Don’t Shoot the Kangaroos
by Sebastian A. Locke
Both wild frontier societies built on the ideals of pioneering individualists risking their lives for freedom and liberty, the United States and Australia are in many ways parallel. However, they differ drastically on one major issue. The US has the highest rate of firearm-related murders in all of the developed world, making Australians who visit 15 times more likely to end up dead than in their home country. The gun control debate is one of the most contentious issues facing the United States today, especially in light of deadly shootings as seen in Newtown, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary. Despite this, the United States government has been unable to mandate any form of gun control due to opposition from conservatives backed by powerful gun rights organizations.
Philip Van Cleave of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, along with other conservatives, remains unconvinced that gun control can be effective, stating that it could only work on “some other planet . . . but in the real world with human beings it’s not going to work, and gun control isn’t going to work.” Since Australia is in the real world, the United States could stand to benefit from learning from its effective model of gun control. Australia is a unique nation whose conservative Prime Minister John Howard introduced sweeping gun control laws following a 1996 mass shooting at Port Arthur that left 35 Australians dead. While many continue to downplay Australia’s gun control success as a simple statistical anomaly, the fact of the matter is that the legislation entirely eliminated mass shootings, and lowered the homicide rate by 35-50 percent. In 2009, Australia’s firearm homicide rate had plummeted to only 0.1 per 100,000 or one per million. In contrast, the United States had a rate of 3.3 per 100,000- 33 times higher. Skeptics attribute the vast difference in homicides due to guns as a result of Australia being of a “different culture with different people, different everything.” However, Australia is a former British colony with a wild frontier that was tamed by brave men who also managed to wipe out almost an entire indigenous race. Is this not similar to the United States? Critics also say that it is pointless to consider the Australian experience in dealing with the aftermath of gun control because their fear of stricter gun legislation back then has no comparison with ours now. The fears the Australian people had included that the government was becoming a dictatorship, people would no longer have the right to defend their property and family, democracy would be at stake if background checks were put into place, and Indonesians would invade. American anti-gun control advocates share parallel concerns, except instead of fearing Indonesians, they worry about Mexicans and Muslims infiltrating our borders. Considering the United States’s likeness with Australia, the arguments presented by the opponents of gun control are anything but bulletproof.
Even for the most minor changes to gun regulation, according to Van Cleave, any form of gun control would put us on the slippery slope towards total civil disarmament and “at the end of the day, nothing works.” Similar sentiments were shared by the rural conservatives of Australia who did not want to give up their high-powered weapons, but after Howard’s government bought back 700,000 firearms from its citizens with its gun buyback program, resistance died down. Despite all the initial opposition to the new gun regulation reform, even a nation founded by convicts gave back their guns. In addition, the growing economic power and political influence of gun-rights activist groups has made the effort of enacting gun control a herculean task. Out of all of the gun lobbyist groups, most of the firepower comes from the National Rifle Association whose close relationships with both politicians and the gun industry have prevented gun legislation from going through. Financesonline reports that the NRA’s “corporate partners” include 12 corporations that manufacture assault weapons such as Crimson Trace, Taurus, and Sturm Rugar who donate part of their sales directly to the NRA with Crimson Trace giving 10% of their sales, Taurus buying an NRA membership for each of their customers, and Sturm Rugar providing $1 for every gun sold- equivalent to millions. Seeing as how the NRA’s revenue ties in directly with the profits of the gun industry, it is unlikely that their sole incentive when preventing gun control legislation from passing through with their lobby efforts is to protect their Second Amendment rights. NRA President Keene defends his organization’s campaigning as a misunderstanding, stating that “it isn’t the money but the endorsements” that is the reason for the results of the elections the NRA is involved with resulting in its favor. If it was only the reputation of the NRA that prompted people to vote for specific candidates then there would be no need to spend $3,410,000 in 2013 and $3,360,000 in 2014 in lobbying for the 2014 election cycle.
In America we are told gun control is not possible, but in Australia they have proven that it is. Recovering from the devastating mass shooting at Port Arthur to implement a successful model of gun control, Australia has provided a fantastic lesson for America to continue to ignore. “Guns are not the problem. People are the problem.” Considering the people who refuse to recognize the success of Australia’s gun control model and only look to promote their own personal interests, it is painfully obvious that people are the problem. If Americans really want gun control there is one thing they can do- move to Australia.