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Human Rights and Gun Confiscation

Human Rights and Gun Confiscation

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Published by Chris Walker
Part I conducts a case study of the U.N.-supported gun confiscation program in Uganda;
Part II examines a similar gun confiscation program, with similar results, in Kenya;
Part III describes the recent government attempts to disarm South African citizens;
Part IV reports on survey data and other evidence from around the world which suggests one reason why gun confiscation programs can result in major human rights violations.
Part I conducts a case study of the U.N.-supported gun confiscation program in Uganda;
Part II examines a similar gun confiscation program, with similar results, in Kenya;
Part III describes the recent government attempts to disarm South African citizens;
Part IV reports on survey data and other evidence from around the world which suggests one reason why gun confiscation programs can result in major human rights violations.

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Categories:Types, Research, Law
Published by: Chris Walker on Jan 10, 2012
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K
OPEL
- 2 Final Edit - 26-2 3/4/2008
 
2:01
 
PM
385
H
UMAN
R
IGHTS AND
G
UN
C
ONFISCATION
 
 By David B. Kopel*, Paul Gallant**, & Joanne D. Eisen***
I
NTRODUCTION
 “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person,”affirms Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
1
It is
* Research Director, Independence Institute, Golden, Colorado; Associate PolicyAnalyst, Cato Institute, Washington, D.C.; www.davekopel.org. Author of 
The Samurai, the Mountie, and the Cowboy: Should America Adopt the Gun Controls of Other Democracies?
(1992). Coauthor of the law school textbook
Gun Control and Gun Rights
(2002).** Senior Fellow, Independence Institute, Golden Colorado,www.independenceinstitute.org.*** Senior Fellow, Independence Institute, Golden, Colorado. Coauthor (with Kopeland Gallant) of numerous articles on international gun policy in publications such as the
 Notre Dame Law
 
 Review
and
 Brown Journal of World Affairs
.The authors would like to dedicate this Article to the memory of Alan G. Eisen, adevoted husband who admired and supported Joanne’s scholarship, and whose love of freedom and truth continues to inspire us. We would like to thank Sherry Gallant for editingassistance.1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, G.A. Res. 217A, at art 3., U.N. GAOR, 3dSess., 1st plen. mtg., U.N. Doc. A/810 (Dec. 12, 1948). The Universal Declaration of HumanRights is not a legally binding treaty, but rather an aspirational standard. The hopes of Article3 are reflected in a variety of later, legally-binding treaties, by which almost everygovernment in the world has legally agreed to respect the rights of life, liberty, and security.
See
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, art. 6, cl. 1, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI),21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No.16), U.N. Doc. A/6316, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Mar. 23, 1976; (“Everyhuman being has the inherent right to life.”);
id.
at art. 9, § 1 (“Everyone has the right toliberty and security of person.”); European Convention on Human Rights § I, art. 2(1) (1950),
available at 
http://www.hri.org/docs/ECHR50.html (“Everyone’s right to life shall beprotected by law.”);
id 
. § I, art. 5(1) (“Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person.”); Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms § I art.2(1), Sept. 3, 1953,
as amended by
Protocol No. 11,
entered into force
January 1, 1990, 213U.N.T.S. 222,
available at 
http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/z17euroco.html(“Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law.”);
id 
. § I, art. 5, 1 (“Everyone has the rightto liberty and security of person.”); Organization of American States, American Conventionon Human Rights, Nov. 22, 1969, O.A.S.T.S. No. 36, 1144 U.N.T.S. 123, July 18, 1978
 ,
 
available at 
http://www.hrcr.org/docs/American_Convention/oashr.html;
id 
. at ch. 2, art. 4(1)(“Every person has the right to have his life respected.”);
id 
. at ch. 2, art. 7(1) (“Every personhas the right to personal liberty and security.”); African Charter on Human and Peoples’Rights,
adopted 
June 27, 1981,
entered into force
Oct. 21, 1986,
available at 
 http://www.hrcr.org/docs/Banjul/afrhr.html;
id 
. at ch. 1, art. 4 (“Every human being shall be
 
K
OPEL
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2:01
 
PM
386 QLR [Vol. 26:385
 
well-documented that firearms in the hands of warlords, terrorists, andother rogues have been used to perpetrate human rights abuses.Accordingly, some persons argue that governments can implement theprinciples of the Universal Declaration by confiscating all firearms fromcitizens, or by very severely restricting the possession of firearms.
2
This
entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person.”);
id 
. at ch. 1, art. 6 (“Everyindividual shall have the right to liberty and to the security of his person.”).2
. See
,
e.g.,
Wendy Cukier, Antoine Chapdelaine & Cindy Collins, Globalization andFirearms: A Public Health Perspective 40-44 (Fall 2000),
available at 
http://dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection/E2-372-2000E.pdf (paper submitted to Canadian Centre forForeign Policy and Development) (“The problem of firearms is a concern for a wide range of constituencies . . . . While they focus on different aspects of the problem and solutionsappropriate to different contexts, the overarching goal many share is the prevention of firearms injury and death in the context of international humanitarian and human rights.”);Giles Hewitt,
U.N. Arms Control Meet Opens with Call for Global Treaty
, A
GENCE
F
RANCE
P
RESSE
, June 26, 2006 (According to Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan,“Arms proliferation has facilitated some of the worst human rights tragedies of our times,including massacres, mass displacement, torture and mistreatment.”); Thalif Deen,
 Disarmament: Does the World Really Need 14 Billion Bullets a Year 
, I
NTER
P
RESS
S
ERVICE
E
NGLISH
, June 15, 2006 (“The bullet trade is out of control,” says Oxfam, and “it is fuelingconflict and human rights abuses worldwide.”); Environmentalists Against War, CurbTrafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons,http://www.envirosagainstwar.org/know/read.php?itemid=1666 (last visited Feb. 29, 2008)(“These weapons directly contribute to widespread human rights violations . . . .”); HumanRights Watch, Small Arms and Human Rights: A Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper for theU.N. Biennial Meeting on Small Arms 3 (July 7, 2003),
available at 
 http://hrw.org/backgrounder/arms/small-arms-full-070703.pdf (“Small arms facilitatecountless human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law around theglobe.”); S
MALL
A
RMS
S
URVEY
,
 
S
MALL
A
RMS
S
URVEY
2004:
 
R
IGHTS AT
R
ISK
1 (2004),
available at 
 http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/files/sas/publications/year_b_pdf/2004/2004SAS_intro_en.pdf (“The widespread proliferation and misuse of small arms threatens the realization of basichuman rights and security in various ways.”); Int’l Action Network on Small Arms, 2006:Bringing the Global Gun Crisis Under Control 8,
available at 
 http://www.iansa.org/members/IANSA-media-briefing-low-res.pdf (last visited Oct. 7, 2007)(“More human rights abuses are committed with small arms than with any other weapon.”);Brian Wood,
 A Dirty Trade in Arms
, L
E
M
ONDE DIPLOMATIQUE
, June 2006,
available at 
 http://mondediplo.com/2006/06/10dirtytrade (“The proliferation of arms, especially smallarms, has had a lasting [negative] impact on human rights.”); Press Release, Inter-Parliamentary Union, Parliamentarians in Nairobi Urge all Parties to Ensure that Food Relief Should not be Used for Political Ends (May 12, 2006),
available at 
http://www.ipu.org/press-e/nai9.htm (“[Parliamentarians] urged parliaments to combat SALW proliferation and misuseas a key element in national strategies on conflict prevention, peace-building, sustainabledevelopment, [and] protection of human rights . . . .”);
 Malawi Forms NGO to ControlFirearms
, C
HRONICLE
(Lilongwe), Apr. 27, 2006,http://allafrica.com/stories/200604270120.html (subscription required) (Acting InspectorGeneral of Malawi Police, Often Thyolani: “The availability and spread of these weapons[small arms] is one of the main factors undermining development and fuelling conflict, crimeand human rights abuses.”).
 
K
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2:01
 
PM
2008] HUMAN RIGHTS 387
 
Article addresses a human rights problem which has been generallyignored by the advocates of firearms confiscation: the human rightsabuses stemming from the enforcement of confiscation or similar laws.This Article does
not 
make any claim that there is an internationalhuman right to possess arms, or even a human right of self-defense; theauthors also, for purposes of this Article, ignore the rights of self-defense and the rights to arms that are contained in various nationalconstitutions.
3
Rather, this Article documents some of the human rightsabuses that result from the types of gun control and gun prohibitionprograms supported by the United Nations and other international guncontrol advocates.Part I conducts a case study of the U.N.-supported gun confiscationprogram in Uganda, a program that has directly caused massive and fatalviolations of human rights. Among the rights violated have been thoseenumerated in Article 3 (“the right to life, liberty and security of person”
4
) and Article 5 (“[n]o one shall be subjected to torture or tocruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”) of the UniversalDeclaration.
5
 Part II examines a similar gun confiscation program, with similarresults, in Kenya.Part III describes the recent government attempts to disarm SouthAfrican citizens, and details how the implementation of antigun laws hascaused extensive violations of civil and human rights, although not thegovernment-perpetrated murder, torture, arson, and ethnic cleansing thathave been endemic in Kenya and Uganda.Part IV reports on survey data and other evidence from around theworld which suggests one reason why gun confiscation programs canresult in major human rights violations: most gun-owners possess theirfirearm for personal and family defense. Gun confiscation, therefore,must be enforced by extremely violent and intrusive measures. Gunpossession imposes various costs and inconveniences on gun owners (forexample, the cost of buying a gun, the trouble of carrying it, and so on);accordingly, it is likely that if public safety were well-protected, manypeople might choose to disarm. But civilians simply will not disarmwhen they cannot see concrete evidence of guaranteed personal safety.
3. Such issues are addressed in David B. Kopel, Paul Gallant & Joanne D. Eisen,
The Human Right of Self-Defense
, 22 BYU
 
J.
 
P
UB
.
 
L. 43
 
(2008).4. Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
supra
note 1, at art. 3.5
. Id.
at art. 5.

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