By Tyrone Barrozo, Columnist
Sam Jones, my column colleague, wrote last week about the issue of gun control due to a comment made by Democratic Presidential Candidate Beto O’Rourke in September during a primary debate.
“[…]We’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” exclaimed O’Rourke when asked if he were to take away US citizens’ guns.
I’d be a little concerned for a flat-out blanket ban and confiscation of arms simply due to its sheer radicalness in rhetoric tone and its obvious attempt to get a pop from the live audience in attendance at the time. However, the idea doesn’t sound that bad to me.
It worked for Australia which also implemented a national gun ban following a mass shooting in 1996 and the new policy, to clarify, banned certain semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, imposed stricter firearm licensing and registration requirements, and instituted a mandatory buyback program for firearms where Australians with illegal arms would sell their guns. And, as a result of the change, 640,000 prohibited firearms were sold to the government and, most wonderfully, 60,000 non-prohibited firearms were voluntarily surrendered. Statistically speaking, Australia saw a 20% decline in homicides from 1996 to 2007. I would be remiss to include the brief period where, following the initial policy change, there was a slight increase in homicide a year later and peaking in 1999 while on the way to net decrease by 2007. Despite all of that, the homicide rate would go even lower, fluctuating along the way, to reach a net decline of 23% by 2013.
It may seem that with a lot of debates concerning this issue, specifically those held in America, Australia has been the go-to example for supporting a gun buyback program, but it’s important to note that it’s not the only place to have found success. For instance, Brazil, a country with a 30.5% homicide rate as of 2017 according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, implemented two gun buyback programs between 2003 and 2009 which saw the collection and destruction of over 1.1 million firearms and an 8% decrease in homicide between 2003-2006.
It’s also mentioned in Jones’ article that the aforementioned decline in homicide rate in Australia could not be directly linked to the buyback program and that the decline was imminent prior to the mass shooting which incited change in the first place.
I find it rather hard to believe that the buyback program was, at the very least, just a small contributor to the decline in some way.
Don’t just take my word, David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, co-authored a paper in 2011 that reviewed studies on the effect of Australia’s buyback program on firearm deaths and found that there was strong evidence to support the notion that the law was still an objective change for good. While there was no explanation or enough evidence to claim that the law had direct effect on homicide rates, there was a notable decrease in suicide rates with the new law and, surprisingly, no more gun massacres.
Meanwhile, in the US, rather than taking any action to prevent or, at the very least, reduce the likelihood of another mass shooting, we’re all bickering about the issue and doing nothing. I wish that I could tell you that my best friend remembers his first date with his wife because it just so happened to be the day of the Sandy Hook massacre. And while you could get the occasional white knight with a gun who’ll save a few people by drawing quicker than the killer, I’d rather save that nonsense for the spaghetti westerns.
So quit dancing around the issue and do something to alleviate this completely preventable stress and tension. Implement universal background checks, enact stricter regulations, implement a bullet tax—do something.
We’re not progressing as a nation when officials pretend to care for an extra media boost and then continue to let the NRA grip them in a vise.
Oh, and let’s not forget that this is America we’re talking about, a country that averages more than 36,000 gun deaths per year. When people kill people, it’s usually with a gun.