Even with possession shaming, and amid the fear and threat of prosecution, Australians have yet to give up all their guns. It is estimated nearly 300,000 guns are still on the streets in the land down under. These guns don’t belong to the law-abiding citizens either.
Australia’s anti-gun campaign and propaganda launched after a mass shooter killed 35 people in one heinous act of murder. The tragedy took place in 1996, in the city of Port Arthur. Following the crime, and in the wake of national agony, then Prime Minister John Howard moved to take back all the gun rights Australians had since the country’s founding.
Now, over twenty years later, the government of Australia is still actively seeking to root out Aussie guns, with limited success. As a method of doing so, Australia is offering amnesty to anyone who now wishes to come forward and surrender their firearms. More than 6,000 weapons have been turned in over the last month and a half. According to one source:
Among the firearms surrendered to law enforcement thus far are 1,700 rifles, 460 shotguns and almost 200 handguns; that includes such novelties as four SKS assault rifles, a 9 mm submachine-gun, a Colt AR-15 rifle, an M1 carbine and a 0.44 caliber magnum revolver. Thousands of other illicit firearms were handed in for registration.
The amnesty program will continue until September 30th, at which time, presumably, the criminal penalties for possessing a firearm will resume including fines up to $220,000 and 14 years in prison.
Australia’s suicide rate by firearm plummeted as a result of Howard’s unilateral reforms. And murders by firearms fell as well. But according one news source, that data is mixed and hotly disputed.
Those who wish to see America follow Australia’s model have a tough time making a case for wholesale gun confiscation and buyback programs, mainly because the U.S. Constitution explicitly protects gun ownership. Supporters point to Australia’s homicide and suicide rates as a motivating factor for disarming Americans, yet as The Federalist points out, Australia still has a serious problem with violent crime:
Manslaughter, sexual assault, kidnapping, armed robbery, and unarmed robbery all saw peaks in the years following the ban, and most remain near or above pre-ban rates. The effects of the 1996 ban on violent crime are, frankly, unimpressive at best.
Recently, Australia foiled a terror plot by ISIS operatives who allegedly plotted to blow up an Australian airliner. During the subsequent investigation, authorities discovered yet another plot to gas Australians with hydrogen sulfide and a sophisticated dispersion device. Unfortunately, while no one with a handgun could likely have prevented either plot, Australians are helpless to defend themselves from both street thugs and terrorists alike.
All of this raises the age-old question of whether or not individuals have individual liberties to defend themselves by any means necessary. It is foolish to believe any police force, in any country, can protect everyone at any time from violence. Libertarianism must roll back the egregious gun policies in Australia which have left those down under with no way to protect themselves.
The UK’s response to the self-defense amid the growing threat of terrorism is a public service announcement called “Run, Hide, and Tell.” The National Counter Terrorism Security Office suggested citizens should run away from the danger, cower in some safe place, and then call the police, who will arrive with firearms to deal with the threat. But such a policy may not sit well with Americans who are armed to the teeth.
Stand, Fight, and Quell the threat is the attitude many armed Americans have when it comes to the threat of gun violence, and terrorism in towns and cities. States like Arizona take such a policy very seriously, allowing for citizens to carry firearms at all times.
For example, following terrorist attacks and massacres in Paris, Beirut and Mali in 2015, sheriffs and police chiefs across the country urged Americans to go out and buy guns — and engage terrorists when and if they attempted to wreak havoc. That’s the American way.