Some of my most conservative, pro-gun rights friends are calling for a ”reasonable” or “sane” legislative response to the massacre of 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown, Connecticut.
Ultimately, no matter how “reasonable” we are, we need to make sure that our response actually works. Several other Western countries have drastically reduced gun violence. If conservatives really want to address this problem, and not just quiet the rising chorus of calls for gun control, we could look to these other nations for “sane” guidance.
Senator Dianne Feinstein is proposing a ban on the same types of guns and ammunition Adam Lanza used on the children and faculty inside Sandy Hook Elementary School. Investigators say Lanza was armed with hundreds of bullets, loaded into dozens of high-capacity magazines. Lanza was so heavily armed that he left hundreds of unused bullets behind.
Senator Feinstein has proposed similar legislation before. In 1994, President Clinton signed a law banning the manufacture of certain kinds of semi-automatic weapons. But President George W. Bush failed to renew it and the ban expired in 2004.
Since then, there have been 12 other bills designed to reinstate the assault weapons ban. They’ve all failed. In fact, there’ve been no new assault weapons bills introduced in Congress since 2008. Australia used to have liberal gun laws too. Their crime statistics mirrored ours.
That’s when a young, mentally-ill man gunned down a crowd of tourists in Port Arthur, Tasmania. He killed 35 people and wounded 21 others. That massacre inspired an unprecedented and almost immediate crackdown on guns.
Within months, Australia had banned all automatic and semi-automatic “long” arms, like the rifle Adam Lanza used. Gun owners had to register their weapons. Another shooting with fewer victims in 2002 inspired Australian lawmakers to go even further. They passed new restrictions on handguns, limiting the caliber to .45. Even members of shooting clubs who don’t own weapons have to register with the government.
Those gun bans took effect and the homicide rate went down. Deadly shootings in Australia dropped dramatically after the tougher laws were passed in 1996. Seems like a “reasonable” response by the Australian government after a horrifying massacre, right?
Right now, about 10% of Australian households own guns. Australia’s government estimates there are about 20,000 illegal handguns in the country.
Compare that to the United States, where an estimated 40% of households own guns. Gunpolicy.org estimates 8 million new guns go on the market every year world wide. Americans reportedly buy 4.5 million of them.
If it is possible to be “reasonable” after the murders of 20 American school children under the age of 8, there are models that we could follow. That would be truly “sane.”