The war in Ukraine no longer has centre stage in our nation’s news media. It has been replaced with the heart-breaking images of nineteen little kids and two teachers senselessly gunned down in a Texas elementary school. Here’s an account by an 11 year old girl who survived the latest tragedy Don’t forget your tissues.Thoughts and prayers are being offered, just as they were when a gunman murdered twenty tiny kids and six others at Sandy Hook in December 2012. I was so sure that heinous act would change the American gun mentality. I was wrong that time, and I’m expecting nothing different this time. It’s a mindset, you see.
I remember very well the events of 28th April 1996. It was one of my last days in Perth, getting ready to leave for the Eastern States. My friend and I had been in Fremantle for the day, having lunch, visiting the markets and generally enjoying the vibe. Back at her house, we turned on the news and it was clear something awful had happened in Tasmania. Martin Bryant had gone to Port Arthur, a popular tourist spot, and shot dead thirty-five people with an AR-15 and a hunting rifle. The story is chilling.
Australians were shocked to the core. That sort of thing didn’t happen here. Our government, led by Prime Minister John Howard, was shocked, too. Howard had only been in office for 6 weeks. I don’t recall if he offered thoughts and prayers. The main thing was he did something about it to try to make sure nothing like that ever happened again. And it hasn’t. Here’s a write-up on the date of the 20th anniversary of the shooting.
“Under his leadership, all states and territories agreed to tighten the rules around who can own and use self-loading rifles and shotguns, and introduced a ban on automatic and semi-automatic firearms.
The government also brought in a national firearm registration system, as well as a mandatory “buy back” scheme, where gun owners were compensated for handing in any prohibited and unregistered weapons.” [source]
Something like 650,000 weapons were handed in and subsequently destroyed.
Of course the gun lobby, cashed up and as powerful as the American National Rifle Association (NRA), fought tooth and nail against the new laws but Howard stood firm and the laws were enacted on 10th May 1996. New Zealand waited until after the Christchurch massacre in March 2019 before swiftly enacting similar legislation.
And yet in America it doesn’t happen.
Most of my American friends support gun registration and background checks but I can only suppose they are in the minority. What can you say about a country where a woman walks through a supermarket with a shopping trolley, a semi-automatic weapon slung over her shoulder? That people turn up to protest against having to wear a surgical mask to combat covid wearing bullet-proof vests and carrying their guns? That an 18-year-old can’t buy a beer but he can buy an AR-15? Americans have a God-given right to bear arms, enshrined in the second amendment of their constitution. To some, the solution to school shootings is to arm teachers so they can shoot the assailant first, or to post armed guards at every school ground.
It’s worth looking at this take on the American gun argument.
And as a wonderful irony, many of the same people who insist on keeping their guns are also ‘pro-life’ – that is, anti-abortion, anti-birth control. They have more concern for collections of cells that might eventually become people than living, breathing, little humans.
Please understand that Australians can buy guns. Farmers clearly need to have guns. So do people who belong to shooting clubs, as long as they’re not mentally deranged or criminals. But nobody but the military needs to have an assault rifle. Let’s face it, guns have only one purpose – to kill.
I’d better get off the soap box now before I hurt myself.
Here in Australia we have a new government facing a formidable array of challenges. How well it performs remains to be seen but Prime Minister Albanese acquitted himself well in his rushed foray onto the international stage. He was sworn in on Monday after his win on Saturday so he could join other world leaders in Japan. He was welcomed by the Quad military alliance (USA, Japan, India, and Australia) and the Indo-Pacific economic group comprising the US, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. After a couple of years of Chinese officials refusing to talk to anyone in the Australian Government, China’s Premier Li offered Mr Albanese congratulations on his win and hinted at a thawing of relationships (presumably if Australia reneged its recalcitrant position). Mr Albanese must have disappointed him. He informed the Chinese that closer relations may be possible if they lift the unreasonable tariffs on Australian goods, and he sent off Foreign Minister Penny Wong to work on relations with our Pacific Island neighbours (unlike the Chinese, Australia is offering help with no strings attached). The first boat load of ‘asylum seekers’ was sent back to Sri Lanka with the warning that Australian border policy will not change – if you come here illegally, you cannot stay.
Back on the home front the challenges facing the new government remain. I wish Mr Albanese the very best of luck for the good of the country.
* By Picanox – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=94843987