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What Australia Did To Prevent Mass Shootings, And How The U.S. Could Learn

Senate Republicans have agreed to allow votes on two potential gun control measures, following a 15-hour filibuster led by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

Twenty years ago, after a mass shooting in Australia that killed 35 people, the government there enacted strict gun laws.  Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson speaks to the former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Tim Fischer, about the challenges they faced and the lessons the U.S. government could learn.

Hear our original conversation with Tim Fischer from July 2014

Interview Highlights: Tim Fischer

On the success of the Australian buyback program

No legislation can claim to be adopted without someone breaking the law and some have been apprehended in breaking the law, but it made a difference in two ways. Essentially, it did take out the semi-automatics, the over-sized, over-powered weapons from the suburbs of Australia. It also caused people to think, ‘Well, do I really need a gun? If I do, I’ll apply and get it, but if I don’t, then I won’t go down that pathway.’ So we really did walk away from a policy of more and more guns.

On U.S. misconceptions of safety

‘If more guns made us safer, the U.S. would be the safest nation in the world.’ You are not; you are 10 to 15 times more likely to be shot dead in the U.S.A. per capita than Australia. And by the way, you are even safer in Italy than the U.S.A. with regard to guns, when looked at like-for-like on a per capita basis.


On what U.S. gun control advocates should do

I would ask Michael Bloomberg to stand up and challenge John Bolton to a debate in the public square on the East Coast, in Chicago, and on the West Coast, sooner rather than later. And I know Bloomberg is taking steps. That’s the only way you’ll turn the tide. That, and sadly, a massacre that goes beyond the pale. A massacre that hits up towards a hundred dead. A massacre that occurs in a peaceful suburb, as one did in Texas this week. Suddenly, suddenly, there will be a will there, and the NRA will be regretting that it did not at least seek the reinstatement of magazine limitations that have existed for 10 years and weren’t construed as being a breach of the second amendment. At least a background check at gun shows. No intelligent person can justify allowing no check whatsoever for people to buy guns in the 21st century.

On whether tighter gun laws are possible in the U.S.

It will take enormous will. It will take an enormous effort by people like Bloomberg and others. It needs to be taken to the Main Street, to the High Street, to the public square … Because, actually, when you see some of the more accurate polling, more balanced polling, around the suburbs of Chicago and elsewhere, I think it’s a case that can be mounted and can be won, and can be won within the context of the second amendment.


Tim Fischer, former deputy prime minister of Australia.

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