WA pest grows up to take on US big guns

The West Australian - - NEWS - Amanda Keenan

A twice-ex­pelled school pest from the back­blocks of Bel­mont who be­came mayor of one of Amer­ica’s old­est cities is tak­ing on US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and the NRA over gun control.

Gavin Buck­ley, who was last year elected mayor of Mary­land cap­i­tal An­napo­lis, was al­ready a ve­he­ment pro­po­nent of gun control but since an An­napo­lis news-pa­per be­came the site of a mas­sacre in June, he has upped the ante.

Mr Buck­ley, 55, wants to or­gan­ise a sum­mit of may­ors of US cities af­fected by gun vi­o­lence to put pres­sure on Mr Trump and the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion to tighten gun control through “red flag” laws.

“I try to make it not a par­ti­san thing and say, ‘When these guys shoot up places, they’re not choos­ing Repub­li­cans or Democrats . . . they’re killing our kids, our teach­ers, our jour­nal­ists, peo­ple in night­clubs’,” he said. “It’s just out­ra­geous.”

The straight-talk­ing for­mer ris­ing star of Bel­mont Hun­gry Jack’s is not afraid to speak his mind on this most di­vi­sive of Amer­i­can is­sues — the right to bear arms.

“I don’t be­lieve it’s a Sec­ond Amend­ment is­sue, I think it’s a small pe­nis is­sue,” he said.

Mr Buck­ley is some­thing of a celebrity in An­napo­lis — a pop­u­lar mayor who trounced the in­cum­bent in a land­slide thanks to a high youth and African Amer­i­can voter turnout, and a restau­ra­teur who runs sev­eral eater­ies in­clud­ing the rock’n’roll Ja­panese joint Tsunami in hon­our of the Mos­man Park restau­rant he started in 1998.

He won favour among the 40,000-odd res­i­dents for his re­sponse to the shoot­ing at the Cap­i­tal Gazette news­pa­per, in which five peo­ple lost their lives.

Mr Buck­ley at­tacked Mr Trump for fail­ing to hon­our vic­tims by or­der­ing flags be flown at half-mast and sup­ported sur­vivors and fam­i­lies of the dead in the af­ter­math, in­clud­ing speak­ing at all five funer­als.

He also or­gan­ised a ben­e­fit concert head­lined by An­napo­lis sib­lings Good Char­lotte to fund jour­nal­ism schol­ar­ships and help those af­fected by the tragedy.

As a teenager, Gavin was kicked out of St Nor­bert Col­lege and Bel­mont high school. “I just wasn’t very good with es­tab­lish­ment,” he said.

Later, Mr Buck­ley found his feet in An­napo­lis af­ter sail­ing a 32ft boat across the At­lantic. He met his Amer­i­can wife Julie and the cou­ple have two sons — Dash, 14, and Miles, 11.

Mr Buck­ley ran for mayor af­ter a stoush with the coun­cil over peel­ing paint on one of his build­ings, which cul­mi­nated in him com­mis­sion­ing a big mu­ral on the his­toric fa­cade.

Op­po­nents taunted the Demo­cratic mayor dur­ing last year’s cam­paign by dis­tribut­ing a Croc­o­dile Dundee-in­spired flyer al­leg­ing he had “kan­ga­roos loose in the top pad­dock”.

Mr Buck­ley con­tin­ues to butt heads with the city’s more con­ser­va­tive res­i­dents over con­tro­ver­sial plans in­clud­ing bike paths that had him branded a “Euro­pean so­cial­ist”.

Pic­ture: Ali­son Har­baugh

An­napo­lis mayor Gavin Buck­ley.

Po­lice at the shoot­ing scene.

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