Guns are big news at the moment. In the USA overnight, President Obama announced sweeping reforms to America’s gun laws. In New South Wales another person has been shot dead – the 135th since the beginning of last year – and an argument has erupted between the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the NSW Police Minister Michael Gallacher over who is responsible for the high level of gun violence in that state.
Firstly, the USA. President Obama has announced his intention to introduce legislation which will include limits on high capacity magazines, a ban on new assault weapons, increased vigilance associated with background checks on gun purchases and stronger laws to prevent the trafficking of weapons in the USA. It is widely predicted he will have a battle on his hands with both the Republican Party members in Congress and the National Rifle Association to get this legislation through. He has also used his executive authority to sign in another 20-plus gun related laws.
Locally, the death of yet another Sydney man has triggered a statement from the Prime Minister that she has requested the Minister for Home Affairs, Jason Clare, to look at ways these shootings might be reduced.
This comment has been described by Mr. Gallacher as hypocritical because the Federal Government is failing to prevent illegal gun importation. Ironically, in the same newspaper this morning, the Customs and Border Protection officers have claimed that ‘smarter screening’ procedures have resulted in a decrease in the importation of illegal weapons.
Keep up-to-date on the USA gun debate in The New York Times
Read more about the local spat over who is responsible for shooting deaths in The Age
And what customs says is happening with illegal gun importation
Guns N’ Roses is, of course, a highly successful American rock band, coincidentally touring Australia in 2013. But guns and roses, for me, have a deeper connection. I call it a no-brainer. The more guns people can access, the higher the likelihood of someone dying, and the need for roses. And tears of grief for the friends and loved ones of the person whose life has ended because someone pulled a trigger. If this sounds like an over-simplification of the matter, it’s because I think the matter should be much more simple. I simply don’t get the American people who cling to the belief that gun ownership has something to do with their constitutional rights. Why would ANYONE need a semi- automatic weapon? Why should the ownership of what is essentially a killing machine, have anything to do with your rights? American citizens pay a high price for the political power of the NRA. Most recently the massacre of innocent children and their dedicated teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown was a chilling example of what can happen when a woman purchases guns as a ‘hobby’ and her mentally challenged son gets hold of them.
Obama’s legislation is a no-brainer and, as he has revealed, he has a painting by Grace, one of the Newtown victims, in his office, so it is to be hoped the image of this little girl holds him to his promise to ‘keep our children safe’.
As for Australia, research released on Sunday reveals that our gun ownership has risen back to pre-Port Arthur shooting levels. This is alarming. Today’s report from customs that more illegal guns are being detected as they enter the country is good news. But, according to the statistics, far too many people have lost their lives, in NSW in particular, over the past year. Unlike the USA, we have far stricter gun legislation. But that doesn’t mean we should become complacent and assume that our existing laws are sufficient to prevent horrifying massacres of innocent people. The Prime Minister is right to suggest we need to re-look at what can be done, at all levels of government. And the NSW Government would do well to stop point-scoring and start policing – citizens deserve nothing less.
STOP PRESS – as this blog is being written, another two people have been shot dead at a community college in Kentucky.
What do you think? Is it a no-brainer for Obama to bring in far tougher gun legislations?
And what about NSW? Is the Prime Minister right to look at every aspect associated with gun violence? Or is Michael Gallacher correct with her claims that her remarks are merely electioneering?