Australia was held up as an example this week of what America can do about its gun violence. After the Port Arthur massacre 16 years ago, that country passed a serious gun control law, which included an outright ban on semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. But there was no grandfathering of existing weapons. All of them had to be turned in by a certain date, and anyone found with one after that got jail time. Australia hasn’t had a similar massacre ever since.
Such a comprehensive ban would never happen here because of the history of our revolution and the resulting Second Amendment and the gun culture that has sprung up around it. Americans simply would not stand for it. So every attempt at gun control here makes exceptions for thousands of existing gun models and brands, and usually grandfathers in existing owners. Such efforts obviously frustrate legitimate gun owners and do nothing to really deter those who would abuse guns. Furthermore, since gun enthusiasts would rush out to buy items about to be grandfathered in, the net result would be more weapons in circulation, not fewer.
That’s the reality faced by those now rushing to “get something done” about gun control after last week’s atrocity in which 27 people died in Connecticut, including 20 children in an elementary school. But advocates seemed undaunted as they attempted to take advantage of a perceived shift in attitude brought about by the sheer magnitude of the massacre’s horror. After every previous shooting spree, Americans remained very pro gun and pro Second Amendment and very wary of gun control efforts.
Other possible “root causes” of such mass killings were discussed this week – including the breakdown of the mental health network, the deterioration of the family and the institutions that once sustained it, and the every-intensifying violence in the popular culture. But all those discussions were drowned out by shouts of “Get the guns!”