Australian Vs US Gun Control" equusadm_in
28 April 1996, a date that will go down as a pivotal moment for gun control in Australia. A lone gunman called Martin Bryant, a 28 year old man with significant intellectual disabilities, carried out a mass shooting at the historic Port Arthur tourist site in South Eastern Tasmania. By the end of the shooting, Mr Bryant had killed 35 people and wounded 23. He eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 35 sentences of life imprisonment and 25 years for the remaining charges. To this day he remains in solitary confinement and is never to be released.
Mr Bryant used a semi-automatic rifle which he had purchased through a newspaper advertisement and another semi-automatic rifle which he purchased at a gun shop to carry out the shootings. At that time, no registration of semi-automatic rifles was required in Tasmania.
In the wake of what became known as the Port Arthur Massacre, all states and territories in Australia restricted legal ownership and use of a semi-automatic rifles and shotguns and initiated a mandatory “buy-back” scheme. Australia now has the world’s most comprehensive firearms laws. In Western Australia, for example, the Firearms Regulations 1974 provide that an individual must first have a firearms license before they can obtain a firearm, and it sets out restrictions on obtaining a license for different categories of firearm. Specifically, it provides that for an individual to obtain a license for a semi-automatic rifle of the kind used by Mr Bryant, known as a Category D firearm, they must first establish that the firearm is required for Commonwealth or State government purposes. In other words, it is now extremely difficult for an individual in Western Australia to obtain a license for such a firearm. Various restrictions also apply to less dangerous categories of firearms.
Changes to gun laws in Australia were made possible because of federal government coordination and widespread public support, with surveys showing that up to 85% of Australians supported gun control. This can be compared and contrasted with the situation in the United States where, despite a number of recent high-profile mass shootings, resistance in the government to gun reform remains entrenched.
Recent media coverage in the United States has suggested that opposition to tighter gun control has been largely due to the political clout of the powerful guns rights group, the NRA. Although the NRA’s financial contributions to political parties are relatively modest, the NRA is said to derive its influence from spending tens of millions of dollars on campaign advertisements and voter-guide mailings that scrutinise candidates for their views on guns and propels members, of whom there are 5 million, to the polls to vote for candidates who favour individual access to firearms.
Interestingly, recent media reports suggest that an impetus for change in the United States has been coming from corporate America in response to public sentiment. For example, Dick’s Sporting Goods recently said that it would halt the sale of assault-style rifles and raise its firearms purchasing age to 21, and Walmart immediately matched the new age requirement. However, despite some initial talk about gun control by both sides of politics, the conversation in government seems to be again slowing down, with the demands of gun control Democrats being unacceptable to gun rights backing Republicans and vice versa.
Despite some notable figures in the United States such as Barack Obama praising Australia’s laws relating to gun control, the situation in the United States does not seem likely to change any time soon.