Could the US learn from Australia's gun-control laws?
As the US debates its gun laws in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting, some Australians are urging the US to consider modeling its laws after Australia's.
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In the wake of the Newtown shooting, several Australian politicians are now suggesting that the US adopt Australia’s gun laws. “I implore you to look at our experience,” Labor Member of Parliament Kelvin Thomson wrote in an open letter to the US Congress that he also posted on his official website. “As the number of guns in Australia reduced, so too did gun violence. It is simply not true that owning a gun makes you safer.”Skip to next paragraph
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But the nation still has some steps to take before becoming the perfect example, cautions Queensland Member of Parliament Bob Katter.
“I think we are absolutely reprehensible, we have done nothing, not one single overt act, to separate the guns from the people who are mentally unhinged," he told reporters recently.
Although the laws imposed strict licensing rules, critics here point out that Australia has yet to actually ban semiautomatic handguns completely – they are still available for police and hunters – and that there are other loopholes. They also note that most of the guns used in violent crimes, both before and after the 1996 law, were unregistered.
“There weren’t that many deaths in the first place,” says president of the Sporting Shooters' Association of Australia Bob Green, cautioning against taking the causal link many draw between the NFA and a steep drop in gun deaths at face value. “Gun deaths were declining for the past 30 years before they brought the laws in.”
Though many point to declining gun violence statistics as further evidence of the effectiveness of Australia's 1996 law, gun supporters also use it to support their case: In 1979, there were 689 gun-related deaths in Australia, or about 4.71 per 100,000 Australians. That rate began to decline in the 1980s and reached 2.82 per 100,000 Australians in 1996, with 516 killed that year. The number of deaths by firearms and the rate per people continued to drop until 2010, when 231 died and the rate was 1.04 per 100,000 people, according to the University of Sydney’s GunPolicy.org.
Still, says Mr. Thomson who was “horrified and disgusted” by the killing of so many small children, an Australian-inspired solution might be workable.
“There have been always been great differences between the number of weapons that Australians and Americans own – that is precisely why there are so many more deaths, on a per capita basis, in the United States. It is also true that there are differences in the way Americans and Australians view weapons – nevertheless … our experience is relevant and potentially informative – we had massacres, we acted, we no longer have massacres.”
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