MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN
(NNPA)—This is an important conversation for our children, for our communities, for Democrats and Republicans. Speaking is difficult but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard. But the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.
Statement of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 30, 2013
At the Jan. 30 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the survivor of a gunshot to the head, gave us our marching orders. The United States stands alone in the world in our tolerance of gun violence but in the wake of the devastating Newtown, Conn. murders, a powerful outcry of ordinary Americans across the country is saying no more. This time we want our collective heartbreak and outrage to be followed by real change.
How have people in other countries responded after a gun massacre or mass shooting?
Australia and Great Britain provide two examples. In 1996, 35 people were killed and 23 others were wounded by a gunman at the Port Arthur tourist site in Tasmania, Australia, in one of the largest massacres ever committed by a single shooter. Within 12 days of the shooting, spurred by strong public support, the Australian federal and state governments agreed to the historic National Firearms Agreement (NFA), which banned semi-automatic and pump action rifles and shotguns and required registration of all firearms, strict standards for gun licenses, and a permit for each gun purchase subject to a 28-day waiting period. The NFA also prohibited private sales, regulated ammunition sales, and required licensees to receive firearm safety training and to store firearms safely. To get banned rifles and shotguns off the streets, the federal government bought back or accepted turn-ins of more than 1 million guns which were then destroyed.
The National Firearms Agreement was supported by a coalition of groups from across the political spectrum, including women’s organizations, seniors, religious leaders, police, parents, human rights organizations and schools, all demanding stronger gun violence laws in Australia. In the 18 years before the NFA there were 13 mass shootings in Australia. In the 16 years since, Australia has not had a single mass shooting. Rates of overall gun deaths, gun homicides, and gun suicides, which were declining prior to the NFA, started declining twice as fast after the reforms.
Just weeks before the Port Arthur massacre in Australia, 16 5- and 6-year-olds and their teacher were killed in a devastating school shooting in Dunblane, Scotland. After those murders the public outcry in Great Britain was very similar to the one we are seeing in the U.S. right now. The shooter owned his guns legally and the outrage over his crime started a public campaign for tighter gun control culminating in a petition being handed to the government with more than 700,000 signatures. A 1987 mass shooting by a man who killed 16 people and wounded 15 others had already led Great Britain to ban semi-automatic and pump action rifles and shotguns. This time, 11 months after the Dunblane murders, Great Britain passed the Firearm (Amendment) Act of 1997 instituting tighter controls over handguns. Soon after, the country went a step further and prohibited all handguns in civilian hands. The government also instituted firearm amnesties across the country resulting in the surrender of thousands of firearms and rounds of ammunition.