Rodger Muller’s wandering the miles of aisles of the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits here in Louisville this weekend, watching tens of thousands of attendees ogle and finger thousands of items he and his fellow Australians can’t legally own. The founder and president of Gun Rights Australia‘s goal in being here is simple: figure out how to start the process of de-stigmatizing and re-legitimizing firearms ownership in the land down under. But given the lack of a constitutional civil right to keep and bear arms — not to mention Australia’s disastrous post-Port Arthur National Firearms Agreement — Muller’s got a long road ahead of him. It’s an instructive, cautionary example of what a tough row it is to hoe getting something back once you’ve lost it . . .
As Muller told me, in Australia, “gun ownership is a privilege, not a right.” Which means Aussies can only arm themselves at the pleasure of their government. Six month “cooling off” periods before they’ll process your pistol permit application. No-notice visits from police to ensure that registered firearms owners have their guns stored in accordance with the law. “It’s what you sign up for when you’re granted a gun license.”
So while like-minded Americans read news of another state on the brink of making constitutional carry the law, and more favorable court rulings, Muller has to concentrate on the heavy lifting needed to regain the ability of his fellow Australians to carry a gun. In addition to the Sisyphean task of accomplishing the cultural change needed to make gun ownership socially acceptable in polite society again, he has three legislative goals:
- make self defense a valid reason for owning a gun (it’s not now)
- legalize concealed carry (currently verboten)
- tightening (and enforcing) laws on the illegal weapons trade
That last one, because the typical Australian legislator (never mind citizen) conflates crimes committed with illegally owned firearms with legal civilian gun ownership.
So he made the long journey here to tap into the NRA’s deep reservoir of experience fighting for civilian gun ownership and beating back the never-ending attempts of the professional left to curtail it. Those are fights the previous generation lost in Oz and one that will probably take at least another generation to begin to claw back. Let’s hope the NRA can provide Muller some much needed expertise. And that his predicament never becomes ours.