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Human Rights and Gun Confiscation
Quinnipiac Law Review (2008)
  • David B Kopel, Independence Institute

This Article addresses a human rights problem which has been generally ignored by the advocates of firearms confiscation: the human rights abuses stemming from the enforcement of coercive disarmament laws.

Part I conducts a case study of the U.N.-supported gun confiscation program in Uganda, a program which has directly caused massive, and fatal, violations of human rights. Among the rights violated have been those enumerated in Article 3 (“the right to life, liberty and security of person” ) and Article 5 (“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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, and details how the implementation of antigun laws has caused extensive violations of civil and human rights, although not the government-perpetrated murder, torture, arson, and ethnic cleansing that have been endemic in Kenya and Uganda.

Part IV reports on survey data and other evidence from around the world which suggest one reason why gun confiscation programs can result in major human rights violations: most gun-owners possess their firearm for personal and family defense. Therefore, gun confiscation must be enforced by extremely violent and intrusive measures.

We conclude by offering some caveats for disarmament programs: First, that voluntary disarmament will generally be possible only after a government has proven that it will protect the security of the people who would be disarmed. Second, that coercive attempts to disarm people who still need guns to defend themselves—including for protection from predatory governments—is likely to lead to massive resistance, and to an escalating cycle of human rights abuses by government forces, and re-armament by the victim population.

  • Kenya,
  • Uganda,
  • South Africa,
  • gun control,
  • gun prohibition,
  • human rights
Publication Date
Citation Information
David B. Kopel, Paul Gallant & Joanne D. Eisen, Human Rights and Gun Confiscation, 26 Quinnipiac Law Review 385 (2008).