The value of Australia’s gun laws was the topic of conversation on ABC Radio National’s Sunday Extra program hosted by compere Jonathan Green on October 11. Joining in the radio discussion with their respective views were Gun Control Australia chair Samantha Lee, strategic professor of criminology at Flinders University Andrew Goldsmith, and fellow at the Crime Prevention Research Centre Dr Kesten C Green. The issue of gun laws has come to the fore in recent weeks after a mass shooting in Oregon in the United States.
The radio program opened with American president Barack Obama seemingly giving an honourable mention to Australia’s gun laws. In a snippet from a recent speech, Obama said Australia “had mobilised and made changes” in 1996. Host Jonathan Green concurred, but asked how was it possible, despite the laws, for a 15-year-old boy to put his hands on a firearm to carry out the recent shooting of a police worker in Parramatta. It has come to light, of course, that the revolver used in this terrorist incident was illegally obtained. Lee said the changes in 1996 were “tremendous”, but she felt that the number of guns owned by Australians is growing again and she suggested a potential rise in gun crime. However, she offered no statistics to back up this claim.
Goldsmith said the US has a different incidence of gun ownership and a different attitude towards guns. To illustrate his point, an excerpt from a speech by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was aired, in which he said about the Oregon shooting that “only the bad guy had a gun” and that people needed the right to arm themselves. Lee said Australia has never had a constitutional or common law right to own or possess a firearm. Green said that evidence from the US shows that in all but two locations where mass shootings had occurred in that country since the 1950s, they happened in places where guns were banned. Goldsmith concluded that not a lot was known about the fine details of Australia’s so-called ‘gun culture’.