I’d like to share with you a true story of two countries and how they reacted in the 13 days following the worst mass shootings in their nations’ histories.
On April 28, 1996, a lone gunman killed 35 people and wounded at least 19 others with a semi-automatic rifle and self-loading shotgun in the Australian resort town of Port Arthur. The Port Arthur massacre was the worst mass shooting in Australian history. In the 10 years before the Port Arthur massacre, approximately 100 Australian people had been killed in 11 mass shootings.
Following the Port Arthur massacre, there was public outrage and a call for definitive gun control measures to prevent such mass shootings from occurring in the future. A young attorney named Rebecca Peters played a key role in organizing the public voice. The executive vice president of the American NRA, Wayne LaPierre, went to Australia to organize opposition to any new gun control laws. For the most part, the Australian public and elected officials ignored him.
Within 13 days of the Port Arthur massacre, the Australian government, led by conservative Prime Minister John Howard, agreed to ban all semi-automatic rifles and self-loading shotguns. Approximately 1 million weapons were subsequently surrendered by Australian gun owners in return for financial compensation, and the weapons were melted down.
Australia already had stringent handgun laws at the time of the Port Arthur massacre. Since the enactment of the ban on semi-automatic rifles and self-loading shotguns, there have been no further mass shootings in Australia. From 1996 to 2012, the rate of gun homicide in Australia dropped from one fifteenth the US gun homicide rate to one twenty-seventh the US rate, and there was no evidence of any increase in homicides committed by other means.
On October 1, 2017, a lone gunman killed 58 people and wounded hundreds of others using semi-automatic rifles in the American resort city of Las Vegas. The Las Vegas massacre was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. In the 10 years preceding the Las Vegas massacre, 420 people had been killed in 50 mass shootings.
At the time of this writing, it’s been 13 days after the Las Vegas massacre, and to the best of my knowledge, only one national organizations – Americans Against Gun Violence – has called for definitive gun control laws comparable to the gun ban enacted in Australia as a means of preventing mass shootings from recurring in the future. NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre initially stated that his organization would support restrictions on “bump stocks,” devices used by the Las Vegas shooter to make semi-automatic rifles fire nearly as rapidly as fully automatic ones, but he subsequently reversed his position. When Wayne LaPierre speaks, most members of the American Congress, the current President of the United States, and a significant segment of the American public listen.
At the time of this writing, there is no indication that any new gun control legislation will be enacted by the American Congress to prevent future mass shootings. On the contrary, Congress is considering legislation to make silencers more readily available and to make a concealed weapon permit issued in one state valid in every other state.
The Moral of This Story: No one in the United States should be surprised when the next horrific mass shooting occurs. Rather, we should ask ourselves, why haven’t we taken action like the Australians and other high income democratic countries to prevent mass shootings and curb the epidemic of daily gun violence that afflicts our country.
We need your help to create a happy ending to the grisly tale of country #2. Please become a member of Americans Against Gun Violence, if you haven’t done so already, and please make an additional donation if you’re able. And please contact your state and federal elected officials and let them know that you demand the enactment of definitive gun control laws comparable to the laws that have long been in effect in Australia and every other high income democratic country of the world – countries in which mass shootings are rare or non-existent and in which overall rates of gun violence are much, much lower than in the United States.
Thanks for your support of Americans Against Gun Violence and our efforts to stop the shameful epidemic of gun violence that afflicts our country. I look forward to celebrating with you on the day that our country finally does adopt definitive control laws like the laws in other high income democratic countries. Thanks for helping to make that day come sooner rather than later.
Bill Durston, MD
President, Americans Against Gun Violence