President Barack Obama Tuesday suggested that the U.S. government should follow Australia’s example in dealing with shooting sprees, which involved strict gun bans on semiautomatic and automatic weapons.
“Australia had a mass shooting [in 1996] similar to Columbine and Newtown, and just said, ‘That’s it, we’re not seeing that again,’ and basically imposed very severe tough gun laws and they haven’t had a mass shooting since,” Obama said, after he was asked for his reaction to recent shooting episodes in California and Oregon. Those laws included the confiscation of nearly all handguns and rifles.
“We can have respect for the Second Amendment and responsible hunters and sportsmen can have possess weapons,” Obama told an audience of students during a broadcast on the Tumblr website.
But the country needs “commonsense rules in place that make a dent in what’s happening,” he said, after an emotional appeal to the students and young people who were watching the Tumblr broadcast, which was advertised as a question-and-answer session about student debt.
Australia also instituted a gun buy-back program and a national registery and licensing system in the wake of the April 1996 mass shooting.
Obama’s statement is likely to cause heartburn for Democratic candidates in Kentucky, Louisiana, Arkansas and other states where gun rights are valued.
But it may also spur turnout among young Democratic voters, who are demoralized by the lousy Obama economy.
Obama’s comments on guns came after the host asked him about the recent shootings, and Obama replied with an unusually emotional pitch.
“My greatest frustration so far is that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people you know who can do just unbelievable damage,” he said.
“We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens. … Our level of gun violence is off the charts. There’s no advanced developing country on Earth that would put up with this,” he said.
Obama dismissed the argument that shootings are not the fault of the mental health of Americans. “The U.S. does not have a monopoly on crazy people, it’s not the only country that has psychosis, and yet we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than anyplace else,” Obama said.
Obama did refer to the Second Amendment, but didn’t describe the limits that it imposes on government. “We have a Second Amendment, we have historically respected gun rights, I respect gun rights, but the idea that we could not get a background check [into law] … makes no sense,” he complained.
“I’ve been in Washington, and most things don’t surprise me, [but] the fact that 20 six-year-olds were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible and this town could not do anything about it, was stunning to me,” he said about the Newtown shooting in December 2012.
“If public opinion does not demand a change in Congress, it will not change,” he said.