Ex Aussie PM: We Banned Assault Weapons, So Can US

John Howard discusses how Australia did it, and the results

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 17, 2013 1:16 PM CST

(Newser) – In the New York Times today, John Howard details how he, as then-prime minister of Australia, got an assault weapons ban passed after a massacre in which 35 people were killed with semiautomatic weapons. He doesn't want to "lecture" America on the matter, he writes, and acknowledges there are many differences between the two countries' situations. Australia had no Bill of Rights or right to bear arms to contend with, but it had its own challenges, including an "intensely urban society" and a decentralized government. It was difficult, but in the end, "few Australians would deny that their country is safer today as a consequence of gun control."

Howard convinced the states to prohibit the possession or sale of all automatic and semiautomatic weapons, and the national government banned such weapons from being brought into the country. A big part of the process was a gun buyback that resulted in 700,000 guns being destroyed—"the equivalent of 40 million guns in the United States," he writes. Many resented being forced to give up their weapons, and "penalizing decent, law-abiding citizens because of the criminal behavior of others seemed unfair." But there was no other choice, because while mental health and violent entertainment may also play a role, "nothing trumps easy access to a gun" when it comes to violence. The gun control changes ended up lowering not just the homicide rate, but the suicide rate, too. Click for Howard's full piece.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard answers a question at a press conference in Sydney, Australia, in this 2006 file photo.   (AP Photo/Paul Miller, File)
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