Column by Jonathan Rudnick
All 13 gunmen in theshootings were able to obtain their weapons legally, despite the fact that nine had prior signs of mental illness.
Pro-gun advocates point to this as a sign that the U.S. needs to reform its mental health system. While this is undoubtedly true, it ignores the fact that these mentally unstable persons were able to obtain their weapons despite systems in place to prevent this.
The opponents of gun control state that reducing access to guns only affects solid citizens.
“If we outlaw guns, only criminals will have guns,” touts the NRA.
By this logic, if we can’t stop everyone from using drugs, there is no reason for drug legislation. In fact, there would be no reason for any laws if people are still able to commit crimes.
If legislation reduces some gun crime, isn’t it worth it for the lives it saves?
“There are Australians alive today because we took action. How much is a life worth?” asked former premier of Queensland Rob Borbidge.
In Australia, six weeks after a major conservative victory in 1996, Martin Bryant, a psychologically disturbed man, committed one of the largest gun massacres in history, using two semiautomatic assault rifles to kill 35 people.
The shooting rocked the nation, and it took the conservative government less than three -and-a-half months to pass laws banning the import and sale of all semi-automatic and automatic long guns in all states, as well as instituting a national buyback on these guns.
Since the legislation was passed, gun homicides in Australia have dropped nearly 60 percent. Gun suicides dropped 74 percent. In the decade before the laws were enacted, Australia suffered 11 mass shootings — each with more than four victims – causing 100 deaths. In the 17 years since, there have been none.
Some believe this type of legislative action is impossible in America. The NRA is a powerful lobby, and many consider it political suicide to attempt the same regulations. In reality, in a nation of 300 million people and a liberal majority, the NRA has only five million members.
And how many American lives is one political life worth? In Australia, the conservative prime minister along with all six Australian state premiers, five of whom were conservative, enacted gun legislation, even though multiple knew they would lose reelection in doing so.
Debates at the time were divisive and heavily mirrored American politics today. Conservatives rallied and protested, declared that the government was becoming a police state and stated that they would refuse to give up their guns.
In the face of this opposition, it took only 12 weeks for legislation to be devised, drafted, debated and implemented.
Why, then, in the United States, can we not do the same? Attorney General Eric Holder said, mass shootings are occurring at three times their rate in 2005-2008. In spite of this, since 2009 there have been 99 laws actively reducing gun regulations.
In a nation where the president, Senate and American people have a liberal majority, it would take only a small measure of conservative bipartisanship to enact the legislation that the U.S. so badly needs. Perhaps, as the NRA states, people truly are the problem.
Rudnick is a first-year politics and computer science double major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org