In case anyone thinks gun deaths are a non-issue, the news that 926 Americans have died as the result of guns since the Sandy Hook massacre should wake us up.
They did it in Australia and they did it in much more difficult circumstances. Each state had to agree. Prime Minister John Howard pulled it off, spurred on by a shocking mass murder, and he writes about it in today's Times.
Because Australia is a federation of states, the national government has no control over gun ownership, sale or use, beyond controlling imports. Given our decentralized system of government, I could reduce the number of dangerous firearms only by persuading the states to enact uniform laws totally prohibiting the ownership, possession and sale of all automatic and semiautomatic weapons while the national government banned the importation of such weapons. ...NYT editorial
It took a serious effort, spurred by the shock of a "a psychologically disturbed man, [who] used a semiautomatic Armalite rifle and a semiautomatic SKS assault weapon to kill 35 people in a murderous rampage in Port Arthur, Tasmania."
The people of Australia allowed their government go impose a one-time tax. The money was used to pay for a one-time, massive buy-back of weapons. In addition to the money, the Prime Minister used considerable political capital to pull this off, particularly when dealing with representatives of gun-owners in rural areas.
In the end, we won the battle to change gun laws because there was majority support across Australia for banning certain weapons. And today, there is a wide consensus that our 1996 reforms not only reduced the gun-related homicide rate, but also the suicide rate.
The Australian Institute of Criminology found that gun-related murders and suicides fell sharply after 1996. The American Journal of Law and Economics found that our gun buyback scheme cut firearm suicides by 74 percent. In the 18 years before the 1996 reforms, Australia suffered 13 gun massacres — each with more than four victims — causing a total of 102 deaths. There has not been a single massacre in that category since 1996.
Few Australians would deny that their country is safer today as a consequence of gun control....NYT editorial
926 deaths by gun in the US in the weeks since Newtown. That's an incredible number. What's worse are the comment sections in the blogs that are passing the news along. I don't think the anger is about guns, and the sooner we face what the anger really represents, the better.
We know from the past several elections that Republicans have a long shit-list of words they identify with libruls and we know that the word at or near the top of the list is "empathy." Empathy is a deeper emotion by far than sympathy. Sympathy is pity. Empathy is about being able -- and willing! -- to understand what the other is feeling, what they're going through. Sympathy is easier. Empathy can tear you apart -- and it tends to draw you into doing something about the other's plight. Sympathy usually ends with sending the Hallmark card.
If the right didn't reject empathy, as it apparently does (it makes clear it does), we'd have a far more sensible set of rules of about guns, their uses, and the limits a community needs to impose on their owners and users. As it is, their shit-list means the entire nation is, well, up shit-creek.
Update: A new poll at Pew Research shows the direction the country is moving in. It's moving away -- even Republicans are moving away! -- from Republicans.