AUSTRALIA’S worst shooting massacre changed the nation’s gun laws forever, unlike Uncle Sam who refuses to put down the weapons.
While Americans cling to the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights written back in 1791, more lives will be lost — as history records have proven — rather than make their country safer.
Despite former president Barack Obama’s call to change gun laws, President Donald Trump is unlikely to follow in Australia’s footsteps.
University of Sydney Associate Professor Philip Alpers, who’s also founding director of GunPolicy.org, said changing the gun laws are as far as we can go to reduce gun-related deaths.
“The common-sense answer is: If guns make people safer, the United States and Yemen should be the safest places on Earth,” he said.
But is the problem so different in Australia? Here’s a look at gun deaths Australia compared to America.
How many gun deaths are there each year?
In America, more than 33 thousand people are killed annually. This number, (specifically 33,599 deaths) is based on averages from the years 2012 to 2014.
While we associate these deaths with homicides and terrorism, two-thirds of these deaths are suicides.
Homicides make up about 12 thousand deaths per year.
And mass shootings — defined by the FBI as four or more people shot and/or killed — are alarmingly common.
This year alone has seen 273 mass shootings in America so far, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
The numbers tell a different story in Australia, particularly after former Prime Minister John Howard’s famous gun reforms were triggered in 1996.
In Australia, there were 211 gun-related deaths in 2015, according to University of Sydney’s database GunPolicy.org. 38 of these deaths occurred in Victoria.
Fast Facts: Why did Australia change its gun laws?
*The death of 35 people in the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania in April 1996 triggered then-prime minister John Howard to radically change Australia’s gun laws
*Martin Byrant went on a shooting spree armed with a semiautomatic assault rifle on April 28
*There was no registration requirement for gun ownership, aside from a handgun, in Tasmania enabling Byrant to easily buy the weapons
*Bryant is serving 35 life sentences without parole
What happened after Port Arthur?
*Then Liberal prime minister John Howard decided to reform gun laws as a direct result of the mass shooting
*Mr Howard introduced the National Firearms Program Implementation Act 1996 to restrict individuals’ ability to own semiautomatic rifles and shotguns, and pump-action shotguns
*His reform also introduced firearm licensing
How have the laws changed gun ownership?
*Guns must be registered
*Automatic and semiautomatic weapons are banned
*More than 650,000 guns were destroyed in a buyback scheme
*Gun owners must have a valid reason for owning a weapon including farming or hunting
*Guns and ammunition must be locked and stored appropriately
*A second gun amnesty ran between July 1 to September 30 this year, collecting another 26,000
*States must adhere to the Firearms Act 1996 and the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998
Who can have a gun in Victoria?
*Victorian individuals, organisations and government departments can hold a firearm licence
*Must be a “fit and proper person”
*Licences can be for juniors aged 12 to 18, or adults
*Must have and maintain a “genuine reason” for needing the licence type
What are the US gun laws?
In the US, guns are widely available with nearly 89 guns privately owned per 100 people. This is largely because of the US Constitution’s Second Amendment, which gives citizens the right to bear arms.
While restriction that occurs on a national level is known as the Brady Law. It requires background checks for people who purchase guns from a licensed dealer. But this only accounts for around 60 per cent of purchases, leaving the rest of the buyers to go unchecked.
While automatic rifles are banned in the USA, semiautomatic weapons are legal.