In the wake of the worst mass shooting America has ever seen, we once again are faced with questions about how something like this could happen. It's a conversation we've been having for a long, long time, and one we revisit every time there's a tragedy like the one that took place in Orlando on Sunday.
The arguments against having tighter national gun control laws in the United States live around some version of this idea: that people kill people, not guns. That it's an infringement on personal freedoms under the Second Amendment. That it wouldn't make a difference. But in Australia, gun control laws were tightened after a massacre in 1996 to include thorough background checks and waiting periods. And it worked.
Here's how one Australian gun owner described the regulations to Time:
It’s actually not that hard to own a gun. But you do have to have a genuine reason. You have to be a member of a target shooting club or a hunter and you have to prove it. For hunting, you can get written permission from a landowner who says you are hunting on his land. Or you can join a hunting club. Pistols [handguns], on the other hand, are heavily restricted. All applicants undergo a background check by the police and there is a mandatory 30 day cooling off period for all license applications, both long arms and pistols. Firearms safety training courses are mandatory as well.
And in the last 20 years since these laws were put in place, Australians have not had to endure a single mass shooting. In this three-part 2013 segment from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, John Oliver talks to the conservative Australian politicians who pushed those laws through, despite pushback from some of their constituents. And he talks to gun control opponents in America, trying to understand what, if any, level of gun control would be acceptable to them. He makes a pretty compelling case that it's entirely possible to regulate guns and save lives without oppressing anyone:
Since Australia introduced its gun control laws, the chances of being killed in a shooting have dramatically dropped for Australians, Reuters reports:
The chances of being murdered by a gun in Australia plunged to 0.15 per 100,000 people in 2014 from 0.54 per 100,000 people in 1996, a decline of 72 percent, a Reuters analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed.
That chance of being killed with a gun in the U.S. is 3.4 per 100,000, according to the news agency. So far this year, there have been 11 mass shootings (in which four or more people were killed), including Sunday's massacre of at least 49 people:
"In America, we're told gun control is not possible," Oliver says at one point in the series. "But in Australia they've shown it is, providing a fantastic lesson for American to ignore."