In light of recent mass shootings in the United States, one wonders if an Australian-style gun-control policy would be effective for reducing the number of mass shootings. A writer for Forbes makes a point that there are plenty of similarities between Australia and the United States that would make an Australian method of gun control possible, if not necessarily feasible. The fact that Australia, like the U.S., has regional variations in regulatory laws, a longstanding gun culture, and a significant number of people in favor of reduced restrictions on firearms indicates that what happened in Australia could happen here.
As for the feasibility of such an implementation, there are key differences between the United States and Australia to consider.
The first is that, while Australians enjoy firearms, there is a small subset of people in the U.S. who absolutely love firearms. According to USA Today, half of the 265 million guns in the US are in the hands of 3% of the people. For these people, a buyback program would probably get nowhere, because they bought guns to enjoy them. The phrase “Democrats are going to take your guns” arises whenever the possibility of reducing gun prevalence arises.
Secondly, cutting off the supply of firearms at the source would be much more difficult than it was in Australia because America has a large lobby dedicated to protecting the interests of gun manufacturers. Gun manufacturers know that they can’t sell a shoddy product that falls apart in five years, the way people sell computers and kitchen appliances, so the only way for the gun industry to keep making money is to sell in a manner as unrestricted as possible. Thus the NRA is directed by the gun industry to oppose any restrictions.
Thirdly, implementing a ban on firearms at the level of the individual user is not as easy in America as it was in Australia. Australia is relatively isolated and patrols its territorial waters well. America, by contrast, is connected by land to two other countries with long borders that are difficult to patrol. An attempt to prohibit firearms would work about as well as any attempt at prohibition has ever worked in this country. Which is to say, prohibition around here ends up removing the regulatory environment that keeps an item safe, while failing to prevent its spread. Over the course of the 20th century, this failure of prohibition occurred with drugs, alcohol, and abortion. Many were killed by a shoddy product that might have been safe if a regulatory environment had existed for it.
While the United States may take note of Australia’s gun control, it only serves to highlight how different our regulatory situations are. Maybe we can’t adopt exactly what Australia has done for gun control, but something must be done to stop the violence this country sees on a daily basis.