Ignited by the horrendous shootings in Virginia, President Obama has responded with stricter gun control laws modelled after those of Australia.
“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. It is in our power to do something about it,” Obama said in response to the mass shooting in Charleston.
Unfortunately, gun control, like many of Obama’s policies and ideals, while morally just, seems to be a pursuit that will fail to pass due to strong opposition.
According to the New York Times, this past year Obama has been pushing stricter gun reforms that would include “criminal background checks for all gun sales, reinstating a ban on assault weapon, providing financing to expand mental health programs for young people.”
Obama’s gun control proposal contains ideas with merit like increasing the frequency of criminal background checks, but also more questionable provisions that would nudge doctors into asking their patients about guns in their homes.
The proposal itself is quite lengthy and includes a lengthy list of changes that easily could have the reader nodding at some points while shaking their heads at other times. Furthermore, the cost of the proposal promises to be a significant chunk of change that much of Congress will cringe at.
Not to mention the circumstances that led to Australia’s gun reform which Obama is inspired by are quite different, despite the initial similarities in the situations.
As a result of Australia’s mass shooting in 1996 in which 35 people lost their lives in Tasmania due to one man, the country greatly restricted and banned the purchase of certain automatic and semi-automatic guns through various means including buybacks.
“In two nationwide, federally funded gun buybacks, plus large-scale voluntary surrenders and state gun amnesties both before and after Port Arthur, Australia collected and destroyed more than a million firearms, perhaps one-third of the national stock,” according to Philip Alpers from the University of Sydney on CNN.
One of the main reasons that Australia’s tighter gun control laws were successful in reducing the number of mass shootings was because of the gun buy back.
“In the decade prior to the buyback, there was an average of one mass shooting (five or more victims) every year,” wrote Andrew Leigh of Time magazine. “In the decade after the buyback, there were no mass shootings.”
With the gun buy back, Leigh reports over 650,000 guns were bought at market price from their owners.
Obviously, this reduces the availability of guns, which protects citizens implicitly as many arguments did not escalate and end with a smoking barrel.
Twelve days after the massacre, Australia rolled out massive gun reforms that dwarf what the U.S. would do in 12 months, if not longer.
The passing of these stricter gun control laws was driven by a mass revulsion at the most horrific Australian massacre of that decade.
However, with how Congress works, one should not raise their hopes too high on a similar bill passing in America.
Laws on guns vary greatly from state to state. In some states, one could all but walk in and purchase a gun without treading through a sea of paperwork. In other states, your hand would begin to ache with how often a dotted line required a John Hancock.
Although Obama’s proposal has the right intention, it will not pass in America. Guns are ingrained into much of America’s cultures, in some states more than others.
The Second Amendment itself, the right to bear arms, will inevitably be used as a strong argument by those against Obama’s proposal.
Furthermore, the number of guns in America easily dwarfs the number in Australia.
As one of the lynchpins to success in Australia was the large gun buyback, a similar policy would not find a stamp of approval in America.
The Washington Post cites that “an equivalent buyback here would entail the destruction of 40 million guns.”
Such a large number of guns to collect would be no simple task and the cost of paying for those guns would be massive even if the government payed a dollar for a gun, much less market price.
While Obama’s heart is in the right place, his proposal is not.