Letter: How many deaths are enough?
Thank you to Nancy Spillane for her letter to the editor in January highlighting Australia’s gun reforms, and sharing her experience of conversations with Australians about gun safety.
As an expatriate Aussie, I can attest to my compatriots’ bewilderment at the ongoing tragedy of mass shootings in the United States.
I am proud of Australia’s then-government, which by the way was led by a conservative prime minister, for the swift and unified action it took in 1996 following the Port Arthur massacre, and of my fellow Australians for their cooperation with those measures. I agree that the United States ought to be more open to learning from other countries’ successes in that area.
As I write this, three mass shootings have occurred in California in a matter of days. We often hear the same excuses for inaction: “Now is not the time,” “You can’t curtail our rights under the Second Amendment,” “It’s not the guns, it’s people,” “It’s a mental health issue,” “Criminals can always get hold of guns illegally,” and “Laws already on the books are not enforced.”
Here is the biggest obstacle: the party-political divide, blue state versus red state, urban versus rural, and the monetary power of the gun issue to make or break political careers. Yet gun safety is a public health issue, a matter of life and death, and the common good. Sensible reform ought to be nonpartisan, something everyone can agree on. Piecemeal, state by state initiatives are better than nothing, but this is a national matter, so we need uniformity across the country.
According to Robert Reich, a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, we have had the following number of mass shootings in the United States:
He added: “We do not have to live like this. No other country on the planet does.”
How many deaths are enough, and when, like Australia, will gun safety become a non-issue?
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