Why can’t Amer­ica learn from Aus­tralia?

The Progress-Index - - OPINION -

The United States by far ex­ceeds any other coun­try in the num­ber of deaths caused by guns per year. It is also one of the coun­tries that con­tin­ues to have mass shoot­ings with­out any changes in leg­is­la­tion.

The United States is not the only coun­try that has seen a mass shoot­ing be­fore. Aus­tralia ex­pe­ri­enced one in 1996, when a 28-year-old man armed with a semi-au­to­matic ri­fle shot and killed 35 peo­ple and in­jured 18 oth­ers.

That year, Aus­tralia passed the Na­tional Firearms Agree­ment, which banned cer­tain semi-au­to­matic, self-load­ing ri­fles and shot­guns, and im­posed stricter licensing and reg­is­tra­tion re­quire­ments. It also in­sti­tuted a manda­tory buy­back pro­gram for firearms banned by the 1996 law.

Dur­ing the buy­back pro­gram, Aus­tralians sold 640,000 pro­hib­ited firearms to the gov­ern­ment and vol­un­tar­ily sur­ren­dered about 60,000 non-pro­hib­ited firearms. In all, more than 700,000 weapons were sur­ren­dered. Since then, the num­ber and rate of homi­cides has fallen dras­ti­cally. Presently, Aus­tralia is con­sid­ered one of the safest coun­tries in the world.

So what is hold­ing the United States back from pass­ing stricter gun laws? Is it be­cause Amer­i­cans would like to have a gun in case they need to pro­tect them­selves? Is it be­cause Amer­i­cans feel they must pro­tect them­selves from the gov­ern­ment in case they come knock­ing on their doors un­law­fully? Is it the power one feels when car­ry­ing a gun? Or is it sim­ply the fact that the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion is more pow­er­ful than the Amer­i­can peo­ple when law­mak­ers con­sider chang­ing leg­is­la­tion to de­velop stricter gun laws?

After 20 chil­dren were killed by gun vi­o­lence in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, politi­cians did noth­ing. They made no changes, and con­tin­ued to say, “Now is not the right time to talk about gun con­trol. It is the time to mourn.” My ques­tion to you is, when is the right time to talk about gun con­trol? We see some­thing that worked else­where – Aus­tralia – and we can­not learn from that?

Melissa A. Work Port­land State Univer­sity Port­land, Ore­gon

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