Why can’t America learn from Australia?
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