When civilized human beings witness a man-made tragedy, particularly one that takes innocent lives, it is typical to respond by taking action to ensure it never happens again if it is at all humanly possible. Americans are obviously not in that “civilized human being” category because when a man-made tragedy occurs, over and over again, their response is exacerbating the situation so the tragedy happens so often it becomes normal. Fortunately, there are civilized nations and mature societies that respond to one tragic event in a such a way that those tragedies cease, and if Americans were not beholden to worship the National Rifle Association and its ugly “guns everywhere” culture, this nation might embrace the tactics of humane Australians that put a screeching halt to mass shootings.
In 1996 a deranged gunman opened fire at a popular tourist destination on the island of Tasmania with a semiautomatic rifle, and succeeded in killing 35 innocent people. Instead of immediately calling for more guns and assault rifles for every man, woman and child, Australians responded by reforming their gun laws. They banned high-powered rifles and shotguns and imposed uniform gun licensing requirements on the millions of Australians who still owned guns that remained legal. The country also implemented a buyback program which resulted in the destruction of more than a million firearms. Some Americans may recall gun fanatics and the NRA went ballistic when some American communities attempted a “gun buyback” program because they regarded destroying a gun fundamentally more horrific than taking an innocent human life.
In the last 19 years since the Australian gun safety measures were enacted, there have been no mass shootings in Australia as a result of responding like civilized human beings. Anyone who knows, even remotely, someone from Australia will comprehend the people down under are not wimps and do not need firearms to feel safe, patriotic, or courageous. What is telling about the Australian people and their leaders is that after one gun massacre the effort to reduce the number of guns in the population was a “truly non-partisan crusade” led by John Howard, Australia’s very conservative Prime Minister. In fact, it was not any kind of a partisan endeavor because Australians, as a civilized society believed enacting sane gun safety measures was “a simple matter of basic humanity and common sense;” not an attack on what many twisted Americans and the NRA consider their almighty god; a firearm.
Australians, like most of the civilized world, were perplexed at America’s inaction to the spate of other gun massacres before the latest atrocity, likely because over the past 19 years there has not been one mass shooting since the nation took action. It is why the President used Australia as just one example of a “potential path forward” to prevent the ever-increasing number of ‘routine‘ gun massacres like the one at Umpqua Community College. President Obama said,
“We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours — Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it.”
Now, after hundreds of gun massacres over the past three years have killed hundreds and injured thousands more, America has done exactly as the National Rifle Association dictated; nothing whatsoever. After the most recent slaughter in Oregon, Australians are “disgusted” and cannot comprehend what is wrong with the American people. One journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald, Michael Pascoe, assailed America’s structurally violent society.
“In his very fine speech this morning, full of sorrow and frustration, President Obama made a mistake: Australia is not like the United States. We decided not to be. We decided to grow up instead and become a more reasonable, rational society that explicitly values human life and prefers to think the best of people, rather than the worst. The US is too immature a society to be allowed to play with guns. It has never shed its Wild West mythology. It’s a country that values property more than life.”
In a Brisbane Times editorial, the newspaper’s editorial board condemned America’s dysfunctional inaction on guns writing,
“In Oregon last week, four guns were recovered – three pistols and a semi-automatic rifle. Did Mercer have the right to bear those arms? Yes, he did. From that question and answer flows the grim crimson tide. And from that flows the errant nonsense from the NRA, and those of like mind, that guns are good, that guns are not the problem, that the president is politicizing the issue. He should be, indeed he has been, with no success. However, such is the web of lobbying, money, political support and sway that we despair of seeing radical progress. America prides itself on being a light in the world for democracy and liberty. Yet within its borders it is armed to the teeth. This is a tyranny, borne on a historical anomaly, that must end. Surely, if the phrase ‘land of the free’ stands for anything, it is the embracing of the freedom not to have to live in fear of the gun.”
One Australian man who lives near the Oregon UCC campus said he supported more gun control in America, but readily admitted,
“The United States political system is dysfunctional. We have had a great many similar tragedies, several that you would have thought would shift the needle of political debate, like Sandy Hook. They have really done nothing but become talking points because the majority of Americans worship the Second Amendment more than the Bible.”
It is true; to the NRA and so-called patriot gun maniacs, guns are god and the 2nd Amendment is Holy Scripture.
“Australia’s most popular news site,” News.com.au, suggested it was time for America to rethink the 2nd Amendment because “the legacy of America itself” is at stake. The Australians said, “You sense that President Obama’s legacy as President is on the line here. But really, it is the legacy of America itself.” That legacy, of a “structurally violent nation” where there is no longer any freedom “not to have to live in fear of the gun” has driven one group of Australians to call for a boycott of non-essential travel to America to protest its inaction on gun control, and hopefully save some Australian lives in the process.
The director of Gun Control Australia, Samantha Lee said,
“We have 2.1 million Australians visiting the U.S. every year and over 200,000 expats in America. We have a duty to respond to this tragedy in the U.S. and the way to do this is boycott non-essential travel to the U.S.”
It is more likely that the response is not just to show their disgust with America, which is completely justifiable, but an act of self-preservation. Visiting Australians go to movies, shopping malls, and attend churches, but because there are near-daily mass shootings, innocent Australian tourists are just as likely to be gunned down as innocent American students, shoppers, church attendees and theatre-goers.
It is a sad state of affairs that this country has become as disgusting to its allies as it is to some Americans sick-to-death of the routine mass shootings with no civilized response to stop the NRA-inspired slaughter of innocents. Oh it is true that longtime gun safety advocate Hillary Clinton came out with a plan to target the gun industry, and even Bernie Sanders set aside his guns are like hammers argument and offered up his own plan to reduce mass shootings, but they are just plans. Plans and proposals are all well and good, brilliant even, but like the simple and sane gun safety measures President Obama has proposed, they require a Congress that is willing to stand up to their god-almighty NRA.
America goes through this silly and futile exercise every time another gun-wielding malcontent locks and loads to slaughter innocent Americans. There is a little weeping and gnashing of teeth, the NRA calls for more guns, survivors bury their dead, frightened Americans add to their arsenals, and the country waits for the news that another gun fanatic massacred more innocents. Australians are rightly disgusted and it is possible that some Americans are disgusted as well because no matter how many gun massacres occur in this structurally violent nation, the frightened and immature people in this uncivilized society will respond like the barbarians they really are and do nothing except bow to their guns and the 2nd Amendment.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.