Friday, September 26, 2008

Gun bans: It’s for the children, er, crocodiles

From the Solomons:
Attempts to turn Solomon Islands into a gun-free society has had an unintended deadly side effect.

It's lead in part, to an increase in the number of fatal crocodile attacks.

Guns were banned on Solomon Islands following racial tensions and the arrival in 2003 of the Australian lead Regional Assistance Mission, RAMSI.

Solomon Islands Acting Police Commissioner, Peter Marshall, has told Radio Australia at least six people have been killed by crocodiles in the past 18 months.

Article here. Hey, crocs got to eat, too, don't they? :)


Anonymous said...

That sounds like a pretty good connection if you don't know anything at all about the Solomons or their history. I do.

Before, say, the mid-late 80s there were almost no guns in the Solomons. So it's not at all as though Solomon Islanders were busily keeping the crocs in check with their weapons. They didn't have weapons.

Second, the population has risen sharply over the same time period, and that increase has had the effect of increasing the proportion of all Solomon Islanders who are children.

Crocodiles inhabit the coast, obviously. More people are on the coastlines than previously.

The way you deal with crocodiles is to be careful and avoid places and situations where they might be, not to arm yourself. In the Solomons, and also on Bougainville (another island I know quite well) if you live on the coast you have to cross river mouths, which are the most dangerous places in terms of crocodiles. Don't imagine saving the children by having armed guards at river fords. It just doesn't work that way.

All the time I lived in the bush on Bougainville in the late sixties and early seventies, when the number of guns (overwhelmingly 12 ga single-shot pieces) was rigidly controlled by the Australian colonialists, and there were maybe 1 or 2 shotguns per thousand people, I never heard of a single crocodile attack. On coastal Malaita in 1968 I never heard of a single one.

If you have a lot of weapons around, as in certain areas of Guadalcanal and Malaita were there, then yeah, you can get together a bunch of guys and go out blasting crocs if you have weapons. Sure. And that probably is going to cut down the croc population, and so on.

Finally, there's the obvious connection between a situation with a lot of guns and a reduced croc population, and the failure of kids (and their parents) to keep to the old, careful ways. Then if the croc population rises...well, it's obvious what will happen, until the kids are taught the old be-careful ways.

So the simple equation "guns protect kids from crocs" is nonsense. It sounds good, but it's BS.

David said...

Anonymous, thank you for your comment. What you say makes sense. With rising population density, we would expect more attacks, particularly if the new residents haven't been taught proper croc-avoidance etiquette.

I recall reading an article a while back about a similar situation concerning the increased incidence of alligator attacks in Florida. With rising population density, combined with an increased alligator population due to the reptile's status as an endangered species (so no more gator-hunting), alligator attacks have increased. Go figure. :)

Stay safe,