While authorities investigate and Americans seek answers in the wake of Sunday’s massacre in Las Vegas, Australia is offering to help the U.S. reshape its gun laws.
Following a mass shooting in Port Arthur in 1996 that left 35 people dead, Australian officials enacted major gun control legislation. Now officials are offering to help America do the same, according to a cable news station based in Singapore.
“What we can offer is our experience,” said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, talking about her country’s gun buyback program and subsequent ban on semi-automatic and automatic weapons.
“But at the end of the day it’s going to be up to the United States legislators and lawmakers, and the United States public, to change the laws to ensure this type of incident doesn’t happen again,” she said.
Nearly 661,000 firearms were sold back to the Australian government and subsequently destroyed in the aftermath of the Port Arthur massacre. In addition to weapons bans, they enacted a minimum ownership age and required licenses to own firearms.
“We haven’t had a massacre since,” wrote Australian broadcaster Richard Glover in the Washington Post Tuesday. “We, of course, know we could still experience a massacre. We are not smug. We’re grateful about our luck.”
On his radio program this week, Glover asked Tim Fischer, Australia’s deputy prime minister in the mid-1990’s, about the political backlash he received when he took on the gun lobby in his country.
“Lynched in effigy, but no real harm done,” Fischer said, describing a demonstration in 1996 where angry protestors destroyed a dummy made to look like him. In a state election soon after, Fischer’s party, which represented many farmers in the country, lost 12 seats to a pro-gun party, but eventually regained all lost political support. Fischer says it was worth it.
“We had the courage on both sides of the aisle in the House of Representatives…to make the stand we made,” Fischer said. “The vast majority of Australians came to accept the outcome.”
The country continues to accept the move. Just last weekend, Australians finished turning in an estimated 26,000 guns in the first national firearm amnesty since the sweeping reforms more than two decades ago. Australians were able to legally hand in unregistered weapons without giving personal details over a three month period. Aussies caught carrying an unregistered gun face a hefty fine and up to 14 years behind bars.
Fischer said Australians should think twice about coming to America for vacation, something he said after last summer’s massacre at a gay night club in Orlando. He also said the White House is wrong to say now isn’t the time for gun control.
“Now is exactly the time,” he said, adding, “the U.S.A. as a whole should take our laws and look at the template of our laws and challenge the NRA.”
Gun rights activists argue the crime rate increased following the gun ban as well as murders of other sorts. While the country experienced a surge in sexual assaults and robberies immediately following the gun ban, overall crime by 2012 dropped back down to pre-ban levels, crime data shows.
However, a 2016 study shows that gun deaths as well as non-gun deaths have declined in Australia, but researchers said the results may be because of improvements in technology like cell phones rather than the legislation. Rates in the U.S. also followed similar trends in that same time frame.
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