, Salem, MA


April 4, 2013

Schram: US gun massacres demand bold action

The horror of what happened spread as fast as the news itself. A gunman’s mass slaughter of 35 children and adults stunned a nation whose gun culture is as old and revered as the country itself.

Guns have been guarantors of people’s sense of safety ever since the British colonized the East Coast and white settlers pushed westward, displacing the land’s darker-skinned natives. As the citizens developed and refined the nation, guns remained their symbol of law and order.

Yet the massacre inflicted by the gunman and his military-style assault weapon instantly became a national tragedy. So it was that the nation’s leader — whose own party stood for law and order — moved swiftly to get those guns banned.

It was no easy sell, but Australia’s then-prime minister, John Howard, head of the Conservative Party, got it done. He confronted farmers, ranchers and rural politicians who were among his party’s most ardent supporters. He mobilized the national outrage over the 1996 slaughter in Port Arthur, Australia, by a man with an AR-15 assault weapon.

Howard, prime minister from 1996 to 2007, converted Australian revulsion over the mass murders into a force that moved his nation’s politics into the modern era. He achieved bans on military-style assault weapons, sales of automatic and semiautomatic rifles and shotguns. And importantly, Australia instituted a mandatory buyback of these guns.

Australia’s results: Since the 1996 ban, the most recent statistics show that murder by guns was reduced by 59 percent; suicide by guns fell 69 percent. The buyback — of 3,500 guns for every 100,000 people — was estimated to have reduced the homicide rate by a third to a half.

Fast-forward and fast-flight to the United States in December 2012: In Newtown, Conn., a young man with a military-style assault weapon burst into an elementary school and massacred 20 small children and six adults.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

AP Video
Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge US Supports Ukraine's Efforts to Calm Tensions Suspect in Kansas Shootings Faces Murder Charges Ukraine: Military Recaptures Eastern Airport Raw: Storm Topples RVs Near Miss. Gulf Coast NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse Pistorius Cries During Final Cross-Examination The Boston Marathon Bombing: One Year Later Michael Phelps Set to Come Out of Retirement First Women Move to Army Platoon Artillery Jobs Sex Offenders Charged in Serial Killings Police: Woman Stored Dead Babies in Garage OC Serial Murder Suspects May Have More Victims Family: 2 Shot in Head at Kan. Jewish Center Raw: Horse Jumping Inspires 'Bunny Hop' After Attack, Officials Kill 5 Bears in Florida Popular Science Honors Year's Top Inventions ND Oil Boom Attracting Drug Traffickers
Comments Tracker
Roll Call
Helium debate