Libro Blanco Sobre la Reducción de Armas de Fuego / Dr. Franz Császár

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Excelente estudio sobre el control de armas y la reducción de su número, escrito por el Dr. Franz Császár, Profesor de Criminología en la facultad de Leyes, de la Universidad de Viena, Austria.

Las conclusiones a las que llega no pueden ser más evidentes: El control para la reducción de armas en manos de civiles no tiene incidencia sobre el control de la delincuencia

(1) There can be no doubt that the control of guns in order to reduce the number
of civilian owned firearms in circulation has had altogether a very limited success.
There exists an enormous stock of illegal guns all over the world. Demand, supply
and distribution are constantly stimulated by ever present social disorder, armed
conflicts and global migration. A very strong impetus on a world-wide scale is
provided by the interrelations of the drugs and the arms markets. Most of the
elements augmenting illegal gun business are outright criminal. This contrasts
unfavourably with the fact that gun control almost exclusively can only be imposed
on the law abiding part of the population.

(2) The degree to which arms reduction in numbers can be achieved through the
control of previously registered and legally owned guns can easily be
counterbalanced by rather unpleasant or outright counterproductive side effects.
The most important of these is the stimulation and enlargement of an illegal black
market. This cannot seriously be disputed as it is well known from the consequences
of other prohibitive measures. Moreover there is sufficient evidence for the
possibility of increased criminal misuse of guns following a radical disarmament of
legal gun owners, by giving violence-prone criminals an ever greater advantage.
This is of course linked to the overall development of aggressive and predatory
crime, which is quite likely in turn stimulated by rendering potential victims
definitely helpless.

(3) In this context there should also be noted that a reduction in the number of
guns available is of no measurable influence on the incidence of other harmful
events. An example is provided by the occurrence of suicides. It is already proven,
that the availability of guns is not correlated with the frequency of suicides as a
Dr. Franz Császár WFSA White Paper Page 22
whole.49 Furthermore, if guns are less available, there takes place a substitution
effect. While gun-related suicides were reduced by Canada’s handgun ban of 1976,
the overall suicide rate did not go down at all: The gun related suicides were replaced
100% by an increase in other types of suicide.50 These events and also gun-related
accidents are extremely scare in comparison with the number of guns available and
their occurrence depends on other causes.

(4) Given the scarcity of state resources, gun control also has to be seen in terms
of costs and benefits. The outcome of such an analysis is clear: Registration is not
only costly, ineffective and achieves little, but diverts scarce resources away from
other, more important duties. Therefor, police in general are not in favour of
overly restrictive, let alone prohibitive gun control. The New Zealand government
discontinued firearms registration in 1984 after the New Zealand police
recommended it’s termination.51 The Canadian Police Association was at the brink of
withdrawing it’s support of the firearms registration (C 68, Firearms Act of 1995)
because of it’s serious shortcomings.52 At the height of the Austrian gun debate some
two years ago leading police officials stated, that a then called-for prohibition of
handguns would not only be senseless and a waste of time and money, but that it
would be outright dangerous because of it’s impact on the black arms market.53
49 Japanese gun ownership is about 2% of the Australian level, but their suicide rate is almost double that of
Australia and the US. Review of Firearms Statistics and Regulations in Selected Countries. Draft Document.
Research, Statistics and Evauation directorate. Dept of Justice Canada. April 25, 1995, particulary table 1.1 .
Cited after: James B. LAWSON supranote 9. Although legal gun ownership in Hungary is much more scarce
than in Austria, the suicide rate in Hungary is very much higher.
50 “Howard’s Gun Ban. Buy-Back Analysis. Updated at Monday, October 20, 1997. Available at:
<a href="" target="_blank"></a> .
51 “Background to the Introduction of Firearms User Licensing Instead of Rifle and Shotgun Registration
Under the Arms Act 1983” New Zealand National Police, cited after MAUSER supranote 20. S. W.
WATERMAN: “Firearms – Is It a Police Responsibility?” Research Lecture Paper, Victoria Police College,
Inspector’s Course NO. 51 – 1986. NEWGREEN (Chief Inspector and Register):Registration Firearms System
CRB File 39-1-1385/84, available at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>
52 Resolution approved August 27, 1999, cited after SSAA <a href=""></a> .
53 Personal communications.
Dr. Franz Császár WFSA White Paper Page 23

(5) Finally, coming down ever harder on legal gun ownership in order to achieve
some degree of success is almost by necessity linked with severe erosion of civil
rights. Although every single new restriction on the way towards ever stricter gun
control might be viewed as small and reasonable, in total it will amount to a serious
impairment of basic civil rights for everyone. The tenet that the law abiding has
nothing to fear from the state holds no longer true against a growing tendency to
view the very people as basically suspect. All these tendencies, which are growing
in other fields than the issue of private gun ownership too, will on the long run
destroy the very roots of a free and democratic society of reasonable and
responsible citizens. This holds equally true for the sometimes openly admitted
intent to use gun control for making grand symbolic gestures at the expense of
the law abiding population.

(6) Does all this mean that the state should abandon any efforts on gun control at
all and leave things go their own way? Certainly not. It would be irresponsible to
deny the benefits of minimising the access of risk populations to guns on the one
hand, and to ensure and improve responsible gun ownership on the other hand. In
that very basic meaning gun control makes sense and is necessary.
While this may be correct in general terms, problems start as usually with the
practical implementation of these principles. As a whole, gun control as a social
enterprise offers no 100% solution, which yields only benefits. The central issue is
not one of maximising one particular aspect (for instance "no guns in private hands")
but to optimise the interdependence of all relevant factors, which very often are
outright antagonistic. There is a law of diminishing returns also in gun control, once
the optimum area has been left behind.
In practice, the efficiency of gun control seems to be coupled with social
acceptance. This basis has suffered from an ever faster succession of ever more
restrictions, in most cases enacted under severe media pressure. Very often it is
obvious that a new provision is far off the mark of a real problem, for instance when
neglect in administrating existent laws is hidden behind new laws, or when a new
law is called for before the latest law has even come into effect. Very often gun
Dr. Franz Császár WFSA White Paper Page 24
owners feel completely misled by ever repeated promises that the newest
restriction will also be the last one. As a consequence they tend to refuse
compliance with further control measures as best as they can. This in turn is seen
as proof for further legislative or administrative measures, following the erroneous
principle of "more of the same".
As social and legal conditions vary over a very broad spectrum there obviously can
be no "one size fits all" way of gun control. Certainly it should not be founded
on the assumption that "gun control will reduce the number of legal and illegal
arms in circulation" as it's only credo.

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