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What we can learn from Australians about gun violence
By Shwanika Narayan and Esther Mobley
Being an American in Australia means you get asked to explain America. They pay attention, as I suppose much of the world does. They know about the Electoral College and the Supreme Court and the filibuster. Australians generally like America, and they are horrified by the same things that Americans are.
But when it comes to the topic of guns, their level of horror is so visceral that you can almost see them shudder when they ask about it. Coming back from a trip to America, a friend of mine said, “Everyone I saw on the street, I just kept wondering if they were carrying a gun — it was hard not to think about it.” A friend from our kids’ school said, “We just couldn’t raise our kids in America, worrying about them getting shot somewhere.” After all these years I don’t know how to explain it myself. It’s a topic about which the people I know in America feel some combination of shame, anger and powerlessness.
So instead, I’ll tell a different story: the story of guns in Australia.
In 1996, an Australian man killed 35 people in Port Arthur, in Tasmania. Australia had a long tradition of gun ownership, and this wasn’t the first massacre, but it was the biggest.
In the debate that followed, gun advocates pulled out most the same arguments we hear in America. Their proposal, a compromise idea, was to make it harder for people with known psychological problems to buy guns.
But proponents of gun control pointed out that the perpetrators of gun violence almost always were legal gun owners, without any previous known record of psychological problems, so screening out “unfit” gun owners would not be effective. One of their lines was: “We register cars, we register boats, we register dogs…”
Crucially, the center-right Liberal Party prime minister, John Howard, who had only been elected two months earlier, put the conservative government on the side of reform. The leader of the National Party — a rural party in a more or less permanent coalition with the Liberals — not only decided to back new gun control laws, but went on a roadshow to country towns to explain it directly to voters.
Within months, Australia passed legislation that banned automatic and semiautomatic guns, required a waiting period before buying guns, and instituted a serious gun registry. The country also launched a buyback program; I have met lots of Australians, especially from country towns, who remember their dads going to turn in their guns. (Here’s a summary of the whole story.)
Australia’s gun control isn’t perfect. Lots of people still own them, and other countries have gone further. But it made ownership of semiautomatic weapons pretty rare. It’s a stark contrast with the U.S., reminding us of the simple truth that it’s good to be able to change your laws when they don’t work.
We saw this again after the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand earlier this year: Its new gun laws passed in Parliament by a vote of 119 to 1. Believe it or not, pretty much everywhere else in the world holds the belief that it is not acceptable to have recurrent massacres.
Several weeks ago, a man went on a killing spree in Sydney’s Central Business District — but with a knife instead of a gun. He killed one woman, tragically. But bystanders were able to tackle him using a milk crate (!) before he got anyone else. Without guns — especially without automatic weapons — you just can’t kill so many people. Without guns, it is more reasonable to think that bystanders will be able to intervene when someone goes crazy.
Gabriel Metcalf is CEO for Committee for Sydney, a city planning group in Australia’s largest metropolis. He formerly served as CEO of SPUR, the San Francisco public policy group.
teebonicus . now
Yes, it's amazing what a government can do without constitutional limitations on its power.
This Aussie-by-proxy can argue until he's blue in the face, but one fact will not change - our Constitution says YOU CAN'T DO THAT.
The U.S. v. Miller decision in 1939 ruled that arms in common use that have militia utility and could contribute to the common defense are those intended for protection by the Second Amendment.
The D.C. v. Heller decision in 2008 confirmed that bearing arms is an individual fundamental right unconnected to service in a militia, and because of that status, certain policy choices are off the table.
There's more separating the United States and Australia than an ocean.
LIBERTY HAS NO EXPIRATION DATEDemocrats wouldn't buy a clue if it was government subsidized.
Modified by TEEBONE at Tue, Sep 24, 2019, 18:51:06
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