Words by Sarah Robinson
Being morbid runs in my family. When my uncle was little, Grandma would take him to the cemetery for picnics, because, she said, ‘it was peaceful’. When mum went to Israel as a teenager, she spent most of her time exploring graveyards. I guess dead people are easier to get along with.
In Year 11, we had to write about a significant event in Australian history, I chose the Port Arthur Massacre because it allowed me to embrace my genetic morbidity. The massacre was a big deal in Australia, for obvious reasons. A twenty-something dickhead open fired on a bunch of tourists in a small town in Tasmania. That was 1996.
Tasmania itself is like a big country town. People joke that its inhabitants have two-heads, which means they’re products of incest. That’s probably not true. The people who live there are lovely and hospitable, and who cares if your dad is your uncle anyway.
I’m not going to mention the name of the jerk who killed 35 people (including kids) and injured 23, because giving him any significance is a disservice to the people he robbed of life.
Tony Robbins says that feeling significant is one of our six basic needs. Even though I think T-Dog is a douche (here’s why) he is probably right about the significance thing. Some people achieve significance by becoming a master of their passion or going on a shitty reality TV show. Others kill a famous person or commit mass murder.
This guy used a lightweight Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to feel important. The Colt is a version of the US military’s M16 semi-automatic rifle.
After the tragedy, our Prime Minister at the time changed gun laws so regular people couldn’t own semi-automatic, self-loading shot guns and rifles. You know, the kinds that kill groups of people really well and don’t have an actual purpose on farms. (Because who needs to mow down a herd of cows?)
John Howard also made gun licensing and registration stricter. And, he introduced a gun buyback program, which meant people could exchange prohibited firearms for money. As a result, regular Aussies sold 640,000 newly prohibited guns to the Government and voluntarily gave up around 60,000 non-prohibited guns.
Don’t get me wrong; this was a big deal to us. Many Australians are outlaws at heart. Ned Kelly, the bushranger who donned a tin hat that screwed with his peripherals, is a national hero.
What I’m saying is, guns were and are a part of Australia’s national identity, and the changes were hard for a whole lot of people. But they did it anyway.
Of course, John Howard’s laws didn’t mean no one could own a gun. Farmers and anyone else eligible could register and own firearms, so long as they were authorized. Because of the new laws, Australia didn’t have a mass-murder for 22 years. Who knew John Howard, the short guy with a penchant for matching tracksuits, would save so many lives.
I’ve been watching the gun debate unfold in America, and it confuses me a lot. Probably because I come from a place that implemented the laws you are arguing over. I understand why many Americans are afraid. If you give up your guns, and some dickhead opens fire, how do you defend yourself? It sucks balls you have to worry about that. Though I also know that ruling out semi-automatic weapons and imposing stricter regulations, has a direct impact on reducing mass-shootings. My country proves that.
I also get confused when people in the US say their second amendment right to keep and bear arms would be violated, if new laws kicked in. No one is saying Americans can’t own guns at all. With a bit of paperwork to prove you’re mentally stable, and a less murdery firearm, you’re good to go.
When people trash talk America, I remind them you were the first country to have a Government voluntarily stand down because another dude was voted in.
Yeah, you bad asses did democracy before all of us. That first time you stepped down so someone else could step up was a huge leap of faith.
I think this has to happen now with guns. If a bunch of convicts from Australia can do it, the folk who invented democracy can too.
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