I recently heard a politician declare himself to be in a “war on guns.” He did not say if he thought his war is subject to the Geneva Conventions.
The politician said that the current gun-ban effort is a reaction to the Newtown murders. But his ban is not aimed at the murderer or at criminals or at people with drug-affected mental problems. It is, instead, a reprisal against law-abiding Americans in order to infringe their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
The point of his gun-ban is collective punishment, which is the punishment of a group of people as a result of the behavior of one or more other individuals or groups.
The International Committee of the Red Cross says that acts of collective punishment “would constitute a violation of specific human rights, in particular the right to liberty and security of person ....”
The Geneva Conventions apply to declared wars and to conflicts where war has not been declared, even if there is not an international conflict. Convention IV says governments should not do collective punishment:
Article 33. No persons may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties ... are prohibited. ... Reprisals against persons and their property are prohibited. The anti-gunners will want their new firearm reprisal to be enforced, of course, by government agents with guns. That, apparently, is what the politician had in mind when he said “war,” as in “war on drugs,” “war on terrorism.” Except, it is not a war. Unlike that politician, law-abiding firearm owners are not threatening to use force to take away other people’s property and liberty.
No, what that politician is really talking about is an old evil-fighting technique — a witch hunt — using collective punishment to ban his witches.