Seize the day on gun control

Published 10:50 pm Thursday, December 20, 2012

When I told friends and family back in Australia that my American wife and I would be moving to her native land, a common reaction was, “Aren’t you afraid of getting shot?”

“No,” I’d reply, noting that a lone gunman’s 1996 massacre in Australia killed three more innocent people — 35 — than America’s worst such tragedy at Virginia Tech.

After the Port Arthur massacre in the state of Tasmania, Prime Minister John Howard, one of the most conservative leaders Australia has ever had and a staunch ally of President George W. Bush, wasted little time.

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Howard, unable to tighten gun laws under Australia’s Constitution, forced the states to ban all semi-automatic rifles like the one used by Port Arthur killer Martin Bryant. Semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns were also banned, and licensing and ownership controls were considerably tightened.

The same fleeting opportunity now exists for President Barack Obama and fellow federal lawmakers. They need to act.

Twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook likely wouldn’t have been ripped apart by bullets from a gun that belongs only on battlefields if Adam Lanza’s mother didn’t have a house full of such weapons and teach her son to use them from a young age.

I don’t disagree with the National Rifle Association refrain, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” but how on earth does anyone’s constitutional right to arm themselves as if for World War III trump the rights of parents to keep their children safe from maniacs?

To reiterate, if Adam Lanza didn’t have the easy access to guns that he did, Sandy Hook likely wouldn’t have happened.

Now, taxes are almost as unpopular in Australia as here, but Howard — Bush’s buddy, remember — not only banned sales of weapons that have no place in homes, but introduced a one-off levy, raising $500 million, to buy back all of those guns already in circulation.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not proposing another tax here to do the same — if somebody can afford to collect such useless things, they should be asked to hand them in without compensation. They can be kept in an enormous underground bunker in New Mexico and given back if the Department of Defense is ever bankrupted and the Chinese or aliens invade.

Either way, judging by the way gun enthusiasts have been depleting stocks of such weapons at retail outlets since the gun debate was re-ignited, any assault weapons ban that is not retroactive would be a weak response.

On moving here almost two years ago, it took maybe six months to get used to seeing everyday men and women getting about with Glocks holstered on their hips, not to mention the idea of concealed weapons.

I’ve been noticing the guns again since Sandy Hook, more so even than following the Colorado cinema massacre. They’re everywhere you go. They don’t make me feel safer.

Would the Founding Fathers still support the Second Amendment they wrote 212 years ago if they could be here today, or last Friday? Times change.