28 March 2013

Gun Control Perspectives

The following is my view on the US attitude to gun control, and the current mindset that is prevalent in the powerful pro-Gun Lobby:

 It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in Sydney way back on 28th April 1996. I was making my way to the local gym when I heard on the radio that a gunman had been on a killing spree in Tasmania. Initially, only a small number of people had lost their lives and when I got to the gym, the number of deaths had risen to 23. I mentioned this to my gym instructor. His response was that it was the gunman’s form “of self-expression”. The instructor was reading the Celestine Prophecy at the time, which probably explained his comments. Personally, I preferred the term “madman”.

 The gunman was named Martin Bryant and the final death toll was 35. How could anyone kill 35 innocent people? There was an outpouring of disbelief and anger in the community. The whole of Australia was in shock. How could we stop this from happening again?

 The Prime Minister at the time was John Howard, and he had only been in the role for only a few months. How would he respond? What could he do from a government point of view? The nation held its collective breath.

 John Howard had to act fast. He introduced strict gun laws into Parliament. This had the bi-partisan support of the opposition Labor Party, led by Kim Beasley. The new gun controls had to also be made law via the State and Territory Parliaments. A number of citizens, particularly in Tasmania and Queensland, were outraged at the new laws. This outrage was fuelled by the support of the Christian Coalition and amazingly the US National Rifle Association.

 New gun controls were finally made law Australia wide after a lot of intense debate. In addition, the Federal Government implemented a 12 month amnesty/buyback scheme to allow people to hand in any illegal firearm without running the risk of prosecution. Amazingly, 643,000 firearms were handed in at a cost to the taxpayer of $350M.

 Since the laws were established, it has become extremely hard to purchase a rifle or indeed any gun. A number of valid reasons and references need to be supplied before a gun can be sold. Naturally, if there is a genuine reason to have a gun, and the person appears mentally stable, then they will be able to purchase one, subject to the relevant State and Territory requirements. It is safe to say that John Howard’s tough stance that he took all those years ago has paid dividends. Since that fateful day in 1996, Australia has not had any gun related massacres.

 I mention the above purely to give any American reader an idea of how gun control can be implemented. Australians were deeply shocked at the Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown last December. It is not hard to feel the shock and sadness, especially as it happened so close to Christmas, the time of traditional family gatherings. I feel for the parents who lost their children and the families of all those that were killed in that terrible shooting.

 To outsiders, the US has way these type of shootings way too often. For pro-gun lobbyists to claim the Second Amendment as a right to bear arms in today’s modern society, is at best a bad joke! The question is a very simple one - how many more people have to lose their lives before action is taken? Yes the GOP (Republican Party) and the NRA are bed partners, and yes there are radicals in both organisations. Do ordinary citizens really require a semi-automatic weapon to protect their property?

The answer, one suspects, has to be a resounding ‘No’. The US has to tighten up its gun laws immediately. It is the only way to go to restore faith with the public at large. Barack Obama needs to act decisively, and he requires the GOP and others to support any proposed law changes. The good old days of “gun toting” are over. Let’s logically move on and ensure that our children and innocent bystanders are not used as “shooting practice” by a madman.

 If the US can instigate tougher gun controls, I am sure its citizens will be able to sleep better at night. It will send out a message to the rest of the world that, finally, the US is serious about the
implementation of stricter gun laws.