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  • Mon, 20, Jun, 2016 - 5:00:AM

Thanks to John Howard, I was born free

Oh, America. You proved me wrong.

I thought after Sandy Hook, after Aurora, after Charleston and San Bernardino, nothing could surprise me.

Nothing could possibly match the inhumanity of the long list of shootings, one after the other, which occur almost daily in the States.

As I said, I was wrong.

But instead of rehashing what happened in Orlando, I want to take a moment to talk about Australia.

Specifically, I want to talk about something that happened right before I was born, something I had no part in, something that meant I was born free.

Free of fear. Free of persecution from gun nuts. Free to go to school or to the shopping centre or yes, out clubbing with friends without worrying about stepping into a warzone.

It wasn’t always that way. When former Prime Minister John Howard introduced the National Firearms Programme Implementation Act in 1996, mere months after the Port Arthur massacre that claimed 35 lives, he was met with a mighty pushback from gun owners.

Opposition was so vehement that he took to wearing a bullet-proof vest when addressing the public, which often included hostile crowds teeming with hunters and recreational shooters.

But once the amendment was locked and loaded, no one, not even the owners of the high-powered, military-grade self-loading rifles that were subject to seizure could stop it.

Over 650,000 firearms, including automatic and semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and later some types of handguns, were surrendered and destroyed. Former owners were compensated under the $500 million buyback scheme.

Contrary to popular belief, this legislation didn’t miraculously put an end to gun violence.

What it did do was dramatically lower gun-related homicides and suicides by restricting access to firearms.

While we’ve had a sprinkling of shootings since 1996, we haven’t seen anything on the scale of Port Arthur. And certainly nothing approaching what happened in Orlando.

We have Mr Howard to thank for that. He made an understandably tough call despite the possibility that it might severely impact his electability. Considering he’d only been sworn in a couple of months prior, that was one heck of a gamble. But it’s safe to say it paid off.

Though I might disagree with him in other areas of policy, there’s no denying his quick-thinking at exactly the right moment ensured that twenty years later, Australians can sit back and sigh in relief that something like Orlando would never happen on these shores.

Indeed, our gun control laws are the envy of other developed nations. We’ve earned the praise of President Barack Obama on multiple occasions and have scored honourable mentions in dozen of op-eds and think pieces.

We don’t always get it right – far from it – but this time, we nailed it. In this regard, at least, we truly are the lucky country.

So on behalf of everyone born after or around the time Australia’s gun control laws came into effect: thank you, Mr Howard.


  • Gun Violence /
  • Orlando /
  • Australia /
  • John Howard /
  • US /
  • Gun Control /
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