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A Call for Gun Policy Reform in the United States

American and Australian flags

Last week, the shooting death of an Australian college student in Oklahoma drew incendiary words from Australian politician Tim Fischer.

Amid warnings that travelers should “think twice” before visiting the United States, Fischer — former deputy prime minister — blasted “the proliferation of guns on the ground in the USA,” calling the crime “the bitter harvest and legacy of the policies of the NRA” and “another example of murder and mayhem on Main Street.”

As deputy prime minister under Prime Minister John Howard, Fischer helped champion big changes to Australia’s gun laws, largely in response to a mass shooting in 1996 that killed 35 and injured 23 people. In an admirably speedy response to the massacre, Howard’s administration passed bans on all automatic and semi-automatic weapons, as well as extremely strict licensing regulations — including background checks and waiting periods.

Since he so publicly and vehemently condemned U.S. gun policies, some have accused Fischer of harboring a political agenda — of capitalizing on the tragic murder of one of his own. And maybe he has an agenda. Politicians often do. But I fail to see why that matters. What matters is that since gun reform passed in Australia:

  • There has not been a single mass shooting (there were 13 in the years before gun reform).
  • Gun-related homicides have dropped by 59%.
  • Gun-related suicides have dropped by 65% (Leigh & Neill, 2012).

A CNN article reports that “ire [was] dripping on every word” as Fischer appealed to U.S. authorities to follow Australia’s example. He’s disgusted that Americans aren’t subject to a background check when buying a firearm at a gun show. He’s irate that there’s a gun in the United States for almost every American. He’s angry that somehow the gun culture and the power of the NRA in this country is still more important than the life of a promising young Australian athlete — and than the lives of children in Newtown.

He should be. We all should be.

And now Americans have one more thing to grapple with: The question of why the most passionate, media-covered argument for gun reform that we’ve heard from a politician in some time comes not from someone in our own country — but from the other side of world.


Learn more from the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins School Bloomberg of Public Health.


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