Why Australia Doesn’t Need Guns But America Might

Different histories call for different futures 

2 March 2018

I grew up in a world without guns. I’ve never seen a pistol that wasn’t in a police officer’s holster. I’ve never had a friend who owned a gun. I’ve never really seen one up close. My only experience of guns and gun violence is from the American video games I play and the American films I watch. Throughout my early childhood, pistols and assault rifles might as well have been as fantastical as swords and dragons. I’ve never feared being shot by a gun—at least not yet.

I am, of course, an Australian.

Before 1996, my country was pretty much as gung-ho about guns as the United States. Bullets and rifles fit our national identity pretty well. We appreciated the image of the typical Outback Australian, rugged, self-sufficient, wearing a bush hat and smoking a cigarette. And where would they be without their trusty rifle? But in the last few decades, this image has started to fade quite a bit.

Cigarette branding has been replaced with government warnings about the dangers of smoking—lung cancer pictures printed right onto the box. Guns are legal but strong laws restrict who can buy them and for what reason.

We lost some of our freedom; that is true, and I’m not proud of it. But the results speak for themselves. Smoking rates have tumbled, limiting the wild amount of people who die from this preventable catalyst for disease.

Gun deaths have fallen precipitously since the 1996 National Firearms Agreement. There hasn’t been a single gun massacre since then. If you don’t know, a massacre is usually defined as three or more people killed during the same attack.

The Port Arthur Massacre, which spurred the National Firearms Agreement, took 35 lives, wounded 23, and was the deadliest mass shooting in our history. The deadliest mass shooting in US history was last year, took 58 lives, and injured nearly 500.

So why hasn’t the United States done anything?

This is something I hear a lot from friends, family, and the Australian media. There’s also a tinge of national pride in these conversations and messages.

We managed to do it. Why can’t they?

The assumption is that the United States must be morally or politically bankrupt to not pass gun control laws.

In a lot of these cases, people, especially Australians like myself, forget to take into account how guns fit into America culturally and historically. With that, I think the United States has a far better argument for why they might be better off with guns than without.

The United States Constitution is almost sacred to the American people. The Bill of Rights is not listed in order of importance, but it starts off on the right foot with the First Amendment. It’s hard to argue that the right to free speech isn’t one of the most fundamental and important rights of the United States. The right to bear arms is up there too as the Second Amendment.

What many people may ask is why have it there at all? Was owning a gun so vital that it needed to become an inalienable right?

The Second Amendment doesn’t protect gun rights because guns are good for hunting. It doesn’t protect gun rights because guns are useful tools for home security. The Second Amendment states that ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’

As a free press is vital to maintaining a free society, so is an armed populace. If the First Amendment was the velvet glove then the Second is certainly the iron fist.

Most of the rights you’ll find in the Constitution are for the purpose of protecting the American people from an overreaching and powerful government. The Fourth Amendment restricts illegal searches and seizures. The Sixth Amendment guarantees you a fair and speedy trial by a jury of your peers.

If the Founding Fathers were paranoid about something, it was definitely their own institutions growing tyrannical.

A ‘well-regulated Militia’ does not mean one controlled by the government or evened out with federal gun control laws. Back then, ‘well regulated’ referred to independent responsibility, not government enforcement. Why would the Founders remove your right to bear arms in the same breath that they granted it? 

The biggest argument against the Second Amendment itself is that it’s outdated. After all, it came from hundreds of years ago from people who couldn’t have possibly foreseen the evolution of modern weaponry. The Second Amendment was intended only for muskets, right?

The problem with this logic, however, is that when applied to the other rights of the American people, the results can be disastrous. If the Second Amendment is outdated, shouldn’t the First be too? It’s not like the Founding Fathers could’ve foreseen the printing press or the internet. Yet words, whether printed on paper or published digitally, are protected under the right to free speech.

The population of the United States in 1776 was nothing more than a few million. Maybe all the Amendments weren’t meant for a nation of over 300 million.

The ‘antiquated’ argument is easy to make but hard to defend. It’s exactly the kind of excuse that emboldens governments into trampling on more of its people’s rights.

There’s also the idea that the ‘Militia’ itself is outdated in a world where the American government has tanks, drones, and nuclear bombs. That too is a case of bad logic. It underestimates the power of guerrilla warfare and where it has succeeded in the past.

In the Vietnam War, the United States had helicopters, the best aircraft, napalm, and ground troops armed with the most modern weapons. Still, a staunch and determined people managed to fight back with handcrafted booby traps, stolen American bombs, and their knowledge of a terrain foreign to the enemy.

The idea of the ‘Militia’ is what undergirds the argument for gun rights in the United States.

I honestly cringe when people compare guns to Kinder Surprise Eggs in a desperate plea to get the former under more regulation. They both can be a health hazard, sure. But only one could help me fight against a tyrannical government—and it’s not the chocolate egg.

The United States has a history with tyranny, and it’s that strong distrust of centralised government—purposefully sewn in by the Founders—that acts as the basis for America’s gun culture.

There are almost as many guns as there are people in the United States. A government buy-back of firearms definitely wouldn’t work as well as it did in Australia.

Considering Americans’ beliefs surrounding their constitutional right to bear arms, I wouldn’t be surprised if things got incredibly violent.

The Australian Constitution (yes, we have one) says nothing about guns. For us, federation came peacefully, not with violent revolution. A nation’s history can have a serious impact on how its people develop in the future, and American history is uniquely American.

This isn’t a justification for unfettered gun rights in America; it’s merely an explanation for why Australia’s gun control laws can’t just be copied and pasted onto the United States. Our laws aren’t even the perfect solution to limiting the number of guns, as Australia has as many guns now as it did before Port Arthur.

The United States can decide its own future. If the people want gun control, then their government should give it to them. But when it comes to giving up the rights your nation’s Founders bestowed upon you, maybe we need to think about the issue in far more depth and honesty.

Gun control isn’t something to be dismissed entirely and neither is the Second Amendment.

The American people may not need the Militia now, but they might in the future. And when the time comes, they’ll be glad they kept their right to bear arms.

19 comments

  1. BS. You are playing the game of the NRA by confusing gun control with gun ownership. Ie one of the countries with the highest gun ownership in Europe is Germany. It also has one of the lowest gun related death and strict gun control.

    This has nothing to do with freedom, this is about the NRA wanting to make as much money as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In Australia, we had the government gun buybacks, which were a way of enacting gun control through obviously limiting gun ownership. I don’t think it’s just the number of guns that may contribute to shootings, or else I wouldn’t have mentioned that Australia has as many guns as it did before the buyback program—yet has low rates of gun deaths.

      What evidence do you have to prove that the NRA is acting solely to make money? The NRA isn’t some amorphous boogeyman or greedy corporation. They represent their supporters, and their supporters happen to be Americans who vote for politicians who share their beliefs.

      Like

      • As I myself pointed out, it is about proper gun control. There is nothing wrong with ensuring that buying a gun is limited to people who know what they are doing and are mentally sound.

        Nobody gives millions to politicians if it isn’t about the money. Where do you think this money is coming from? From the weapon producers. Who in turn make billions in weapons sales. Take a good look at Heckler and Koch. They are limited to a certain degree in Germany, but they can do whatever the f… they want in the US because a minority with a lot of money holds the majority which wants basic gun control hostage.

        Honestly, there is nothing unreasonable about wanting weapons only in the hands of people who know what they are doing and are mentally sound.

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      • I never said I was against background checks or even gun control itself. You merely accused me of playing the ‘NRA game.’ The whole point of the article wasn’t to argue against gun control but to look for solutions that fit America, which has a unique history, culture, and people. You keep bringing up Germany, but they weren’t born from violent revolution. They supported their tyrannical government when it rose.

        Plenty of groups lobby and give money to politicians. I don’t think it’s right, but this isn’t just an NRA problem. Planned Parenthood lobbies, labour unions do too, and so do environmental groups. It’s not so much about money as it is support. A lot of Americans support the NRA and are willing to vote for politicians who follow their agenda.

        You can blame the NRA as much as you want but at the end of the day, it’s the individual Americans and their beliefs that matter—you’ll have to debate them.

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      • Other lobbying groups don’t have a public index in which they “rate” politicians.

        But let’s talk about history. The US has a history of school shootings and a history of shooting incidents in general. Parkland was already the second mass killing event this year. Don’t you think that with that history it would be important to do something? Australia did after the first big school shooting. The UK did. Germany did after the first and tightened up regulations again after the second one. And if you now look at the list of attacks happening in schools, well, they happen in those countries, too, but in most of those cases the attacker is now wielding a knife.

        I am not saying that introducing gun control will solve the frankly disturbing relationship Americans have to their gun. But just keeping assault weapons of the market, just tighten up control, just introducing laws which allow the police to actually do something if they encounter a teen storing weapons and acting like a danger, all this would go a long was to rescue lives.

        There is no argument for the “free for all” policy of the NRA, or for the methods they use to keep it in place. None.

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      • The existence of a rating system doesn’t change the fact that the NRA is powered by normal, everyday American voters.

        Again, you’re misconstruing what I’m saying. I do believe the United States should do something about their mass shootings, but if gun control is the answer, it must be catered towards the American people as well the sheer number of weapons they have. There are close to 300 million guns in the United States. If you want to tighten the market, you’re going to have to figure out what to do with the millions of other guns that can also harm people.

        You’re referring to the Parkland shooter when you say you want to ‘introduce laws which allow the police to actually do something,’ yet seem to ignore the fact that the FBI had been notified about the shooter, the police were involved in multiple incidents with him, he had called the police on himself to notify them of his instability, and finally, that the first officers outside the school didn’t go in. You want to give those fools more power?

        I was never arguing for unfettered gun rights or the ‘free for all’ that you suggested. I don’t like the NRA. You’ve constructed quite the straw man to kick and punch.

        The article was centred around the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Without arms, America would not have been born—it’s culture wouldn’t exist. The fight against tyranny is a vital part of their national identity. That’s a history worth considering as well.

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      • Smokescreen. The truths is that under the current law there is nothing the police could have done because him owning those weapons wasn’t illegal.

        And you are blissfully ignoring that in my very first post I pointed out that gun control doesn’t go counter to owning arms. The whole fight against tyranny part is bs too, btw. Not the mention the kind of tyranny people with guns can spread. For example by just shooting whoever doesn’t agree with them.

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      • He made terrorist threats—that’s illegal. He abused his girlfriend, threatened other students with violence, and self-harmed. Some of those are enough to get you arrested, and some of those are enough to get you immediate psychiatric help from the State. None of those things happened. Also, the first officers on the scene didn’t go in—letting more students be killed by this mad man. It’s not a smokescreen to want to fix all the things that contributed to a disaster. It’s common sense.

        I never said gun control itself goes counter to owning arms. In the article and in my first reply, I mentioned the Australian gun buybacks, which was gun control based on the idea of plummeting gun ownership. You’re blissfully ignoring everything I’ve said in these replies and in the article.

        So the fight against tyranny is BS but the ‘tyranny people with guns can spread’ must be stopped? By your logic, everyone and everything has the capacity to spread tyranny. For example, by just stabbing whoever doesn’t agree with them. For example, by just bludgeoning whoever doesn’t agree with them. And on and on and on.

        The definition of tyranny is cruel or oppressive government rule. Tyranny is not a synonym for murder.

        If people with guns are linked to spreading tyranny in the way you described, why not remove all guns? What good would tightening up control be if owning guns means you can still ‘shoot whoever doesn’t agree’ with you? At least then you’d be arguing for a point that’s honest and consistent with what you’ve been saying.

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      • What is your point them?

        In the US are militia. They all story weapons. And more than one of them has decided to terrorizing little towns, committing robberies aso are an acceptable way to express their so called “freedom”. This last shooter had contact to one of those groups and was egged on by them.

        And guess what, this very basic gun control law people want – no guns for criminals, the mentally ill and the need to proof that you know what you are doing – wouldn’t even touch those groups.

        Like

      • My point was in the article. I’m not going rehash everything again, because it keeps going over your head.

        Like

  2. Fellow Australian here and I can definitely attest to this!
    We have a different culture and attitude towards guns than Americans do and it definitely has to do with the personality and the culture of the nation. That goes back to history. Crime rate also comes into play, you’d definitely need guns more against people in the The US, here it’s more like against the wildlife!
    Kidding, that only applies if you live in the country or far away from the city. Australia isn’t that crazy.
    Guns should stay legal, though better measures should be in places- on both legal and illegal ends. In Australia illegal gun trade isn’t really anywhere as big as America. You start making guns hard to get legally in America, you’ll quickly find a boost in illegal gun trade since they haven’t contained or dissolved the illegal gun trade well enough.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Could you imagine how Americans would react if their government forced them to give up their guns? I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended in a bloodbath. You have armed individuals—taught from childhood about the dangers of an overreaching government—and an arguably overreaching government trying to take their arms away.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Gun control is not a bad idea. It’s a dumb idea in America because it won’t work. We can’t stop drug trafficking so we won’t stop gun trafficking. Contraband flows easily into the U.S. across open borders. Australia doesn’t have open borders.

    Liked by 1 person

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