Despite a groundswell of support for gun-law reform after the murder of 17 students at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, there is little sign that politicians will budge on the controversial issue of gun control in the US.
The National Rifle Association, the powerful lobby group that backed US President Donald Trump, has also stated it will not back “any ban” of guns.
The US saw 345 mass shootings last year alone.
In Australia, the last mass shooting was Tasmania’s Port Arthur massacre in 1996, in which 35 people were killed.
In response, the then prime minister John Howard overhauled Australia’s gun-control laws, restricting the ownership of high-powered weapons.
Since then, “Australia hasn’t had another mass shooting, and the risk of dying by gunshot has fallen by more than half,” says Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health Philip Alpers.
So why doesn’t the US play by Australia’s example?
The answer’s not so easy, according to Samara McPhedran, a senior research fellow at Griffith University. She points out that because mass shootings have been such rare events in Australia, it is hard “to conduct rigorous statistical analysis,” she tells WHO.
“Both Australian and international evidence suggests that one of the most effective ways to reduce firearm misuse is to have a robust licensing system that emphasises principles such as background checks, education and training, and waiting periods, and which disqualifies people who are not ‘fit and proper’ from having legal firearm access.”
Still, given owning a gun is claimed as a right under the US constituition, not a privilege, it has lead to the widespread availability of guns.
“The appalling toll of 32,000 gun deaths each year in the US is only likely to increase while ideology trumps research and evidence,” Alpers tells WHO. “Although Americans must one day reduce their toll of firearm-related injury as they did with road deaths, tobacco-related disease and HIV-AIDS, until then the death rate seems likely to get worse.”
Not if Emma González can help it.
After giving an 11-minute speech at an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale, the 18-year-old (pictured above), who is a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, has become one of the most visible and vocal gun violence prevention activists in the US.
“Our motivation is each other,” she tells WHO of the widespread movement that has prompted rallies throughout the US. “Each and every person is putting together a brilliant argument one at a time. We’re taking care of business the only way that we know how.”
To that end, she is helping to organise the March for Our Lives on March 24 in Washington, DC, and other US cities. The march has collected more than $US2 million in donations, including $500,000 from George and Amal Clooney and $500,000 from Oprah Winfrey. González is expecting more than 500,000 people to attend in Washington.
“We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks,” she said. “Not because we’re going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because … we are going to be the last mass shooting."
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