this data doesn’t include those captured by gendarmerie. And we know that these guns are introduced for sale again.
It is easy to obtain weapons in the USA, but it is forbidden in Japan. So, possessing and carrying weapons must be prohibited by laws. This is an easy suggestion for solution, because, even in Japan most death incidents with weapons are through unlicensed weapons by a mafia society called Boryokudan. Our guests will discuss the subject of all these weapons here today. I’ll mention as an unpleasing anecdote that in a survey conducted among Japanese youth, the percentage of those willing to have a gun was 67%, because they admire other cultures. If they are so willing, Japanese society will soon find a way to arm itself. Even though it is prohibited by national laws, this country will get armed. As the statistics show that weapon smuggling increased by 86% last year. I am sorry for Japan, because they only see bad examples.
By the way, how are the armed countries going to manage a shift to disarming? Another country to try this was Canada. A friend of ours who leads the way for prohibition of individual arming by laws found out with research that illegal organizations have gained more power and troubled citizens have been left defenceless when licensed weapons were prohibited. He stated that he felt ashamed to join us because he saw that his brave fight was so wrong.
There is an undeniable reality and a lesson to learn when the concepts of Japan and Canada are combined; it is easy to say no to weapons but it is hard to establish conditions to say no. This reality is the same for us, for Australia, the UK and the USA. Representatives from these three countries who have successfully tried to achieve this are with us today. Members of the media are also here to listen to their experiences and apply in our country’s reality.
I say now, we get together and we can start explicating the difficult solution of this problem here. Just like Friedrich Nietzsche said, “If you have the will, you can find the way”.
We wish you to show us the way and we want a fair life without violence.
For a hopeful future.
Umut Foundation Founder President
- Ali Kaan Orbay
The efforts of international society for disarming during the cold-war period were focused on control and annihilation of weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons in particular categories. Within this framework, in the arena of inter-polar high politics of cold-war, the reality that small and light weapons are actually the bloodiest tools of world war history was ignored.
Efforts to control and remove weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons continued after the cold-war ended, and these activities gained formality and function through international regime and treaties such as European Conventional Forces Treaty, chemical weapons agreement, Rocket/Missile Technology Control Regime and Wassenaar Arrangement.
On the other hand, the world observed an increase in regional battles and civil wars following the cold-war.
The massacre and tragedies in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda caused the international society to shift attention on small and light weapons besides the weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons.
Research studies indicate that 91 out of 96 battles between 1989 and 1995 were civil wars with ethnical reasons, systems we can call small or light weapons were generally used in these wars and 90 % of the battle victims were civilians of which 85% were children and women.
The seriousness of the picture as a result of the mentioned research opened the way for the issue of controlling small and light weapons to enter UN agenda from the early 1990’s and for the UN to take a leading role in this area.
The UN Conventional weapons record system, established by the UN in 1992, was the first concrete step taken in this area. The Conventional Weapons Record System stipulates that UN members should voluntarily submit information to UN about their annual import and export in 7 categories; tanks, armoured combat vehicles, high calibre cannon systems, fighter aircraft, assault helicopters, battle ships and missile systems.
In the meantime, the Ministers Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) convened in January 1992 in Prague and approved the "Non-proliferation and Arms Export" declaration, and proposed activities to prevent extensive weapon sales in regions of tension with notice that conventional weapons expansion present threat for international peace and security beyond legitimate defence requirements.
However, both the UN Records System and the control proposed by the OSCE deals with other conventional weapons, not the small and light weapons which are the subject of this conference.
Activities aimed at the control of small weapons, prevention of their smuggling, spread and intense existence in illegal powers first entered the UN’s agenda in 1995. With decree 50/70 B of the general assembly, a report by the general secretary was prepared, with the help of a panel formed of governmental specialist on types of small and light weapons used in battles which the UN interfered, with reasons of their inconsistency creating production, transfer and expansion and measures to prevent this kind of expansion.
The Commission for Prevention of Crime and Penalty Justice formed within UN Economic and Social Council besides the activities of the mentioned panel has also continued activities on the control of small weapons.
The report prepared by the panel working on the control of small weapons was submitted to the UN General Assembly in August 1997 by the General Secretary.
In the report, firstly, a distinction has been made between small weapons and light weapons. According to this, pistols, rifles, automatic pistols and light automatic guns are defined as small weapons where heavy automatic rifles, bomb releasers, bazookas, portable anti-aircraft and anti-tanks are defined as light weapons.
This definition is important because failure to reach a common definition in an activity called “Light Weapons and Disarming” prepared by Canada was considered an important obstacle for controlling small and light weapons and disarming activities.
The mentioned report includes some remarkable findings about production, transfer and inconsistent expansion besides the aforementioned definition of small and light weapons. It is possible to summarize these as follows:
In the first place, there are no norms or standards accepted by the international society about inconsistent expansion of small and light weapons and prevention of this, in contrast with the issue of weapons of mass destruction.
With regard to this, the number of regions where small and light weapons are in the hands of illegal and irregular powers, guerrilla groups, drug cartels, gangs and smugglers, crime and violence within internal conflict and civil wars is increasing.
These weapons do not cause wars but their existence is the reason conflicts get deeper, last longer and more blood is shed.
As the small and light weapons do not require much experience or training, they are preferred by illegal powers and crime organizations and most of the time they are given in the hands of young children.
At the same time, the production of small and light weapons do not require a developed technology and this leads to possibility of production even in small workshops in less-developed and developing countries.
According to the UN report, the Kalashnikov, the symbol of rebellion we all know about, is produced in more than 14 countries and used in 78 countries. It is being estimated that 50 million of these weapons were produced between 1945 and 1990. Likewise, G3 rifles are produced in 18 countries and used in more than 64 countries and M-16 rifles are produced in 7 countries and used in 67 countries. It is estimated that 7 million G3 rifles and 8 million M-16 rifles were produced between 1945 and 1990.
The findings of the report show that control of small and light weapons, the prevention of their spread and inconsistent expansion will be harder than the control of developed conventional weapons produced and used in a smaller number of countries due to requirements of production at a particular level and with technological infrastructure, even if control is ensured it will be almost impossible to establish an effective international verification mechanism because of the features small and light weapons have.
With this consideration, the UN report introduces a series of suggestive decisions and emphasizes the importance of necessary arrangements and legal precautions in countries’ internal law for the control and prevention of smuggling and spread of small and light weapons.
The issue of the control of small and light weapons issue has recently been argued in the paper by UN’s disarming activities department with title "Coordinating Action on Small Arms" and date 19 June 1998. With this paper, suggestive decisions of the UN General Secretary in the 1997 report are being supported and the continuation of UN’s leadership on control of small and light weapons is being proposed. The subject is expected to be included in the agenda of this year’s UN 53rd General Assembly.
Apart from UN activities, the control of small and light weapons is also being discussed in seminars and meetings arranged separately by various countries. To this end, a conference has been held in Norway, Oslo on 13-14 July 1998 with participation of 21 countries and settled decisions to make an action plan for the coordination of activities on control of small and light weapons, to include related non-governmental organizations in these activities, to encourage countries for necessary arrangements in their internal law, to bring up the issue within UN 53rd General Assembly frame and to continue exchange of information in this area and meetings towards the goal.
These developments indicate that this subject will remain in the agenda of the UN and world, lead by northern countries and with the support of developing countries which are damaged by the spread of small and light weapons.
Turkey supports efforts for the control of small and light weapons both in the UN framework and in other related international forums. In the foreign politics perspective, the focus is on the control of light weapons in the international ground, according to the UN definition of small and light weapons. The determination is that the control of small weapons, due to their definition, is a subject concerning the internal affairs of a country and activities on this area shall be handled in presence and direction of the political authority within the internal law perspective.
The serious possession of light weapons, especially by illegal powers and terror organizations, is being carefully followed by our country and our worries about this issue and our suggestions for preventing the spread are mentioned in the events concerning international disarming and control of weapons that we take part in. Within this framework, we have made a comprehensive contribution towards the establishment of common criteria about the transfer and expansion of weapon types that create inconsistency within the Wassenaar arrangement on control of outward trade of conventional weapons and double-use material and technologies. Likewise, in the European Council, we have supported the development of a guide on conduct principles for transfer of conventional weapons including light weapons.
We believe that the OSCE has a special responsibility in these activities because 80% of the global arms trade is through OSCE countries, and the majority of arms trading countries are OSCE members. With this understanding, we have played an important role for the arrangement of abovementioned Prague Declaration and were one of the leading countries to discuss countries related to weapon transfers accepted by the OSCE. However, our suggestion, in the OSCE in 1996, to establish a records system to include small and light weapons in addition to seven categories of weapons in the UN’s conventional weapons records system, could not be agreed on for the unconvincing reasons, expressed mainly by important arms exporters. These countries had argued that such a system would bring extra expenses, cause repetition or be difficult to follow.
Turkey will continue supporting international efforts on control of small and light weapons and contributing actively to such activities.
- Richard Aborn
According to my educational background, I am a trial lawyer. I have been accused by many court attorneys because of my speech is too fast for translation. So, if I do the same thing today again and if somebody warns me, I will slow down. I would like to thank the Umut Foundation for leading this conference and for their activities. This is a very important and helpful activity. Besides this, I have a few words for Mrs. Dedeman. First of all, thanks for your valuable friendship and second of all, and maybe more importantly, you suffered such a grief one could never imagine. I think coping with this grief and devoting yourself to such a worthwhile activity and with such self-sacrifice is worth appreciation and I deeply respect you for this. I can only wish you to continue your activities and I am sure you will. Thank you, thank you very much.
I have been asked to speak for 20 minutes about the role of the media in discussions about control arming in the United States over the last 15 years. I guess I will have done my part when I spare a little more than one minute for each year. And, I hope I will give you some concrete information as necessary. However, discussions on arming control in United States started exactly in mid 1980’s; during mid 1980’s we came across three types of problems in terms of the country and the media.
First of all, I will sometimes be rather critical about my own country, and with this I hope to give you a very positive message; when a country has a political approach about solving such a problem, the politics of concern may have tremendous effect on violence level and I think you will observe this during my speech.
During the mid 1980’s, the USA lost 60 of its citizens through gunfire everyday - 60 citizens in just one day. When deaths from long-barrel guns are added, the number reached 103 citizens a day: not in a week or month, but one single day! I have been working in the Manhattan District Attorneys as a murder attorney and whenever I went to a murder scene I saw that the murder weapon was usually a pistol. I formed a team of researchers to find out where these weapons came from. I saw that these weapons came to New York City from outside through legal ways. The reason was quite simple. New York City has very strict rules for control of weapons. It was difficult to obtain a gun in legal ways. But according to other rules - I mean legal arrangements of other states - obtaining guns was easier.
I can tell you this to better explain the situation: from the mid 1980’s until the 1990’s in the USA, you could enter any weapon shop, easily fill out a form, pay all the cash you have or use your credit card limit, buy one, two or three, in fact five, ten, fifteen or even twenty guns and just walk out of the place. This is what the people involved in shady transactions do. They went out. They bought loads of guns from the shops and transfered these to New York, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco or Los Angeles. Then they sold these guns illegally, in trunks of their cars in the middle of the street. How could this be possible?
It was. There was no national law to identify the identity of the person to get a gun. A form, meeting federal law, was available on which you would write your name, address and a state in which you are not wanted by the police or had served time prison. But this never meant an inspection of information. Therefore, people who committed murder or some other crime, such as one involving the illegal arms trade or rape could buy guns. And they could buy lots of them. This situation which many American citizens find very strange shocked me. Then a group among us started a study, later called the Brady Bill. The Brady Bill set off with a very simple principle. An individual must submit a resume before buying a gun that shows his identity, that he is not wanted by the police and has not been involved in any crime. Now, I guess you think this is a very simple a logical rule. But I must tell you that it took 7 years to achieve this, 7 years to validate this law in the American Congress and many presidents have come and gone until we found one that supports arming control.
So, what have we done, between 1985 and 1993 when we finally got the Brady Bill accepted, to convince the whole country and media for the requirement to control arming?
Our primary task had three phases: first, as I told you, everyday many American citizens were killed by guns but this could not be documented anywhere. I examined the alternate murders in New York; almost none of them were given in the newspapers. The number of Americans killed everyday was not recorded in any way.
Second, when talking about the American media, I mean the media in most countries; we must see it in two separate parts: entertainment media and news media. Entertainment media in USA is full of violence incidents. Several research studies show that some children spend about 5,000 hours in front of the TV before they are 7 and 50,000 items of violent content appears in this 5,000 hours. Therefore, we dealt with the entertainment media, media that presents astronomical numbers of violence incidents in the name of entertainment and we saw through empirical and observational studies that many children can not distinguish the entertainment purpose violence concept from the effects of violence in real life.
Third, we were face to face with a very complicated problem, a constitutional problem. Our opponents, I mean the National Rifle Association (NRA) stated that the USA could not have a weapon control law on a national basis because one of the additional articles of the constitution, the second additional article, obstructs this. They were saying that the second additional article guarantees the right of every American citizen to buy as many weapons as he wishes to, anytime and in every condition. Unfortunately, in fact, thank god this was totally made-up. It was not true. I mean, it is not what the law indicates then or now; however NRA 15 times more power than we had to spread this throughout the country. Even our supporters started to say “yes we support control of arming but the second additional article obstructs this”. That is why our task had three dimensions.
1) We had to get in contact with the media to reduce the number of randomly selected entertainment and violence content
2) We had to talk about what the second additional article actually means
3) We had to educate the media about the effects of armed violence on real life in America
This third task gradually became the most important. We were saying we had reasons to believe that America would start to see and believe violence was going down if we could get the Brady Bill enacted just like other laws we finally got in effect. I now recall that we were saying this could never be stopped in a society where people believe that violence is a problem in the USA. This was such a complicated and difficult problem that we couldn’t even define it completely. And the activity towards the control of arming was so hopeless because politicians were opposing us. A wide and strongly financed segment with incredible political support from the Congress and the White House was supporting the National Rifle Association (NRA). We travelled around the country and spoke to people in press sector. I went on many trips with many journalists; I also held meetings with press boards and reporter groups about the second additional article and arming control. We then saw huge coverage in the media.
While the entertainment media continued to use excessive violence in TV shows, the news media started to give more realistic news about what we were doing and trying to do and what the second additional article actually is. Yet, we still had a big political obstacle. Because no matter how much tension we create and how much attention we attract in the media, we were face to face with the political side of the issue. Struggling against the political side - I mean the NRA - was a more difficult task than running studies on the media. In fact, all media in most regions of the USA were finally in a position to support the Brady Bill, and the Brady Bill required submission of a resume before getting a gun. As a result, when we came across too much opposition in the Congress and we understood that attention of the media was necessary, we decided to start several intense and vocal campaigns throughout the USA with the aim of making this argument a current issue of the country. How did we do this? We formed a marches of citizens on a regional basis.
We formed acting groups to tackle arming in all small towns where we could find support; in all cities there were supporters everywhere in a short space of time. And we worked with them on the story of arming control - the real story, to take place in press. In every country everybody knows that one of the best ways to shift public opinion is to inform first and then lead a logical and safe way. Finally, the hope for an effective action plan must be kept alive.
I believe this was just what we did to fight for control of arming. This fight started to gradually gain momentum until the mid to late 1980s, when crime rates were rising year by year. Crime rates really showed an astronomical increase between 1985 and 1990.
Finally people started to shout that something had to be done about it. We saw that this was the point of acceleration and a demand for change was coming. Upon this fact, we initiated specific campaigns. We carried the action to the sub-body to approve the Brady Bill, to the US House of Representatives in 1990. The problem was that the Democratic Party leadership at the time was not supporting us and the Democratic Party had the control of discussions in the Congress.
Consequently, we could not even get one single vote for the draft bill. We then resorted to a more direct way of fighting and took our action directly to the Democratic Party leadership. The Party finally began to support control of arming. We arranged press meetings and said that if American society had decided for this, there is one thing the Congress could do, so they had to give us the numbers of Chairman of the House, Spokesman of the House of the Representatives.
At the beginning, the press was surprised when we initiated such a direct act against the Assembly spokesman. In one of the press meetings I said, “If you want arming to be taken under control in this country call this number and get the spokesman’s number”. The following day my words were in many big newspapers “If you want arming control in this country call this number”. We realized that if you manage to reach American society through the press with very specific actions and very definite messages the discussion will spread and include more and more people.
Then we made progress and finally got the Brady Bill in the House of Representatives. But in the USA a draft bill must be passed through both representatives. First you must take it to the House of Representatives and then to the US Senate. It is as complicated to pass a law in the USA Senate as it is to pass it in the USA House of Representatives, because there is a tight relationship between the two; the Republican Party President Bush and the Republican Senate. What happened after this was that the Brady Bill we prepared was included in a broader criminal law and this criminal law was worked on extensively in the political sense because crime issue was a very powerful material for elections.
This criminal law was issued but was never voted on, and the party leadership could have told us, “OK we will pass Brady Bill but this is a part of the criminal law and we can not pass this criminal law”. In fact, they were trying to pass the criminal law, not the Brady Bill. The Brady Bill needed to have some attractive features to help the leadership gain the political support of the House of Representatives and members of the Senate. So how did we achieve this? We started to prepare surveys conducted by neutral and objective institutions of American society.
We saw that support was amazingly big and the rate of people supporting Brady Bill sometimes reached 75%. I would like to have shown you several precautions for control of arming supported by the public. After that, we had to carry this political support to the Senate and more importantly to the White House. It was then 1992.
And we were face to face with the presidential election; the Brady Bill was hidden in the criminal law. We then thought that if we initiate a discussion on arming control we can get the Presidents to speak about it besides crime control.
In my opinion, arming control is an important part of crime control. Of course it does not mean crime control all by itself. But somehow we had to place this very serious part of the subject in discussions of presidential election. Now I know that in USA, just like in other countries, it is so difficult to give a message to the public through press when elections are concerned because newspapers are full of quotes of the candidates. Other things are discussed very rarely. Therefore we had to find ways to attract the attention of the press; I am saying this to indicate that the selected method was to give message.
Then we started doing many things. We organized a mass of protestors to keep watch in front of some particular official institutions and ask particular officials whether they supported arming control or not; the press heard about this act and discussed these actions. We appeared in midnight news and the newspapers and then we tried to get in contact with President Bush and Governor Clinton; following that the democratic wing started to talk about arming control; we previously had meetings with Governor Clinton and his team and we knew they supported us.
Later, we started a campaign emphasizing the Brady Bill and the slogan of the campaign about taking Brady Bill out of criminal law. The press immediately understood what we meant. We started the campaign; soon afterwards, Governor Clinton held a press meeting in Texas, a state where proprietorship is so strong and home to many folklore elements about weapons. It is considered as the last symbol of the Wild West. Yet he held a press meeting in Texas.
And he indicated that he supported Brady Bill by all means, and stood against semi-automatic assassin weapons. For the first time, a Presidential candidate was supporting arming control. As President Bush did not open the way for arming control, Governor Clinton was comfortably arguing on the subject within presidential discussion. This situation led to incredible interest on the subject and a great discussion between two candidates on national TV. The first question from journalists to Governor Clinton and President Bush was: “Do you support Brady Bill? Do you support prohibition of semi-automatic guns?” Now we were in a discussion on the national level.
Finally when Clinton won the election, he said that he is going to get the Brady Bill enacted and provide the necessary political momentum. We worked in the light of incredible political acceleration he gained throughout the country in 1992 and 1993; the tension was so high and nobody knew who was going to win. After all, we won over the NRA and we proved that we would have time in the House of Representatives and the US Senate. In the end, President Clinton signed the Brady Bill in the White House meeting room. We didn’t consider stopping at this phase because the task was not over yet.
We thought we had gained a political advantage in the media and all over the USA, and it was just time to hit the final stroke, to prohibit semi-automatic assassin weapons. Semi-automatic guns have rather small and easily changeable 32-64 caliber barrels and can be fired with a light touch of the finger working at the speed of pulling the trigger. According to some studies, these guns are chosen when committing crimes. Why is this? These guns are fast, they look scary, they are cheap and they may be found in different calibres.
There are two types of guns used in crimes committed; semi-automatic assassin guns and the small revolvers which we call the Saturday night special. We went to the White House and said that we want prohibition of assassin guns and continue with the acceleration we gained for Brady Bill. We again opposed the NRA. We had the strong and resolute support of the White House. So, we managed to get the law enacted despite only two opposing votes, and we won over NRA for the second time.
Then we tried to show all politicians that voting for control of arms was a very positive move in terms of politics. During the approval process of these laws we said through the press: “now we ant you to test us: we want you to evaluate these laws and see if they work or not” In fact, we were sure that the laws would work. Because there was a statutory decree as to report the Congress if these laws worked or not, one of the most important factors on this subject, and everyone was defending several arrangements on behalf of the public should consider is to observe if the political approach of concern is effective or not. After a while Department of Justice began to collect data about Brady Bill and the number of people arrested for carrying weapons illegally reached astronomical levels in the first year Brady Bill was in effect. In the following second, third and fourth years, the number of people carrying weapons illegally continued to decrease and strangely there was a sufficient fall in crime committed with guns and a fall in the rate of violence crime. The same applied for the assassin guns. The data we had about assassin guns showed that crime with these guns was cut where it was double the rate of crimes with other guns. We watched the sales prices of these guns in the streets and we saw that the prices of the illegal guns were increasing and it was getting harder to provide these guns in illegal ways.
So we proved that we had an effective political approach. At this point we had a legal attempt on an issue related to what I mentioned. With this attempt we argued that all weapons must have a safety mechanism. Let me make a few comments on this subject. There are many countries where rate of gun possession is high and the USA is one of those. It is given that almost in half of the households in USA guns are available, in some more than one. The subject can not be simplified as just prohibiting or permitting weapons for us. The important argument for us in USA is to control the weapon buying and keeping conditions.
In the USA today, 15 children are victims of guns everyday and the majority of these incidents are accidents or suicides, not murders. What usually happens is that children can find guns at home which belong to their parents and the expected terrible events follow. I can tell you many terrible stories about parents losing their children: what I mean is that it could happen to anyone. Some of these incidents are murders. But the majority is accidents.
The most striking fact about this tragic situation is that it can be prevented. If all guns had an automatic safety system which could only be deactivated by the owner, these children wouldn’t be able to fire guns when they found them. We have put arrangements about this subject in effect in 15 states now. Now let me give some information. In 15 states we enacted a law about the lock system and the rate of accidental shootings incolving children decreased by to 26%; in other words many children keep surviving. The rate will get smaller when these lock systems are used prevalently. As a result, if I may give a message; there is nor reason to be hopeless even in a country where violence rate reaches remarkable levels.
What you can do is to accept the situation, find effective ways to fight it and apply them. I repeat. The message from the US example I have explained is that no matter how a problem like violence may seem complicated and hard to get over, it actually can be solved and brought to lower levels. The current violence rate in USA is the lowest since the 1960s. When this year is over the number of murders will show the lowest figure since 1958. We tried various methods and got back to the old days when we could walk in the streets without fear: I can say this for USA.
We developed a combination of several methods to tackle this; some of these were not legal and some were. But the important thing was to give messages to press through development of effective approaches and to direct these approaches to political powers. This applied in the USA and it will continue. I hope you may achieve similar success in your country. Thank you very much.
- Jill Marshall Andrews
Ms. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the Umut Foundation for inviting me to this distinguished community to discuss one of the most important problems of our time. Gun Control is an issue which is being discussed increasingly at national and international levels. It has become the most important social problem. Arms control is about legal and illegal guns, crime, conflicts and money. Gun control is an absolute necessity of democracy, primacy of legislation, civil law reformation and international agreements. Most importantly, that power embraces the advantage of minority.
But, since we are going to talk about the role of media in arms control here, I will try to give you an idea about what happened in England especially in the last two and half years and then I will mention about the lessons we got from the campaigns aimed at reformation of gun control legislation.
We, in Great Britain, witnessed two dreadful massacres in the last 11 years which shook the nation’s conscience individually and together. In Hungerford, a quiet town, a man who was previously very law abiding went crazy and killed 16 people, injuring another 15 in 1987. After this, in Dunblane, as we all remember 16 school pupils and one teacher were killed and 12 children and 3 teachers were injured in 1996 by a man who calls himself gun friendly and spent his adult years working with the young. Both of them had a licence to keep guns within the existing legislation.
Although many changes have been suggested related to legislation after the Hungerford incident, a few of them has been made effective. Some semi-automatic guns have been banned but nothing has been done about the most important ones, pistols. We will never know that the Dunblane tragedy could have been prevented if the pistols had been banned 9 years before. Along with the anger of public opinion and effect of media, maintaining the “Arms Control Network” and “Snowgrain Petition” forced the Conservative Government to ban pistols in February 1997. After the New Labour Party came to power in 1997, they banned the all pistols early this year, keeping their promise.
After the Dunblane incident, the most important point of the campaign was the support of the media and this enabled the banning of pistols in an absolute, clear and insistent manner. Our slogan was “MAKE A DECISION – BAN PISTOLS”. Newspapers organized long term campaigns about this subject and TV stations broadcasted programs with live connections, research studies, surveys and debates. Media organizations emphasized on the subject and most of them watched our press conference, politicians from all parties supported us and PR and Advertisement companies worked for us on premium basis and we kept the subject live with this way.
The participation of victim’s families was very important in all these activities. They have become icons. Their anger and gravity has reached millions of parents across the country. Having the victim’s families of Hungerford and Dunblane incidents in our organizations made us acquire enormous power and respect. The gun lobby accepted this as a problem and something very difficult to overcome after the impact of the respect and sympathy for the victims.
From the beginning, the gun lobby has been in a disadvantageous position, despite all its wealth and partnership with the “organization”. The war has been represented as struggle of “David and Goliath”. We did not have money but we were representing the opinions of ordinary unarmed people and majority. Gun lobby was considered as rich, powerful, selfish and distant from public opinion. Shooting with pistols was considered as an inappropriate sport in a modern society. Shooting clubs and associations could not reach a common strategy and stayed against all legal arrangements proposals.
They were terrified by the developments (scared of the thin end of the wedge!) and worried that this legislation for pistols could also be applied to other guns. Shooting clubs tried to emphasize that the problem was about illegally owned guns, but this was a very difficult argument for them since the last two tragedies took place with legally owned guns.
Commentators from all over the world said that these incidents were unique and would not happen anywhere else. I doubt it. Although we have the most strict gun legislation, I would like to emphasize that shooting was the most rapidly developing sport in our country when the Dunblane incident happened and “practical shooting” and “war shooting” offers of shooting clubs can be shown as evident for this development. We have to tell public that we can not follow the American way in which 40,000 people are killed by firearms every year.
Our gun reformation was not only important in terms of banning and destroying 200,000 pistols, but also important to give an open message about in what kind of society we want to live in. Declarations were made and positions were taken saying that “pistols” are dangerous and the less we have them the more we feel secure.
Although these messages seem right to many people, war statistics are growing rapidly regardless these attempts. The statistics of shooting clubs in the USA seem to prove that you will feel more secure when you have guns comparing with not having them. The examples in Britain show that there is no absolute statistical evidence showing a relationship between gun crimes and owning guns. However, logically speaking there must be a connection. Statistics can be used for any purpose, so we have to trust our instincts. We may have something to learn from Andrew Lang, who lived in the 19th Century, who said, “We use statistics as a drunken man uses a street lamp, to lean on it rather than to light it up”.
Until now, I have spoken about our experiences in the United Kingdom regarding changing the gun legislation. However, controlling the supply of these guns was just one part of the attempt. We all know gun control is not only a legal problem and process. In order to be safe, all countries should work together on legal an illegal gun circulation.
We can find an example of this in the gun sales legislation of European Community which was accepted in 1998 and banned gun transfer among countries.
This legislation was issued to limit guns reaching countries with poor records in human rights. Also, in these countries the government institutions can us the guns for wrong purposes and attack another country.
In this context, I would like to mention the importance of clarifying the mystery on gun trade and the role of media is very important on this. In the United Kingdom, it was the media which investigated the recent gun transfers of the New Labour Party, in their unethical foreign policy in which they seem against it, to Sierra Leone and Philippines. And also, the media played an important role in investigating the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and Iraq. We have to continue the campaigns at the national and international levels for transparency and getting accepted.
When it comes to illegal guns, one can say that it is an issue of an effective legal struggle. But, there is much to be done about this, if countries work together on this issue illegal circulation of guns can be stopped. This situation is accepted by the United Nations, European Community, the USA and international organizations. Of course, there has been many debates about the necessity of international cooperation and control of transfer of illegal guns. There have even been some agreements. Declarations have been signed, conventions have been drawn and goodwill wished. Even though it is a slow development, it is still a development.
Another area of progress has been to collect and destroy the guns obtained by civilians from military forces after the conflicts.
After the success of the highways route campaign, a consortium, consisting of NGOs such as International Amnesty Organization, Save the Children, Oxfam and other organizations started work on curbing the spread and procurement of guns destined for third world countries.
However, there is one thing that we need to sure about; the replacement of destroyed guns with the new ones provides a benefit to the producer country and brings death to other countries. As is known, the countries which get political and economic benefit from development of gun industry will fight against controlling the gun industry.
If we take Turkey as an example, we know that 20% of the government budget on defence. Your government has also started a $31 billion modernization program for the next 10 years and this amount will reach $150 billion in the next 25-30 years. I wonder if this is going to make the Turkish people feel more secure or not.
The United Kingdom plays the largest part in this modernization program by providing a big amount of these guns. An agreement was signed to provide 1 million riffles between these two countries in recent weeks. One should ask where these guns will go, and whether these guns will be destroyed or obtained by civilians. I hope to see them to be melted and not to encourage arming in our country or anywhere else.
So far, we put stress on the supply and procurement part of gun control. What about the demand part of it? How are we going to tackle the deep reasons of violence and prevent governments and individuals from obtaining and using guns? I really appreciate the efforts and works of the Umut Foundation on this for years. Maintaining the norms purified from violence is the last point the reach for any country. Most people may say that it is not possible, may be so, but we have to try. If we do not do anything, everything will absolutely get worse.
I am ending my words with four main principles of the Gun Control Network:
I. Guns and violence in any country are related to existence of illegal guns.
II. Owning a gun is a privilege, not a right.
III. As long as positive measures are not taken by governments, the gun culture will spread and threaten public safety.
IV. Gun Control will be more effective in an environment where governments work together.
I am very happy to be here with you and thank you for inviting me.
- Randy Marshall
I’d like to wish you all a pleasant day, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me to this magical city. I would especially like to thank Mrs. Nazire Dedeman, the Umut Foundation President, Prof. Dr. Mehmet Gürkaynak and Zuhal Orhun.
I am Randy Marshall; I am a spokesman of the Australian Gun Control Organization.
1. We want to form a National Authority for Weapons to assess, reconsider the arming problem in Australia and propose solutions to the problem and to function as a data bank to collect information, statistics and studies to issue a law for weapons.
2. We want Australian States and Region Governorships to determine the minimum standards that will be applied to people who want to own guns. According to these, in order to have guns, people should attend a two hour course each week for 20 weeks, and pass the written and applied exams at the end of the course to get a license. Licences should be renewed every two years after brush-up courses
The clearest aims of our organization are based on the principles mentioned above.
You can go to our web page to learn our organization’s other purposes.
Our activities include lobbying, activities towards media, speeches in schools, protesting events and publishing and distributing books on arms problem can be listed.
We have published 12 books so far. We sell these books to students, libraries, politicians and media members. We are working on three new books at the moment.
All the activities of our organization are carried out by volunteers. Our independence is very important for us.
We encourage variety in everything including gun control. Although we cooperate with other organizations during our campaigns and activities, we prefer not to work with big and multi-purposes corporations.
We see political party coalitions, unions and professionals of medical science support the gun control sometimes for tactical reasons, sometimes by bringing it up along with their real agenda in Australia. Such groups are very important in attracting public attention and placing certain issues on the agenda.
If you take a careful look, “We are resisting the Gun Lobby” is written on our letterhead since 1981. Today, the media is our biggest supporter in our fight against the gun lobby.
Therefore, if you will allow me, I would like to tell you about Australia’s current situation, what we have been through so far and the point of view about the media, which both supports and opposes our organization.
When we look at the past, we see that the first activities started in 1901 with Federation, after the separation from Great Britain. At that time, various pieces of gun legislation in each colony were based on British legislation. A more rigid model of gun legislation in the UK, in the 1920’s, had not yet been reflected to Australia.
The legislation in Australia had leaned towards the American model. First of all, Australia was a discovered country. Most Australians felt the emotional and cultural power of rural areas. Although Australia is one of the most modern countries today, the strong reactions arouses by the mention of “rural areas” same as the ones arouses by the mention of “Wild West” in the USA. The development in gun legislation which started in 1901, “the period after the Federation”, was completed in 1987.
This map shows the current situation in Australia – a country with an 18 million population and 8 states, a Governorship region and its big cities in the east coast.
You will see that the majority of the population in South Australia - 80% of it - settled in the east coast area, which is from Queensland to New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. There are some small residential areas in West Australia.
As I said before, there are 8 states and one Governorship region in Australia. This situation makes it harder to do something for those who prepare gun legislation and support gun control. However, these areas had the authorization of gun legislation until 1996.
While some states lack records, others lack requirements for permission; and in some states the control was not enough on guns which can be used; and there were also different rules for shooting range and similar differences. So, there was different gun legislation in these 8 states in Australia by 1996.
Australia had a transitional period that some nations go through from time to time. We both witnessed domestic murders inside families and the tragedy of incidents in which people got killed randomly and collectively. One of these incidents is worth mentioning especially. This is one of the three incidents in Australia which attracted special attention in the Australian media and brought about a number of changes in gun legislation.
The first incident was the massacre of 8 people in a business centre in Melbourne, a city of over 3 million, on 8 December 1987. The victims were postal workers who were members of the biggest union of the country. At that time, the Labour Party was on power. The government had close connections with the unions. And this massacre took place 4 months after the one on 9 August 1987 in Hoodle Street, in which 8 drivers and pedestrians got killed. These two incidents were not independent from each other. Melbourne, a cultural, civilized and cosmopolitan city, is the second biggest city in Australia. It showed its ugly face twice in 1987. People of the city were shocked. The media called for stricter legislation and it succeeded. However, the media only took action after these two incidents took place consecutively, and one of them was a political event (the victims were members of the union and the government on power had close connections with the unions).
I mentioned three incidents that triggered the media to encourage the law makers to improve and to change the legislation.
The second incident happened in the slum quarters of Sydney after four years later. A sniper suddenly appeared in Sydney, Australia’s biggest city with a population of 4 million. A private killed 7 people with a rifle on 17 August 1991. This event targeted people shopping at the Strathfiled Mall. After this massacre, stronger legislation was passed in New South Wales as a result of society’s struggle and media interest.
It was very shocking for people to learn how easy it was to own such dangerous, semi-automatic, high power long range rifles and for it to be accepted as a normal thing in society. This third incident, you may remember - 35 people got killed - drew attention not only of the Australian media but also the global media, spearheading the passage of “The one type Gun Legislation” in Australia.
This legislation came into effect with pressure from the Conservative Prime Minister, John Howard. Surprisingly, the ministers of all states and the Governorship approved this new legislation.
Now, I like to get your attention to main question of this conference and some numbers that I want to give. Why did Australian media focus on these three incidents? However, the number of murders by guns is over 900 and 150 of this amount are the murders of one or two person. Why did it take these three incidents which caused 50 people’s death to draw the attention of the media?
Here is the opinion of “Australian Gun Control:
First of all, the three incidents mentioned – Queen Street/Melbourne, Strathfiled Mall/Sydney and Port Arthur/Tasmania – have similarities. These similarities are that these three incidents happened at the same time when the more strict legislations were being issued.
The media did its duty, political parties did their part, the lobbies of groups supporting guns and against guns played their roles but in the end, society’s concerns won and enabled the issue of more strict legislation. As I said before, there was the Queen Street incident, in 1987, and the Melbourne incident which took place four months later where 7 people died in targeted attacks on members of the biggest union of Australia and they both took place during a Labour Party administration. The coincidence of these three factors – a society which was rapped twice, a media which raised its voice and a government which tried to change things – resulted in changing gun legislation.
In Strathfield incident, happened 4 years later, a combination of different factors played a role. The murder of 7 people happened in August 1991. It happened in New South Wales right after the new gun legislations, which makes easier to control of owning and using guns, prepared by Gun Lobby. Liberal Prime Minister Nick Grenier (liberal means conservative in Australia) was put under pressure by society, the media and groups against guns to improve the legislation. The pressure was so great that a committee consisting of representatives from all parties was formed – the Joint Committee Selected for Gun Reformation Legislation. In the preface of the report by the committee with seven members, the President said: “It was a very unique committee…because, we absolutely followed a neutral way to solve the problems (this is not a common way in Australia in which works get done in a partisan way!).
There was a strange side effect of the pressure for new gun legislation of the New South Wales Government. This pressure enabled the forming of the first “Shooters Party” in Australia. The Gun Lobby which was left alone by its former partner, the Liberal Party, formed its own political party. Mr. Jon Tingle was elected from the “Shooters Party” for the New South Wales Parliament in elections.
Although these two massacres enabled society and the media to raise their voices, the third event, where 35 people were killed by Martin Bryant in Port Arthur/Tasmania, put Australia the worst place in the world. In this point, the media investigated how a mentally handicapped person like Martin Bryant had obtained an army type gun and why he needed such a gun, and there was a fight to ban such guns. That was too much. Peaceful Australia (its economy is based on tourism) came into world’s agenda with this massacre happened in a well-known tourist area. After this the Federal Government took strong measures against guns and put the same legislation into effect in eight administrative regions of Australia.
Liberal Prime Minister John Howard, with the support of most of the media and the public, worked bravely to apply this legislation and get them accepted in one month. While the Australian Gun Control Network was arguing that this legislation was not enough, this legislation became the strictest ones and enabled a ban on half all automatic pistols and rifles. That was the first time the same legislation entered effect in all states and Regional Governorships.
In order to get the guns back the government reserved US$ 300 million and 640,000 guns were collected (including pistols and automatic rifles used in World War I). The media displayed thousands of photos stocked in warehouses, published their stories and the comments of unhappy gun owners.
Here, you see the guns which will be melted and reprocessed in metal warehouses in Victoria.
Now, if you let me I will try to explain the profile of the values in Australia and the role of the media in reflecting and affecting these values. There is a big separation as “cosmopolite” and “community members” in Australian society today. Most Australians consider themselves as cosmopolites – civilized, tolerant and urban. A small but gradually increasing group is the member of communities – a minority including the shooters and gun supporters.
The second point is their political power which is inversely proportional with their numbers. The political power of the Liberal Party depends on its coalition with the National Party. The National Party has a big emotional and historical power for representing the “rural area heritage”. However, the National Party is losing its privileges in the face of demands of the community and of difficulties of satisfying the cosmopolite demands of Liberal Party.
Actually, the National Party Leader Tim Ficher’s attitude of accepting the “One Type Gun Legislation” issued by Prime Minister Howard in 1996 was considered as a betrayal to community member voters. Unhappy voters tried to find other possibilities serving their political opinions and this increased the popularity of new right wing nationalist parties, especially the “One Nation” party of Pauline Hanson rooted by rural Queensland region.
There will be elections in Australia next Saturday, October 3. There are at least 5 parties in the elections which support guns: One Nation, the Shooters Party, the Australian Reform Party, First Australia and the Australian Human Rights Declaration Party. Among these, only “One Nation” party will obtain the enough seats in parliament and be the second example in its history. There are many groups in Australia which make a lot of noise, with large potential and deal with only one issue (for example, the Green Party which obtained seats in parliament in the mid 1980’s).
As you see, there is a different situation in Australia – the values are divided into opposing groups as urban and rural citizens, in other words cosmopolites and community members. Community members consider gun control as a problem, and other gun supporting parties consider the owning gun as a God given right. They also consider registering guns like being excommunicated. Community members were opposing the operation of collecting guns after Port Arthur massacre in 1997.
On the other hand, cosmopolites do not see any logical point in owning any kind of guns such as military type, semi-automatic pistol or rifles. So, which side is the media on -Cosmopolites or Community members? They are on the cosmopolites’ side and against guns with their negatives and positives.
Most journalists in Australia are well educated, urban and middle class people and they accept that protecting Australian citizens’ rights as their biggest responsibility. They also believe that they represent the most civilized, multicultural and most developed society of the world. Furthermore, Australian people do not want their safe and peaceful cities to be turned into cities like in the USA.
The media, which is the biggest supporter of Australian Gun Control, publishes the tragedies caused by guns and enables these dreadful incidents to be argued in front of the general public. The most argued subject concerns who can own guns and what kind of guns they can own. Gun types, stories and personalities of murderers and victims, trials, reactions of lobbies which supports guns and against guns, politicians manoeuvres help to keep these kinds of incidents live in media. I should also tell you that Australians like to read and are interested in news. They like the number of newspapers’ and journals’ reader to be high. Interactive radio programs are very popular. In gun control, since the incidents happen fast and sudden they appear on daily newspapers, TV channels and radio programs.
Unfortunately, the articles in popular periodicals (well-thought and analytic articles) take long time to write (sometimes two months) and gun problem does not attract the editors of these periodicals. In addition to this, there are not enough specialists on daily newspapers and electronic media. Gun related news is mostly watched by general news correspondents. According to Australian Gun Control, there are five weak points of Australian media:
1. The Media can be unfair. Strange incidents sometimes occur with the effort of supporting gun control. For instance, gun owners were depicted as “mad and clowns who can not express their problems” on the “60 minutes” program.
2. Another example of this is that the unnecessary provocative headlines seen in an “Australian newspaper (the only real national news paper in Australia) and on the program entitled “Shooters Diary” supported by Sportsman Shooters Association. They complained to Australia Press Council. The Sportsman Shooters Association claimed that they had difficulties to give ads on some programs and they might be right to say that this was against their freedom of speech. (On the other hand, Australia Gun Control never thought of giving commercial to “Shooters Diary” and I wonder what would happen if we tried).
3. The Media has a tendency towards local news. It is so used to massive murders that in order to bring a murder with a gun up to national level, at least 7 people have to be killed.
4. The Media is judgemental. It appears on different shooting incidents in different ways. Domestic incidents attract less attention.
5. The incident which happened in Hillcrest/Queensland and where 6 people got killed, three months before Port Arthur incident, took a small place on nation wide newspapers.
6. On the other hand, the murder of well known people in society, for example Dr. Victor Chang, attracted a great deal of press attention. The changes in legislation after the Port Arthur incident is another case. The Liberal Party Government suggested 10 different changes on “One Kind Gun Legislation” under the pressure of National Party and they got accepted.
7. The legislation promoted in February 1998 had been written and understood mistakenly until May in this year and wrong priorities were given.
8. Australian Gun Control tried to draw attention of politicians and other people to the problems caused by the changes. It has its rule.. These were important changes.
For example, making it easier to get permission for 7,000 gun holders to get semi-automatic pistols (only 70 permits were given previously), maintaining the private shooting places in 2 hectares and 250 meters away from the main roads and neighbour houses.
Permits for shooting try with a pistol or another gun was given to young shooters who did not have any permission.
Gun control is a very complicated issue and the media which takes the subject simply may skip the sensitive side of it by only showing the emotional and dramatic side of it. In other words, media put stress on the wrong side of the legislations. They insisted on extending the “waiting period” from 7 days to 28 days. (According to new legislations, a person should wait for 28 days to get the gun). Media ignored the changes made to the other three pieces of legislation.
The Media has a short memory. Whenever there is an incident, a massacre or a change occurs, media should be informed about the statistics regarding the gun problem. There are a few journalists who are specialists on this subject, and therefore after the effects of the incidents disappear they forget the whole thing.
I would like to end my words with following: The media has an important role in gun control and educating the public and encouraging the politicians to improve the legislation.
However, the media has its own rules and priorities – based on commercial success. Among them, TV owners have a lot to give. Commercial TV channels encourage the gun culture and armed violence with “war toys” and “computer games”. Media also tries to satisfy and keep live the public’s interest. A sensitive media can prevent the disasters and enable the protective measurements to be taken. For this is not the case, media comes after many people get killed by guns.
Journalists are very sensitive to security of society but it does not mean that they will be very effective in taking preventing measurements. Even though the media makes calls for more strict control or gives the government hard time with the questions, the government needs to be willing and self-sacrificing. This is the nature of it!
Thank you for listening to me, I am ready for your questions. I brought some materials about our organization’s work. I also brought our last bulletin.
Thank you again.