A report (link) from the BBC outlines how Australia made significant progress in curtailing the use and availability of guns after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. Sweeping reform implemented (within thirteen days of the attack) both by the Australian federal and state governments included outlawing automatic and semi-automatic rifles, requiring registration of each firearm, and a comprehensive buy-back program.
The buy-back program, it is reported, was key to the success of Australia’s effort to reduce gun crime. Under the program, the government would pay market price for each firearm surrendered. Some 700,000 firearms were surrendered costing the government $300 million.
It certainly remains to be seen whether the issue of gun control will gain any traction in the United States. We’re a gun-loving people after all. It also remains to be seen whether a program like the Australian one would “scale up” for the American context–we own way more guns than Australians.
I think that the Australian approach has much to commend it. Here’s what I would like to see in terms of gun restrictions in the United States, at least in general terms:
- The requirement for a license to own, maintain, and use a firearm with endorsements required for each individual weapon owned renewable every five years.
- A registry of gun owners and weapons that could be shared across law enforcement agencies.
- The requirement that any rifle/assault rifle (or rifle at or above a certain calibre) be housed and used only in a registered gun club with the exception of a range of rifles reasonably used for sporting purposes (i.e., hunting).
- That any weapon kept in a private home be kept in a secured gun safe and that ammunition for the same be stored in a separate, secure location.
- An excise duty on the sale of weapons for the purpose of funding compliance with these provisions and supplementing public mental health spending.
I’m certainly not an expert on this issue, but it seems to me that there is a compelling public interest in significantly restricting the availability of firearms.