The following descriptions will be both troubling and confronting…
Tuesday, 18 March 2018. Clarendon Street, South Melbourne, around 4:20am. Seven teenagers demand money from an innocent bystander walking home from work. When they refuse, the teens start hitting the victim with metal poles. Injuries include a broken eye socket and multiple cuts to the head.
Saturday, 18 August 2018. At a bust stop on Old Castle Hill Road, roughly 8:50pm. Two 16-year-old males get into an argument with someone waiting at the bus shelter. Unprovoked, the argument somehow turns physical, and that ‘someone’ is thrown to the ground and kicked in the stomach.
Thursday, 6 September 2018. Near the MCG after the Richmond–Hawthorn qualifying final. Three 20-something-year-old males approach two innocent footy fans waiting for a taxi. The three men proceed to attack. One victim is punched 17 times in the head and is then stomped on. The other suffers similar facial injuries as well as a broken arm.
Detective Constable Ashlee Bull says of the crime, ‘It’s probably to the realms of the worst of something we see in these kinds of assaults’.
There’s a scary amount of similarities between these crimes. All occur in the dark hours of night, in public places…all are committed by young men…all are unprovoked. But there is something else, something arguably more concerning, that each of these incidences have in common…
All of the victims are older men, ranging from 45–70 years old. And due to Australia’s stringent laws, they were unable to protect themselves when attacked.
A call to action
Don’t worry, this isn’t a request to revoke Australia’s gun laws. We are aware how much closer to fatal these attacks may have been were firearms involved.
It’s high time we level the playing field and allow citizens the means to protect themselves. By the time police arrive, after all, it is usually too late.
In nearly every state of Australia, it is illegal to carry ‘any hand-held device that is designed to administer an electric shock on contact’ or any object that contains or expels an ‘explosive, incendiary, irritant or gas’. In plain English, this means easy-to-use, convenient forms of defence like tasers and pepper spray are a no no.
While some states allow Incident Response officials to carry these weapons, they can’t be owned or used by the general public.
Right now, Western Australia is the only state where pepper spray is seen as a ‘controlled weapon’, and so can be carried and used by anyone provided there are ‘reasonable grounds’ for its use. Note how neither of the above three incidences occurred in WA. A troubling coincidence, if you ask me.
Of course, there’s still the trouble of determining what are and are not ‘reasonable grounds’. And this brings us back to the victims of the aforementioned crimes.
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Only the damsels, not the defenceless
Lorraine Finlay, a lecturer at the Murdoch University School of Law in Perth, made this comment about the blurred guidelines of the law:
‘For example, one of the Supreme Court judgments mentioned if you were a woman walking home alone at night after work, you may well have reasonable grounds for carrying pepper spray.’
If you were a woman…so then I guess the elderly male victims we’ve addressed aren’t eligible?
It’s time for the country — even the world — to acknowledge the fact that women aren’t the only people in need of weapons for self-defence measures.
Sure, you could make the argument that all of the perpetrators were male, and so supplying them with additional legal weaponry would be detrimental to public safety.
Now I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be sprayed in the eye and experience temporary discomfort than be flogged in the head close to 20-times. And I reckon I’d be quicker at getting the first spray in, especially if I grab for it at the first sign of danger.
Also, something tells me that a gang of teens who were willing to arm themselves with metal poles aren’t going to switch out to pepper spray or tasers just because they’re legal.
We need to stop thinking of it as adding fuel to the fire. The fire is burning, well and strong. And unless we have a way of dousing it to some degree, it’s going to keep on burning.
Give the innocent a way out, before that fatal blow is delivered.
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