Monday, 13 June 2016

A letter to my American friends

- and you are many. This morning I would like to hug each one of you and say, "I am so sorry this has happened again". 
I know that public figures are going to get up and say things like "it has to stop" and "never again" and "ban all Muslims from entering" and much, much more.
It won't stop. It will happen again. You can't ban Muslims from entering a country. The entire situation is just going to get worse.
The problem is going to spread to other parts of the world.
It will happen.
It will happen unless, as a nation, you give up that "right" to bear arms. I'm sorry. It's the only way. 
No, it won't stop all gun deaths. Of course it won't. That's ridiculous. 
We had a mass shooting here in this country. In a place already steeped in blood. It was in a place called Port Arthur. I don't ever want to go there although what happened before that massacre was part of the history of the state, of the nation.  It happened because a mentally ill man got hold of the wrong sort of weapons and used them. 
Without that sort of weapon he might still have killed someone but his fantasies of "getting the record" might never have come to pass. 
No, you can't stop people killing people. You can help to stop people killing people with the sort of weapons that allow them to shoot so many people at the same time. It's a start surely?
Our Prime Minister of the day, John Howard, saw it as a start. He saw the need to ban those sort of weapons, to make it much more difficult to own a gun.
Most people don't need guns. I know most farmers, at least farmers with livestock, in this country have guns. They use them to put injured animals to death quickly and humanely. I haven't yet met a good farmer who enjoyed doing that. They know they don't need high powered assault weapons to do it.
Of course some people go hunting. They know they don't need high powered assault weapons to do it.  
And most people who own guns here know that they have to keep them locked away  unless they intend to use them. They know they have to keep the ammunition separate. They know they shouldn't carry them unsecured and loaded until they are ready to use them for hunting or target practice.
Of course we have gun deaths here. A mother and two small children were shot in this state just a few days ago. It appears to have been a domestic dispute. It is a tragedy, particularly when you look at the impish grins on the faces of the children in their photographs. But it wasn't a mass shooting of unrelated people like the Port Arthur Massacre.
John Howard was right to do what he did. This nation is a better place for it. We could go still further and I hope we will one day.
We don't have a  "gun culture" or "the right to bear arms". We don't need it. 
And yes, I know we could still have a mass shooting. All our laws won't make us immune from such a tragedy. But - we can make it more difficult, much more difficult.
I want it to be that way. Violence just breeds more violence. 

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