OPINION: What I learned about gun control in America while studying abroad
This summer I studied abroad at the University of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia. It was an incredible experience where I learned all about a foreign culture and people, as well as my very own country. As I introduced myself, making it clear I was American through my so-called "accent", I was asked a variety of questions about America. Quite often they were about our politics and public policies.
The topic of mass shootings and gun control came up in conversation just as often as it does in American newspapers. Australia enacted effective gun laws quite some time ago. Thus, Australians cannot understand why these tragedies happen so frequently in America.
Twenty-three years ago Australia passed the National Firearms Agreement of 1996. The country then implemented the National Firearms Trafficking Policy Agreement and the National Handgun Agreement in 2002. Additionally, each state and territory has Firearms Acts and Regulations and the NFA was updated as recently as 2017, according to Gun Policy's Website.
The NFA was enacted in response to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania. The shooting caused 35 deaths and another 23 individuals were seriously injured. The NFA led to "the destruction of more than a million firearms—perhaps a third of the country's private gun stock", according to The University of Sydney.
"In the 18 years up to and including the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, there were 13 gun homicides in which five or more people died, not including the perpetrator. In the 22 years since, there have been no such incidents," a 2018 University of Sydney report read.
To put that in perspective, America has had more mass shootings this year than days. The total number as of Aug. 5 (the 217th day of the year) was 255 mass shootings, according to nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. Overall, America has seen 33,237 total shooting incidents, resulting in 8,796 gun deaths and 17,480 injuries this year.
The last time the federal government passed laws to limit the spread and use of guns in the U.S. was the temporary Federal Assault Weapons Ban 25 years ago in 1994. The legislation included a 10-year expiration date. During the decade it existed, the law banned the manufacture, sale and possession of some military-style assault weapons, including the AR-15, according to Quartz. A recent study found the number of mass-shooting related deaths was decreased while the ban was in effect.
The law expired in 2004. President Obama attempted to renew it in 2013 after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, but the Senate voted not to renew. Frankly, after the Sandy Hook shooting, in which 26 died, including 20 children between ages six and seven, America failed to protect its citizens. Since Sandy Hook, there have been more than 2,000 mass shootings across America, according to Vox.
Studies and other countries' actions have proven laws make a difference. It is time America looks to other countries for guidance. Not once while I was in Australia did I feel unsafe or the need to be vigilant. Less than two weeks after I arrived home, four mass shootings took place in a week. Our very own CMU campus has experienced a shooting. I am educated on how to react to a shooting, something no normal person should need to know.
America is now a country in which you have to constantly be prepared for the worst. Isn't it time our government takes action to protect our residents? How many more thousands have to die before we recognize this as the fatal issue it is? Must it reach 10,000? Sadly, we're almost there.
Our country and home should be a place to feel safe. There is about a 60 percent chance there will be at least one mass shooting today and a 17 percent chance there will be two, according to Quartz. I want to live somewhere where it is less likely a mass shooting will take place than more likely. If you agree, you can help prevent more tragic shootings by visiting Change.org.