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Australian Student: Australia’s strict gun laws have been a success, But America is different

Mick Roelandts, firearms reform project manager for the New South Wales Police, looks at a pile of about 4,500 prohibited firearms in Sydney that have been handed in over the past month under the Australian government’s buy-back scheme July 28. A total of 470,000 guns have been collected nationally, with owners receiving A$243 million (US$180 million) in compensation. The scheme was set up due to tighter gun laws brought in after the April 1996 Port Arthur massacre in which 35 people died when a lone gunman went on a shooting rampage. – RTXHDPH

I come from The Land Down Under. Because of this, I’ve never known a country without Australia’s strict firearm laws and restrictions.

In recent years, Australia has become a pioneer for gun control.

Often used as a case study, in April 1996, the country’s deadliest mass shooting occurred, killing 35 people. As a result, then-Prime Minister John Howard almost immediately enacted the National Firearms Act – a piece of legislation that resulted in a sweeping, nation-wide buy-back of firearms. This included a federal ban on the importation, sale and ownership of all semi-automatic and self-loading weapons.

Evidence shows that Australia’s gun laws have made our country safer, therefore this is often used as a case study for the support of gun control. There hasn’t been a single mass shooting since Port Arthur, and homicide and suicide rates have declined during this period

Many of these points are mentioned in the popular stand-up routine by Australian comedian Jim Jefferies, which has become of the most shared videos regarding gun control.

Almost three years since its recording, it’s still relevant.

So, what can America learn from us?

Two different countries, two different cultures

As Jan Fran, a journalist for current affairs program The Feed, mentions, the foundation of the United States involved its people defending themselves from the government – by bearing arms. Guns are not an active part of Australian culture or history – in fact, we’re scared of them.

But there are Aussies who do enjoy owning and using guns recreationally. Throughout my entire life, my dad has owned guns for hunting and sport.

I recently asked him his thoughts on the issue, and he told me that he has never considered his guns – which he locks in a safe that’s not in our house, and completes compulsory police checks for – as a form of protection. He considers them a sporting device.

This, I believe, is the core difference in gun culture between Australia and the U.S.

It would be almost impossible to implement a ‘buy-back scheme’ in the United States, as it goes directly against the fundamental values that the country was built upon. The idea that firearms are often primarily considered a means of protection means that many people would likely be unwilling to give them up.

The sheer number of guns in America

It’s an uncomfortable and sobering fact, but there are more guns than people in the United States.

Although there are currently over 3 million firearms owned by Australians, the ratio of firearms to citizens of Australia –  just under 25 million – is much lower than that of the U.S.

It would be impossible to trace and record every single gun in America – there are just too many of them.

The influence of the NRA and political funding

The National Rifle Association’s influence in Congress also plays a significant role in the gun control conversation in the U.S., and it has been one of the most discomforting things I have discovered during my time in the States.

Seeing politicians accept donations from the NRA, which is currently America’s most influential lobbying organization and takes an extremely lax position on firearms considering the number of American lives lost due to guns, has been incredibly unnerving.

It should also be noted that politically, America and Australia are very different, so political funding between the two countries is difficult to compare. Political funding exists in Australia – particularly during election season – but it is nowhere near as extensive as it is in America.

Aside from political funding to right-leaning politicians in America, it’s important to remember that it was a conservative leader who established Australia’s gun control, and he is still a passionate advocate for it twenty years later.

A change of perception on American gun culture

Honestly, I thought I knew exactly what all of America thought of guns. I believed that Americans were too gun-obsessed and considered guns necessary for protection in this country – until I watched the Parkland CNN Town Hall event.

As I watched young teenagers and grieving parents hold politicians accountable, feeling the anger and sadness, I realised there are Americans in this country who are sick of the bloodshed and lack of action. Americans who want change, and fast.

In a recent survey conducted by Quinnipiac University, Florida residents overwhelmingly supported a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons, and the majority also opposed the arming of teachers and school officials. This was followed by the recent decision of retailers Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart to refuse the sale of firearms to those under 21, as well as further restrictions on the purchase of assault rifles.

From an outside perspective, it has been incredibly powerful to witness what seems to be the people taking more action than those who are actually in charge of making these changes happen.

America can still learn something from Australia.

Although it would be impossible to mirror our actions, it is undeniable our have made an impact.

Taking anything from our National Firearms Agreement would surely make an incredible improvement to the current state of gun control.

There is change happening in America, but it isn’t enough to do this bit by bit, or state by state.

I’ll be marching alongside the students of America in Washington D.C for the March for Our Lives Rally on March 24, because everyone deserves to feel as safe in their everyday lives – whether it be at school, work, or just walking down the street – as I do back home in Australia.

Feature Image from: Zocalo 

Update: A previous version incorrectly stated that there were 34 victims in the Port Arthur Massacre. There were 35 victims.
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    MarcusMar 13, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    if you use the “evidence” provided by the anti-gunners in Australia and do not search the facts out from Government criminologists, then of course you will drivel this leftist crap.
    Do proper, balanced research – Australia has had heaps of mass murders since 96.

    • S

      Sheridan LeeMar 16, 2018 at 11:46 pm

      And you know this because you’re Australian?

  • AnonymousMar 13, 2018 at 7:35 pm


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Australian Student: Australia’s strict gun laws have been a success, But America is different