I’ve long been fascinated by Australia and its people. A visit to that country has been high on my bucket list since I was just a kid, but more and more as I read about present-day Australia I am disappointed and saddened.

It seems that the days of rugged individualism and self-determination are gone from the land down under, and the heroic characters of the past like Ned Kelly and Banjo Patterson have faded into the realm of myth and fairytales. It wasn’t so long ago that the reputation of Australia included the belief that one Australian could easily, and happily, pommel any two men from any other country – more if she put down her baby. And the men had an even hardier reputation.

Sadly that’s no longer the case, as Australia has apparently devolved into a namby-pamby society of effete urbanites, hen-pecked by anglophilic nannies and socialist, world-citizen politicians who revel in Australia’s rugged history while criminalizing and quashing any hint of such thought or action in present day.

My disappointment in Australia turned into outright disgust last week when I happened upon two stories in Australian media, both dated Aug. 10. The first story, from the Sydney Morning Herald, was about the government of New South Wales’ decision to revoke the firearm license of Richard Hawkins, an 89-year old veteran of World War II – not because he was losing mental faculties or creating a safety threat to his neighbors, but because the tool chest in which he stored his two .22 rifles did not meet the government’s security standards, something discovered during a routine “safe storage audit.”

When informed of the security issue, the old vet disassembled the two rifles and gave them to a local locksmith – the son of a war buddy – for safe-keeping while he worked on acquiring a more secure storage container. That was his second mistake, since one of the .22 rifles was a semi-auto and therefore a “Category C” firearm requiring a special license to possess – a license the locksmith did not hold.

These two issues, along with Hawkins’ disagreeable attitude when told his guns were going to be taken away, were cited by the magistrate hearing the appeal of Hawkins’ license revocation as demonstrating an inability to understand the rules of firearms ownership. The magistrate expressed further concern that the old vet was only able to shoot from a supported position due to back and neck injuries he sustained fighting for Australia’s freedom against Nazi and Japanese aggressors.

“In my opinion, it is not in the public interest for a person to hold a firearms license if that person does not have the physical capacity to safely use a firearm,” the magistrate ruled, “including use in unexpected or emergency situations.”

Unexpected or emergency situations?

These are .22 caliber rifles, which are are required to be locked in a government-approved storage container at all times except when actually being used for government-approved purposes, and self-defense is dangling off of the bottom of the list of approved purposes. Using a gun in defense of self or others in Australia today could easily result in something akin to what happened to Tony Martin in England – a life sentence for murder and a civil lawsuit requiring damages be paid to the surviving burglar.

Mr. Hawkins, who lives alone on secluded land out in the country, explained that he used the .22s for pest control and planned to use them to humanely dispatch his aging horses when the need arose. That argument didn’t sway the magistrate who upheld the license revocation – in the public interest.

In the second news story, from ABC Newcastle, the firearm-crime noted was also discovered during a “safe storage audit” by local police. In this case the police discovered one of the guns in a farmer’s government-approved safe was actually loaded, and there was also “live ammunition” being stored in the safe.

As the report notes, “Guns are required to be stored unloaded in a gun safe, with ammunition locked away in a separate location.”

The story then goes on to quote a gun-control coalition spokeswoman who advises that “There’s a reason why firearms and ammunition are separated, and that is for safety, particularly because guns are kept in the home. We need to ensure the persons that are in the home are as safe as possible. This is because of accidents or suicide or potential domestic violence situations.”

The criminal farmer in this incident was not an aging veteran of WWII, but rather the middle-aged husband of a member of the New South Wales Parliament, Pru Goward. His case was scheduled to go to trial later this month.

As I read these stories, particularly the quotes from the gun-control coalition spokeswoman, my mind’s eye pictured the events as one of those silly skits from the old British comedy series “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” In my version of events, John Cleese and Graham Chapman play the bungling police officers operating under the animated, falsetto orders of Eric Idle, in skirt and pillbox hat, as the woman from the safety coalition. Together they are going through a farmer’s home taping bubble-wrap to every sharp corner and confiscating all potentially dangerous items such as matches, flatware and the old farmer’s walking stick – without which he falls on his face.

When police advised old Mr. Hawkins that they were going to revoke his firearm license, he challenged them and asked, “Haven’t you blokes got anything better to do than going around harassing war veterans?”

He makes a good point. Issues of individual rights, liberty and self-defense aside, the government of Australia has spent, and continues to spend, billions of dollars registering, inspecting and confiscating guns from law-abiding citizens – not to mention the millions they spend prosecuting these poor people – while their crime rates soared.

At this point their violent crime rates are in decline, as they are in the U.S. and Canada, but they are declining from record highs set after the people allowed themselves to be disarmed. Doesn’t it make sense that the time, energy and expense of policing law-abiding gun owners could have been better spent pursuing and prosecuting actual criminals?

Sadly, the beautiful “land down under” has become an oppressive nanny state living a true-to-life Monty Python joke.

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