After nearly every mass shooting in America, some media outlets point to a 1996 Australia gun confiscation law as a potential template for the U.S. to use in dealing with mass shootings here. Wednesday’s horrific high school shooting in Parkland Florida is no exception to that rule. Several media outlets were quick to point to the success of the Australian law: no mass shootings in 20 years and far fewer gun homicides. While it appears previous criticism of the way the media frames the Aussie law has led to more responsible reporting on it, the coverage continues to be at least somewhat misleading.
Previous reporting has called the Australian law a “gun buyback.” Such wording implies gun owners had a choice; they didn’t. It was mandatory gun confiscation and if residents chose they could receive compensation for the involuntary seizure of their firearms. Here’s how USA today has modified the “buyback” language after Wednesday’s shooting:
The country made sweeping gun control measures after a man killed 35 people with a semi-automatic weapon in a popular tourist area of Port Arthur, in Tasmania. Weeks after the April 1996 tragedy, the country and its states began banning rapid-fire guns to tamp down on mass shootings and then offered to buy the prohibited firearms.
Once the weapon is banned, it makes sense to “sell” it to the government. What often goes unmentioned in this coverage is that the the Australian law would never pass muster with the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd Amendment:
Less than two weeks after the Port Arthur massacre, all six Australian states agreed to enact the same sweeping gun laws banning semi-automatic rifles and shotguns – weapons that can kill many people quickly.
They also put more hurdles between prospective gun owners and their weapons.
Australia has 28-day waiting periods, thorough background checks, and a requirement to present a “justifiable reason” to own a gun.
Unlike in the US, self-protection is not accepted as a justifiable reason to own a gun.
In the 21 years since the laws were passed, about one million semi-automatic weapons – roughly one third of the country’s firearms – were sold back to the government and destroyed, nearly halving the number of gun-owning households in Australia.
Despite that many on the left, including former President Barack Obama, have touted the law:
Mr. Obama didn’t mention that the U.S. Constitution would have to be changed to enact such bans in America. One way media coverage hasn’t changed is the media failing to explain how sweeping a ban on semi-automatic and fully automatic weapons would be in America. Hunters overwhelmingly use semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.
And just a week ago, Australia’s ambassador to the United States argued that his nation’s gun laws would be an ill fit for the U.S. Yet, the U.S. media continues to push the Australian “experience” after each mass shooting here.
Editors note: This story has been changed. It inadvertently made a reference to fully automatic rifles being used in hunting, which has been removed.