Since the shootings of Parkland High School and Stoneman Douglas High School, the United States have been taking gun control and firearm policies very serious. However, the new laws haven’t exactly made such an impact on the homicide-by-firearm rate. In the US of 2011, 67% of homicide victims died from GSWs (gunshot wounds). In 2016, 38,658 people died by firearms, and the Gun Violence Archive marked a 3 percent increase from the previous year in 2017.
According to a recent study done by the Gun Violence Archive in 2018, 61,331 incidents of gun violence, were logged into hospitals alone.
In 1996, Australia passed strict policies against firearms, and their rate of Gun Homicide per 100,000 people in 2016 plummeted to 0.18, in comparison with the US, which is 4.46. So how does Australia do it?
Australia use to have a bad problem with firearms. Mass shootings had more than 5 deaths, not including the gunman. In 1979-1996, there were 13 incidents of mass shootings, resulting in 100 deaths and 50 injuries. However, due to the gun lobby and politicians that favored their firearm-owning voters, little action was taken to prevent this incidents from happening again. This will soon change.
On April of 1996, the island of Tasmania suffered the worst massacre in Australia. At least 34 people were killed and 4 others critically wounded. Armed with 2 military grade rifles, an AR 15 and a .308 FN, Martin Bryant went to Port Arthur Historic Site, killing 35 people and injuring another 23. Both weapons were legal in the state of Tasmania and both were semi-automatic. It shocked Australians and reignited the public outrage.
Twelve days later, the Prime Minister John Howard pushed many policies and rules for gun regulations, even though he lacked the support of the rural constituency. Within a month, the Australian Government passed the National Firearms Agreement (NFA), which completely changed the gun laws. Before the NFA, gun laws varied from state to state. This agreement unified the state together and standardized the laws nationally. Certain semi-automatic weapons, self-loading rifles, and shotguns were banned. New licensing requirements were needed and a national firearm logbook was established, something the US doesn’t have.
Australia gave its citizens two reasons to have a firearm; sport shootings or agricultural use. Self Defense was not listed. The government spent 375 million dollars to purchase bad 640,000 civilian owned guns, and destroyed them. After these regulations, the total number of gun related deaths rapidly fell, dropping more than half in 2016, from 1996. Australia has not seen a single mass shooting since 1996.
Australia may not be immune to mass shootings, but the response received from the Port Arthur massacre showed the strong political unification and leadership and strict gun control policies can assist in preventing violence and saving lives.
Currently, the gun policy in the US states the legal citizens must be 18 years of age to purchase shotguns or rifles and ammunition, but 21 to purchase a handgun. Sate or local lawmakers can implement higher age restrictions, but cannot go below the federal minimum. Convicted felons and fugitives, people deemed a danger to the society and patients involuntarily in mental institutions are barred from purchasing firearms. The Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), a division of the Department of Justice, regulates the standards for issuing licenses to gun vendors and gun owners. Extensive background checks vary throughout states.
Currently, this method is still being debated in the government, but will probably pass in 2019 at the earliest.