“Stop there! Mary,
you’re freaking me out now.” It’s an
unusual response from an interviewee when I’m double checking some facts, yet
surprised is what I shouldn’t be given everything has been a little odd since
interviewing Rebecca Peters, Director International Action Network on Small
The first question I’m asked by those connected with her
work is ‘what’s your interest in the gun lobby?’ When I respond: “I want to meet the woman who
‘frosted the cookies’ of American gun lobby,’” I expect a hearty laugh, instead
the reaction is of stunned disbelief.
After upsetting an interviewee, Peters’ office
sends an email wanting to see the entire article, right now. “As
you can appreciate, in this extremely volatile arena, every piece of information
published about Rebecca (and indeed Donna) is likely to be seized upon and
exploited by people who wish her ill,” writes Louise Rimmer,
Communication Officer, IANSA.
I meet Peters at 3am, on a dark cold morning, as we chat
by phone between London and Sydney. She
talks non-stop, bouncing through ideas with a slightly annoying habit of often
starting sentences three different ways.
Yet when she finally finds her words the point is always strikingly
It was in Australia that Peters rose to prominence in
1996, being credited with lobbying, and finally winning support from the Howard
Government to introduce some of the toughest gun control legislation on earth.
What singles Peters out further is that there are rumours
abound that the Obama administration will ask her, and her associate,
billionaire George Soros, to work on introducing gun controls in the United
States. It’s even been suggested that
Peters will sit at the United Nations (UN) as Obama’s representative, these
whispers emanating from none other than the National Rifle Association of
Today Peters is working through the UN, lobbying for the
introduction of an international gun registration system, a reduction in the
proliferation of small arms, and controls over brokers involved in the illicit
trade of weapons –
and by gosh the gun lobby just doesn’t like her.
state that there are an astounding 875,000,000 guns in the world. “That is a conservative estimate as it’s
based on what it’s possible to find documentation on. So it’s probably more like 1 billion guns,”
says Peters. “That’s almost one gun for
every 6 people on the planet and three quarters of those guns are in private
In Australia there are an estimated 16 guns for every 100
people compared to the United States where there are 97 for every 100
civilians, according to the Small Arms Survey 2007, Graduate Institute
for International Studies. In the US
alone, there are an estimated 270,000,000 and that excludes military weapons!
With so many guns in the world, it feels so alone having
never touched, let alone seen one.
Out here it’s hot, so stifling hot. It’s no wonder, given I’ve locked myself in
the car for half an hour, terrified outside the Bankstown Gun Shop. Here there are no handbags or frilly
shirts. This is alien territory.
Two young men, dressed in long shorts and half a shirt
are looking through the window and finally go in. I wait 10 minutes for them to buy their
ammunition. ‘Why don’t you just
DISAPPEAR?’ I yell, from the safety of the car.
But it seems they’re there for the long haul, so there’s no option but
to bite the bullet and enter big bloke’s world.
There’s a double security door that opens onto a blue
eyed mannequin, dressed in army style clothes that guards rows and rows of
rifles locked behind the counter. This
is where the cliché’s end. Running
around the isle is a toddler who stops to pick up shinny objects and mounted on
the wall is the head of a moose that pounds out, in a deep southern accent,
‘Raw Hide’ – Karaoke style.
Yet the biggest surprise is that my Guns Lesson 101
doesn’t come from some beefy bloke who’ll treat me like a complete idiot but a
25 year old woman who loves shooting and performing ballet and still has the
smile of a child. Bridae Tiplady gently
explains the Australian licensing system, introduced in 1996, that includes the
banning of long armed semi-automatic and self-loading rifles which allow the
rapid firing of bullets.
Under the rules I’m not allowed to touch a bullet, let
alone a gun without a license. On the
other counter the two young men with half a shirt are aiming a rifle at an
invisible point on the wall. Now I want
to know how much the metal weighs, is a gun cold in your hands, what does it
feel like to aim at a target?
On a very different day, Moshe Pleshet dumps his bike,
unlocked, outside a cafe in Bondi. Much
like his daughter, he’s an artist, politically active and disarmingly
In June, 1993 Pleshet’s 15 year old daughter, Dali, was
lazing around after a party on the veranda of an old farmhouse, 20 kilometres
outside Mudgee. Hung-over, the group
began winding up Dali about her animal rights ideals. Bringing home the point
one of the boys brings out a semi-automatic rifle for an afternoon of
In protest Dali walks through a paddock, heading
home. Back at the house the boy brags to
his friends that he could ‘shoot her in the bum’. He aims the gun above Dali’s head as she rose
to climb over a fence, he shot.
For a moment Dali stood still after the bullet had
penetrated her head, then she collapsed to the ground and died soon after.
16 years since the death of his daughter the scar is
still visible. “But you know the
nightmare for me, and it’s still very vivid, was that that night I was the one
who identified my daughter. This is the
nightmare that regularly comes back to me”.
Pleshet recounts Dali’s story, he’s red eyes fixed,
unmoving from a point on the floor. Then
out of the sadness he looks at me intently with unashamed anger, not for the
boy being sentenced for only 4 and a half years, nor for the boy ‘being cocky’
before the trial. Pleshet’s anger is at
gun lobby who argue for civilians to have the right to open access to guns, any
guns. “So when I hear the NRA talking about the second amendment (the right to
bear arms) I think those people are morons.
Absolute morons. They should be somewhere in a cave, not in a civilized
Having written into the constitution that all American’s
have the right to bear arms the gun lobby has convinced successive US
governments, with some exceptions, against introducing legislation that would
control their guns.
“Americans have a right to bear arms, we don’t, for us
it’s a privilege,” says Tim Bannister, Lobbyist, Sporting Shooters’ Association
of Australia (SSAA).
Last year that right was reinforced when the United
States Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision in District of Columbia
verses Heller, upholding the right of civilians to own guns for self defence or
A submission on behalf of ‘Academics for the Second
Amendment’ was filed in the Supreme Court by Dave Hardy, a lifetime member and
a consultant attorney for the NRA. He
believes that carrying a gun for self defence is a criminal deterrent.
In his Arizona home he owns 20 rifles, 2 shotguns, 6-8
pistols, one machine gun and hanging the wall is a 1861 musket from the
American Civil War. “In Professor Gary
Kleck’s research, 2 million Americans each year use a firearm in self defence.
In 98% of the cases they don’t fire the gun, because if you’re in the situation
usually if the other guy finds out you’ve armed, he leaves”.
Professor John Lott, Economics, University of Maryland
and former chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission takes the
argument further, in his research where States introduce gun controls, crime
The arguments have resonated through the US and in 2004
the NRA was placed as the most powerful lobby group by Fortune Magazine. With nearly 4 million members the NRA can
swing between 3 and 6%
of votes in a federal election.
In a campaign run during the 2008 Presidential election
the NRA released advertisements where gun enthusiast Karl Rusch, states: “No
politician is going to take away my guns and ammo,” triggering rumours that
‘Obama wants to steal your guns’.
What’s feared is that since 2000, gun control advocates
have increasingly encouraged candidates to stand up to the gun lobby. “Where control groups were campaigning
hard…they were saying to candidates who had traditionally, or were under
pressure to be in the pockets of the NRA ‘you don’t have to do that. You can stand up for good public policy and
that won’t mean you’ll lose your seat,’” says Peters.
The holy shrine of gun ownership in the US has begun to
be chipped away and Peters is seen as the ring leader.
She “frosts my cookies” writes Darren Gilbert, Patriot
Warrior website. For others Peters is a “vehemently anti-gun,
anti-men, lesbian Australian,”
while the NRA brand her as a ‘global nanny’ and seriously suggest that George
Soros is her sugar daddy,
to which Peters refutes: “no, tragically not”.
“In 2006 they (NRA) had a website which was about their
conspiracy theory that the UN was trying to ban all guns and they had a whole
page on the website specifically devoted to me.
It was called ‘The Master Mind’”.
In the US and around the world the NRA and the gun lobby have
earned notoriety for their more unorthodox campaigns. Profuse and often intimidating telephone,
letter and internet campaigns have taken their toll on the pro-control
In 1999 American, Donna Dee-Thomases, was on holiday from
her part-time job as a publicist for the Late Show With David Letterman, when a
report came in of a gunman, Buford Furrow, who forced his way into Jewish Day
Care Centre. In less than 30 seconds
he’d fired more than 70 bullets at children as young as 4. He left, walked down the street and shot dead
a young Filipino postman.
Dee-Thomases, who had children of a similar age, was
outraged and began searching on line to volunteer for pro-Gun Violence Prevention
groups. With time on her hands she
believed any group would welcome her support.
“But it was so hard to even contact any of these organisations, for a
lot reasons, mainly because they were intimidated by NRA members and gun
Even in Australia pro gun control lobbyists are targeted
in campaigns. “There are websites which
don’t say too nice things about you.
Look, you need to go and have a shower after reading them,” says Sam
Lee, President, National Coalition for Gun Control.
Peters is far from immune from campaigns yet her response
is quite flippant. “Often when they have
done their telephone campaigns I then get a flurry of emails from American gun
owners saying: ‘when you come down my street to take away my gun, you’ll find
me waiting. My gun will be pointed at
the door’. They’re ringing people to say
‘hey! Rebecca is coming to take their gun’”.
More conspiratorial was when the NRA planted a spy for
over a decade into the ranks of the pro gun control lobby. Until July 2008 Mary Lou McFate moved her way
through volunteer organisations, including the States United to Prevent Gun
Violence and sat in various meeting with Peters.
“I suppose we should take it as a complement, that they
believed it was worth paying money to infiltrate us,” says Peters.
“I’ve known her (McFate) for years. When I heard she was a spy I found
hard to believe; she was very convincing.
I thought that there must have been a mistake but since it’s become
clear that she was a spy and it’s left a great sense of betrayal.”
While throwing off many of the tactics there is a serious
side to the threats. After the Port
Arthur massacre Peters reported she’d received a letter questioning why she’d
not been one of Martin Bryant’s victims.
Over the years it’s been the threats and taunts that have
stopped her disclosing any information about her background. “Now I’m much more on the US-NRA radar I just
don’t really talk about anything to do with my personal life, basically for
security reasons… I’ve had to move
home specifically because of this – only once – I don’t want to
exaggerate. But it is a factor for me
when I’m thinking about where to live and things like that.”
Getting personal information from Peters is like pulling
teeth from a tiger. Her Communication
Officer breathes loudly every time some question is deemed too private.
What she has revealed is that after being born in 1962,
from the age of 4 she lived in Costa Rica.
In a 1997 interview with the Sydney Morning Herald she
told reporter Sonya Voumard that her father worked for the US government, and
half jokingly this meant he probably worked for the CIA.
It was in Costa Rica with her parents and 5 siblings that
she became interested politically.
Living among the community in a third world country at an early age
exposed her to the gun debate. “Latin
America has the highest rates of gun violence and the largest group of gun
homicides in particular, so I think it had a big influence on me.”
After leaving school Peters chased her passion for
languages, living in France, Italy, Egypt and finally Australia. “I wasn’t born in Australia but I have a
very, very strong sense of Australianness.
You know I could sing the vegemite theme tune, even though it wasn’t on
tele by the time I got there.”
While Peters was studying law in 1991, 33 year old Wade
Frankum, wasted 2 ½ hours drinking coffee in a Strathfield cafe. For no apparent reason at 3.30pm he pulled
out a knife and repeatedly stabbed a young student, he then took a
semi-automatic rifle and within 10 minutes, 7 people had lost their lives.
It was the obvious limits of the law where police had no firearms
registration of guns, and no uniform laws between states that drew Peters into
the gun control debate. After completing
her Master’s thesis on Domestic Violence laws and firearms, her focus became
campaigning. While much work had been
done by groups such as Gun Control Australia, for Peters’ one of the first was
the shooting of Dali Pleshet, a case that would set the ground work for our current
In 1996 Bryant murdered 35 people in Port Arthur, seen as
the largest single person gun massacre.
The public were into shock over the event and Peters shot to fame as the
voice of Gun Control lobby. The SSAA
watched in horror as “Rebecca she had the very warm ear of John Howard,” says
Within months unified state legislation was introduced
under the Federal Government’s National Firearms Agreement, including a gun
buyback program, the introduction of a national licensing regime and the
banning of self automatic and pump action rifles.
The jury is still out over the impact of the legislation.
Since 1996 there have been no mass shootings and homicides from firearms have
reduced. While it’s acknowledged this
decrease started before the 1996, some commentators believe the legislation
accelerated the decline; others interpret the statistics as simply the
continuation of a trend.
However, the American gun lobby points directly towards
Peters as responsible for pushing the government to introduce some of the
toughest legislation in the world. What
scared them more is after leaving Australia she walked straight into their
Yet it wasn’t from looking towards the next giant to
conquer, but from fatigue. “There was a
moment after the Port Arthur massacre after she had done so much work. I saw Rebecca in a coffee shop and she was
just utterly exhausted,” says Lee.
“In campaigning, it can drain you of all life sometimes,
because you’re giving so much out and there are consequences that result from
that. There is exhaustion, sometimes
social isolation and no doubt sometimes aloneness. So all those things Rebecca has had to
confront. I think she just knew it was time to step out of the situation for a
little while and that’s when she went over to America.”
In the United States around the time Peters began working
for the George Soros funded, Open Society Institute, Dees-Thomases had
developed the idea of a phenomenal project.
After the Columbine High School Massacre and then the shooting at the
Jewish Day Care Centre, in despair she began pounding her friends. Clearly other mums she spoke to were outraged,
and so evolved the idea of marching on Washington in support of tighter gun
In 1999 Dees-Thomases was taken to Peters’ New York
office by a member of a gun violence support group. During their short meeting “she (Peters)
wanted to make sure I’d exhausted every other funding, meaning my own credit
card….She really appreciated true activism, because she was an activist at
heart. She immediately understood that I
was genuine, I was not looking for a career and looking to her to fund it.”
While the founder was Dees-Thomases, Peters was the
‘fairy Godmother’. The Open Society
Institute arranged an initial $100,000 grant, yet what was priceless was
Peters’ ability to draw a fractured movement together to unilaterally support
one event and one political message.
What would it have been like without her? “I don’t really think it would
have happened,” says Dees-Thomases.
In America where there is almost one gun for every
person, it seemed unbelievable that on Mother’s Day in 2000, 30 women in the
freezing cold would take to the streets in the Sarah Palin’s home state of Alaska;
another 750,000 would march in Washington while an estimated 250,000 would join
in the Million Mom March across America.
Soon after two gun control referenda where passed in
Oregon and Colorado. “These were
important as they showed that the gun lobby’s grip can be loosened, because
there was a feeling at the time that gun control was impossible to get as the
gun lobby had such a strong hold” says Peters.
In 2002New Jersey enacted ‘smart gun’ legislation
anticipating technology that allows only the owner of a gun to fire,
while in Arizona it is now illegal to fire bullets randomly into the air.
Now the Bush administration has left office, all
attention is on Barack Obama.
Having met Obama on a number of occasions Professor Lott
has no doubt about the new administration’s commitment to introducing gun
controls, including the banning of assault weapons. As the issue is already “hot” Lott is adamant
that gun owners will flock to the NRA counting on the organization to wield its
political power and campaign, campaign and campaign!
So will the Obama administration lure Peters to work on
gun control? “Oooooo, well I wouldn’t like to reveal strategic information,”
and that was one sentence that Peters only began once.
Many thanks to John Nelson for sending in the following comments!
Tell ya what
Mary, We do not see you having any data or verified data to disprove these
reports and the referenced study, funny how anti gun pundits like Peters never
do have real facts or what they do have, is cherry picked data and improper
Funny how other
countries with strict gun control laws have such a pitiful compliance rate to
By the way,
there should be glowing government reports of all the crimes solved by these
registration databases, oh wait, they do not exist, thats why. (Same thing has
been happening here in the US if you paid attention to the details of CoBIS)
Funny how these
reports and such are from organizations not affiliated with the NRA or any
other pro gun organization, same applies for those references that
That is unless
you wish to reference actual government data from the last three countries who
have implemented such bans? (Australia aic.gov, Canada statcan, England home
everyone how murders and violent crime did not go down from their
implementation of their gun bans in 1997 to today.
everyone how Australia’s violent crime has increased over 30%, Canada’s over
47% and England’s over 150% since 1997 to today.
everyone how those violent crime rates are twice to over 5 times the US
violent crime rates (FBI UCR).
everyone know how the US Census shows since 1997 there was an increase of 9
million households owning a firearm or 40% of all households in the US (over
120 million in 2009).
everyone know how since 1997 that coincides with a 21% reduction in murders and
over 30% reduction in violent crimes reported and similar reduction in those
NOT reported in the US.
everyone how our government admits it is the career criminals/gang members who
are responsible for 80% of all violent crime in the US and not the 80 million
law abiding gun owners. USDOJ National Gang Threat Assessment 2009
everyone how the most conspicuous gun control law in the US is enforced less
than 1% of the time (USDOJ Background Check & Firearm Transfer report
everyone how the congressional committee in 2001 found people using a fake
identification were successful 100% of the time buying a firearm from a
everyone how in 2008 only 4.48% of felons attempted to buy a firearm from an
unlicensed source. DOJ Felons Firearms Use survey 1997 Published Nov 2001, ref
USDOJ Background report 2008 as well.
everyone know that the NRA and 80 million law abiding gun owners are not
in charge of those government agencies such as the BATF, judges, lawyers and
prosecuting attorney’s who fail to enforce the 20,000 plus gun control laws in
everyone how the Federal & State supreme courts have ruled 10 separate
times that the police are not legally liable to protect the individual citizen.
everyone how the police, referencing FBI UCR data, USDOJ National Victimization
report, and average prosecution success rates in 2008, managed to close only
8.75% of all violent crimes.
everyone how a doctor is 12,000 to 25,000 times more likely to kill you than a
person licensed to carry a concealed firearm. (VPC 2009 report showing 137
deaths over 3 years for 8 million cpl licensee’s BATF .00000562 deaths per
licensee, JAMA Medical Malpractice 2001 report 700k doctors kill 44,000 to
98,000 per year or .065 to .14 deaths per doctor, uh, you do the numbers.)
Please do a real
review of the major gun control organizations in the world and tell everyone
what percentage of their funds come from this George Soros led cabal of
billionaires then ask how so few, should affect so many with their fear
mongering CONTROL and unsubstantiated FEARS.
Please inform everyone how the ATF made a similar
statement several years ago that tracking multiple handgun purchases would
reduce violent crime? Oh wait, they did and what happened, oh thats right,
nothing. Especially as they only prosecute those they catch less than 1% of the
time. USDOJ Background Check & Firearm Transfer report 2008
Please inform and convince everyone how this time will be
Please inform everyone how the BATF has the authority to
bypass Congress and make more laws? Oh wait, they don’t!
Oh thats right, it is the government, failing in all these
checks and jobs they have failed at, not the 80 million law abiding citizens
much less the NRA.
ROTFLMFAO, and you people believe the other 19,999 gun control
laws are enforced more effectively, ROTFLMFAO, uh yeah, heard drugged up,
drunked up idiots in MP lock up not as funny as you people.
So was wondering what in the world is reasonable, about such
un-enlightened individuals like Peters and Soros and the government continuing
to blame the 80 million law abiding citizens when the evidence and facts show
it is the governments failure?
Please inform everyone how the US Government/US SUpreme Court
ruled in the Haynes vs US 390, 85 1968 case, ruled 8 to 1 in favor of Haynes
that no person was legally liable to follow a law that requires them to violate
their 5th amendment right of no self incrimination?
Geez, that represents oh what, 85% of all gun control laws in
the US that don’t apply to felons, yeah it does.
Love how the media keeps regurgitating the 90% lie spread
about the Mexico lie by the BATF and the media.
Funny thing, anti gun pundits infer it is all the US supplied
weapons being used by the cartels.
Please inform everyone how the Mexican government admits they
only send those firearms to the ATF that can be traced. What was that last year
versus how many the Mexican government has confiscated? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30603909/
Hey, isn’t that a report from the anti gun god media outlet
MSNBC, yeah it is! Funny how the guns that were sent to trace in 2008, didn’t
equal over 4% of all those in Mexican governments possession, So how about you
go down there and prove all those firearms were supplied by US firearms dealers
on the border. We will wait for hell to freeze over when you can do that!
So until you can explain why when the government continuously
fails to enforce the existing laws and to do their JOB, that a minority few who
have money and no morals believe it is reasonable to do the same useless thing,
again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and
again? Especially when the reality which you cant see through your blinder
blocked eyes is NOTHING resembling another useless pathetic gun control
law IS REASONABLE!
There is another 30 to 40 pages of data to support this
position, not including simple logic, but then again, logic is not the strength
of fear mongering gun control extremists.