On April 28, 1996, a spray of gunfire claimed 35 lives, marking Australia’s deadliest shooting in its history. Shortly thereafter, the government passed a series of laws to buyback 650,000 automatic and semi-automatic weapons—and tightly control the rest.
In a 2015 Slate article, How Many Shootings WIll It Take for America to Control its Guns, reporter Will Oremus writes, “[Australia’s] new gun laws prohibited private sales, required that all weapons be individually registered to their owners, and required that gun buyers present a ‘genuine reason’ for needing each weapon at the time of the purchase. (Self-defense did not count.) In the wake of the tragedy, polls showed public support for these measures at upwards of 90 percent.”
According to one academic study, buybacks resulted in a drop in firearm suicide rates of almost 80 percent. “The effect on firearm homicides is of similar magnitude but is less precise,” the study also states.
In the United States, however, close to 300 people are shot each day. Of that number, 30 are murdered and 53 commit suicide, NBC News reports.
According to a MotherJones news investigation, upon considering 62 mass shootings that have occurred in America over the last three decades, 49 were committed using legally purchased weapons. Half of the shooters used assault weapons or rifles with high-capacity magazines.
In 2013, California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) introduced the Assault Weapons Ban. “Mass shootings in Newtown, Aurora, and Tucson have demonstrated all too clearly the need to regulate military-style assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines,” the bill reads in part. “These weapons allow a gunman to fire a large number of rounds quickly and without having to reload.” Unsurprisingly, the bill received stiff criticism from the National Rifle Association, and it was defeated in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Our government needs to pass effective gun legislation, and it might start with considering a buyback program similar to the one Austrilia adopted. Participation should not be mandatory. Still, I see no reason why the government cannot and should not make it financially burdensome to own and keep guns—especially high-capacity guns—to make any buyback option all the more attractive.
Unfortunately, progress has been slow to legislate the types of firearms Americans can own. In a recent interview with NowThis, Vice President Biden shared his frustration: “If you’re a billionaire can you buy an M1 tank? Can you go out and buy a flamethrower? No, the Second Amendment isn’t absolute, any more than the First Amendment is. Tell me where the violation is of the Second Amendment saying, I have to know you’re not a criminal or mentally incompetent before you can buy a gun.”
Upon addressing the nation after the Dec. 2, 2015 attack in San Bernardino, CA, which left 14 dead and 22 seriously injured, a teary-eyed President Obama said that the nation “can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.” He also said, “Our unalienable right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness— those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown. First-graders.”
Through executive action, Obama announced plans to help keep guns away from minors and dangerous individuals, who evade background checks through loopholes, including buying weapons on the Internet or at gun shows.
Meanwhile, pro-gun advocates argue that gun ownership deters crime. But as David Hemenway, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health points out in the Los Angeles Times, “the scientific evidence, however, provides little support for these arguments. Quite the opposite. In terms of deterrence, a recent study found that states with higher levels of household gun ownership have higher levels of firearm crime and do not have lower levels of other types of crime.”
When the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791, the founding fathers did not have a crystal ball. They could not possibly foresee advancements in technology, including today’s weaponry. I agree with Biden. The Constitution may guarantee Americans the right to bear arms, but that right should not extend to high-powered weaponry.
I support Obama’s bold action. Now it’s time for Congress to act.