Taking another look at the Oregon shooting

Last Thursday, yet another United States mass shooting made headlines as a 26-year-old student killed nine people at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Ore. This shooting marks the 45th school shooting in America this year.

Predictably, immediately after the disaster, 2016 presidential hopefuls flocked to social media to show their support for the victims' families, and, in the cases of Democratic candidates, things got pretty political.

The American people are horrified by these never-ending mass shootings. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of …

Posted by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Thursday, October 1, 2015

But Republican candidates used the opportunity to toe the party line and reaffirm their pro-gun positions, explaining that gun control would not prevent future mass shootings.

On potential gun control legislation, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump reasoned, "You know, no matter what you do — guns, no guns — it doesn’t matter."

Trump argues that if more guns had been allowed on campus, the victims may have been able to act in self-defense, resulting in fewer fatalities.

Meanwhile, at a South Carolina forum, Jeb Bush explained, “I had this challenge as governor because we had — look, stuff happens, there’s always a crisis. And the impulse is always to do something, and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”

Despite the GOP’s claim that gun control laws would not prevent mass shootings, a look at another country's approaches to gun control contradicts statements like Trump’s or Bush’s.

In Australia, just after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 — a mass shooting performed with a semi-automatic rifle resulting in 35 deaths — federal leaders passed legislation prohibiting the sale and ownership of specific kinds of semi-automatic and self-loading rifles and shotguns. 

This was in addition to specific requirements for the purchase of a gun, including a mandatory safety course and exhibiting a “genuine reason” for the purchase, not including self-defense.

Although the law did not end gun violence completely, between 1995 and 2006, the number of homicides by firearms in Australia decreased by 59 percent, and the decline of the suicide by firearms rate was even more significant at 65 percent.

Although critics of this study claim the decrease in suicide rate was valid, the decrease in firearm homicide rate was not statistically significant. Critics suggest that since Australia’s firearm homicide rate was already so low before 1996, the decrease in homicides could have been purely coincidental.

On the flip side, since the law was enacted, no mass shootings — defined by the FBI as a single incident with four or more deaths — have occurred in Australia since the gun control legislation passed in 1996. 


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