After a large scale tragedy — and the United States has seen more mass shootings than days of the year in 2015 — the responses on both sides of the argument can be disheartening. The reactions to the San Bernardino mass shooting involve the usual political mud slinging, which is not productive. President Obama’s weary address illuminates how many feel about these repeated instances. After October’s mass shooting in Oregon, Obama called for action and hoped the tragedy would make voters realize the problem isn’t going away. He stressed how “our thoughts and prayers are not enough” (although they do allow people to cope with senseless violence). Whether or not politicians use such sentiments for self gain is a whole other issue.
What we do know is that President Obama has addressed the nation 15 times after mass shootings. No wonder he’s weary, and Obama realizes that he’ll be back on the podium after the next mass shooting. The problem won’t be solved anytime soon. We also know that the San Bernardino shooting suspects, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, possessed countless firearms and mountains of ammunition. They purchased at least some of their guns legally at the Annie’s Get Your Gun shop in Corona, California.
This brings us to a consideration of gun control laws elsewhere. Australia is a good place to begin. In July, actress Rebel Wilson suggested the U.S. adopt laws similar to her native country. Her words were directed towards the Lafayette Trainwreck theater shooting, which prompted a huge outpouring from those seeking answers in the mayhem.
Rebel pointed towards Australia’s National Firearms Agreement that outlaws pump-action shotguns, along with automatic and semi-automatic rifles. This action occurred in the wake of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, which saw Martin Bryant kill 35 people and wound 23 others in a matter of moments. This cemented Bryant as the worst mass-murderer in recorded Australian history and prompted action.
Part of the NFA’s success included a provision of how firearm-license applicants must show “genuine reason” (not simply “self-defense”) for owning a gun. The NFA also prompted a gun-buyback program that took 700,000 guns off the street. In the following decade, Australia saw a 59 percent decline in firearm homicides and a 65 percent decline in firearm suicides. Such statistics are hard to ignore.
Meanwhile, gun ownership continued as usual in the United States. A few years ago, Aussie comedian Jim Jefferies performed a stand-up comedy routine about gun violence in America. He did so in response to the 2012 Sandy Hook tragedy, which some view as a point of no return in the United States’ refusal to acknowledge the severity of the issue. Now, the idea of a stand-up routine about mass shootings seems tasteless on face value. Yet if a comedy act carries enough ferocity to make people take this issue seriously, so be it. Jefferies’ points are so clever and well-formed that his arguments play more lucidly than what’s happening on our cable news networks (and on the Internet). He does so in a very funny way:
“Since the gun ban in 1996, there hasn’t been a single gun massacre since. I don’t know how or why this happened. Maybe it was a coincidence. Now, please understand that I understand that Australia and America are two vastly different cultures with two different people. I get it. In Australia, we have the biggest massacre on Earth, and the Australian government went, ‘That’s it! No more guns.’ And we all went, ‘Yeah, alright. That seems fair enough.’ Now, in America, you have the Sandy Hook massacre where little tiny children died, and your government went, ‘Maybe … we’ll get rid of the big guns?’ And 50 percent of you went, ‘F*ck you, don’t take my guns!'”
Jefferies confronts what he sees as the absurdity of self-protection claims:
“There is one argument, and one argument alone for having a gun, and this is the argument: F*ck off, I like guns. It’s not the best argument, but it’s all you’ve got. And there’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘I like something, don’t take it away from me.’ But don’t give me this other bullsh*t. ‘I need it for protection. I need it to protect me, and I need it to protect my family.’ Really? Is that why they’re called assault rifles? Is it? Never heard of these f*cking protection rifles you speak of.”
In the next clip, Jefferies continues with a discussion of the 2nd Amendment, which can be changed because — as he points out — it is only an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He draws parallels between the coveted “right to bear arms” to issues such as slavery. It doesn’t take too deep a dive into U.S. History to recall how our Founding Fathers made a number of “compromises” that allowed slavery to flourish in the Southern states. These provisions were amended, too, and Jefferies’ argument is that constitutions adapt with the times, so there’s nothing that says the 2nd Amendment can’t be further amended as the U.S. continues to grapple with gun violence.