Friday, April 28, 2006

Ten years ago today...

Sorry to be maudelin twice in quick succession, but today marks the 10th anniversary of the Port Arthur Massacre.

This event was truely shocking to Australians. It was unbelieveable, and tragic, and unecessary. The shock it presented our society was not dissimilar to 911 in the US.

It was perhaps because of that reaction that the Government was able to pass some of the world's toughest gun control laws in the world. The vast majority of Australian's agreed: we just don't need even semi-automatic weapons in the hands of the average citizen, and if you have some valis reason to have a gun (eg you are a farmer or a sporting gun enthusiast), you are required to store and use the weapon in a highly specified and controlled manner (eg. separate storage of the gun action from the gun itself, in appropriately secure and strong storage containers).

And what's more, Australians agreed to PAY (via a short term increase in one of the broad-based taxes) for the "Gun Buyback" scheme that was designed to reimburse people owning newly illegal firearms for handing them in.

Funny thing was, there was WAY more opposition to that scheme from overseas (principly from US based pro-gun organisations) than there ever was here. But then that was possibly, because we already had a degree of gun control already in place, that the step up to the current controls didn't seem too dramatic.

I was born an American, and at the age of six or seven was an NRA "sharpshooter" with a .22, and I still have the medals and certificates to show for it. When I arrived in Australia at the age of 10, I was suprised that not only was I not allowed to own a rifle, I wasn't allowed to even fire it - I had to wait until I was 16 to join a local gun club. I gave up owning a rifle in my mid-twenties when the laws surrounding gun ownership were tightened to the point where it became both expensive and a pain to own one.

It felt weird at the time I sold my last rifle, but 25 years on I find myself grateful for the regulation and the very strict attitude our society has towards guns. I'm grateful that my children will likely never handle any sort of weapon more lethal than those they employ in their computer games. I'm grateful that, even though I may be unfortunate enough to be caught up in some form of suburban violence, I'm more likely to be beaten to a pulp than shot dead out of hand by some drunken idiot who'll "regret" his actions the next day. Because it will be of no comfort to me or my family that the perp gets life in prison for his actions.

Any more than it is of any comfort to the family members of the victims of Martin Bryant 10 years ago.

In Memorium, that may we never be faced with such event ever again.


At 12:08 AM, Blogger Leetie said...

Interesting article, wys.

I don't think we have the "Never to be Released" prison thingy here. We need it.

At 8:25 PM, Blogger wysiwyg said...

Leets - its our equivalent of executing people, which doesn't happen here. It was originally referred to as being "detained at the Govenor's pleasure".

To me its a sensible solution for those places that don't have a death penalty. It removes all the uncertainty of a miscarriage of justice. If by some set of circumstances a person can be proven innocent somewhere down the track, at least he is still alive to be set free. And from what I've read, the cost of the court process to actually end up executing someone, its probably cheaper just to lock them up.

But for people like Martin Bryant, freedom never be an option. The evidence is too clear, the crime to horrific. He can never be trusted to be moving amongst us again.

And I think that is a good thing.

At 6:27 AM, Blogger Kafaleni said...


I can't believe it's been 10 years. I bet it doesn't feel like it to those still living with the loss, either.

Guns are pretty controlled here in NZ, too. I think I prefer it that way.

At 2:48 AM, Blogger Sarah O. said...

wys, another example of how isolated the US can be, I barely remember this story. I asked Hubby about it and he didn't remember it at all. In other words, the US media pretty much ignored this story.

I don't know why. The story's so horrific. Maybe it's because so many people here have and use guns that we have so many stories about innocent people, often children, being shot to death.

In the Chicago area (city + suburb population is nearly 10 milliion) gunshot deaths (a) occur daily and (b) don't make headlines.

We did have a shooting near my home about 20 years ago in which a young woman from an affluent family burst into a random 2nd grade classroom and opened fire, injuring several and killing a 7 year old boy. It did get headlines. But I think it mostly made such an impression because it happened in a very rich white neighborhood.

Most Americans want gun control but the National Rifle Association has huge influence over our government. We have no idea why. They manage to keep guns readily available and legal. It's bizarre.

At 2:17 AM, Blogger Sarah O. said...

Um, wys, do you agree that it's time to get out from under this maudlin cloud and spread a little of that old wys wit?

Cheers to you and yours.

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Sarah O. said...

wys? Are you OK?

At 10:37 AM, Blogger wysiwyg said...

Sorry, I'm ok, just very very very busy at work at the moment, and under the current arrangements, blogging is waaaaay down the list of priorities.

If I get a moment, tho, I'll post the story of the Great Escape in Tasmania day before yesterday. Was wonderful.


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