I will quickly point out, right off the bat, that I live in Australia. Our last major mass shooting took place in 1996, the year after I was born (more information can be found here). The Port Arthur Massacre was a pretty bloody affair, and up until the 2017 Las Vegas Mass Shooting, it held a record for the highest number of deaths in a mass shooting.
At Port Arthur, a beautiful spot in Tasmania, Australia, 35 people were killed by a man with a history of mental illness and decidedly odd behaviour. After the shooting, our very conservative Prime Minister at the time, John Howard, did the greatest thing he could have ever done. He put into motion the comprehensive gun control measures and laws we have in Australia today. There was a huge buy-back. Guns and munitions were destroyed. Farmers and gun owners were furious. There were court cases and protests. Between the shooting in April of 1996 and the beginning of the buy-back, there was six months. After the buy-back, over a million weapons were destroyed.
To say that this solved the whole problem is of course ridiculous. Australia, like anywhere, still has citizens who are not law abiding. There are still people who want to hurt others. Like outlawing drugs, laws in and of themselves don’t solve the whole problem. We have however not had any mass shootings of that magnitude since. I’ve attached a link to a list of massacres in Australian history – the list starts in the 1620s so you’ll have to scroll down a little to get to the more modern stuff. You can tell from he list that Australians can be a pretty violent and murderous bunch. But pay attention to how many shootings of more than three individuals, not in family situations, we had after 1996.
With that kind of context in mind, I watch the chaos unfolding in America and all I can do is despair. To have mass shootings anywhere is tragic. To have them in schools is beyond reason. I’ve watched conversations between NRA representatives and the survivors of the Florida school shooting (Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to be specific, in case another one of these happens before you read this), and apart from feeling great pride at the strength of the students and teachers, I find myself hating the NRA person sitting across from them.
I listen to the NRA representative tell the student that OF COURSE this poor ‘crazy’ person should not have been able to get their hands on a gun. And OF COURSE the NRA opposes ‘crazy’ people being able to buy guns and the government should expand the Baker Act. But of all the news coverage I’ve watched, isn’t the NRA the group that lobbies the government and squashes bills every time a politician in the GOVERNMENT tries to do anything? Every time someone wants to allow the CDC to do research into gun violence, it gets squashed. So how do the NRA representatives have the gall to stand up and say the things they do, straight into the faces of brave teenagers with tears streaming down their faces, as they desperately ask to be heard and make a difference?
I actually don’t have an answer to that. I don’t know how the NRA can even show their faces at events with the survivors of these sorts of horrific moments.
When the representative, who insists on calling the perpetrator ‘crazy’, stands up and says that ‘he passed a background check’ and that it’s the fault of the government for not communicating on a state and federal level, how do they not then see that maybe what needs to be done is an expansion of the background check system itself?
The whole system needs an overhaul. No one needs a semi-automatic weapon. Not unless you are in an actual war zone. And while, emotionally, it might feel like a school and a war zone aren’t that far apart; they’re not the same thing.