Australia Offers US Help With Gun Reform

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Days after the U.S. experienced its worst mass shooting in modern history, Australian officials have offered to help with gun reform.

Australia has had its own experiences with mass shootings and had its most deadly in 1996, when 28-year-old Martin Bryant killed 35 people and wounded 23 by opening fire at a crowded tourist restaurant, according to The Atlantic.

Shortly thereafter, the country -- despite having a high rate of gun ownership and a strong culture of individualism --  succeeded in tightening its gun regulations. In a mere matter of months, Australia passed comprehensive legislation that banned automatic and semiautomatic firearms, created a national firearms registry, and implemented a 28-day waiting period for new gun purchases. The government also bought and destroyed 600,000 firearms previously owned by civilians. 

On the 20th anniversary of the shooting, John Howard, who was prime minister of Australia at the time and co-sponsored the legislation, noted how the country has changed in the two decades since.

"It is incontestable that gun-related homicides have fallen quite significantly in Australia, incontestable," Howard said, adding that gun-involved suicides have dropped 74 percent.

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The National Rifle Association has disputed Australia's claims of progress, saying that the country curbed individual liberties with no real benefits in return.

"The Australian people paid a massive price in liberty. Their reward? At best, an unexamined resolution that things were somehow better now," the lobby said in 2015, according to Channel News Asia. "Gun rights were, for all practical purposes, gone forever."

Nonetheless, Australian officials want to lend their knowledge to the U.S., only days after a lone gunman opened fire on thousands of concertgoers in Las Vegas, killing at least 59 and injuring more than 500.

"What we can offer is our experience," said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, according to Channel News Asia.

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"But at the end of the day it's going to be up to the United States legislators and lawmakers, and the United States public, to change the laws to ensure this type of incident doesn't happen again."

James Carouso, the acting U.S. ambassador to Australia, agreed that the U.S. should look to Australia for help.

"Every time one of these things happens, U.S. analysts always point to what happened in Australia, and point out that your murder rate with guns has gone down drastically, and you haven't had the repeat of this sort of mass murder," he said.

"I think certainly a lot of observers in the U.S. look to the Australian example."

Sources: The Atlantic, Channel News Asia / Featured Image: Michael Saechange/Flickr / Embedded Images: Ken Lund/FlickrMitch Barrie/Flickr

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