Warning: This article contains references to gun violence and may be triggering for some readers.
I’m an Aussie country kid who grew up occasionally using guns. I’ve hunted rabbits, I’ve gone after foxes, and I’ve even hoped that my friends would shoot a kangaroo. Growing up with Wagga Wagga farmers and their kids, I understand that guns are necessary to keep the meat, the fruit, and the veggies that most of us eat from being decimated.
However, because of Australia’s strict gun laws, my friends and I never believed that guns were something that were macho and cool. They were dangerous farming tools, just like a chainsaw or a tractor. Taking the guns out was something that we took incredibly seriously. We understood that using these instruments was a privilege and not a right.
On May 24, a school shooter in Texas murdered 21 people. He had committed this act using two semi-automatic rifles that he had purchased. He was eighteen years old. He was the same age that I was when I was out on the back of a ute hunting foxes. We grew up with very different gun laws and gun cultures in the places that we lived.
This devastating crime and the polarity between our two lives has recently caused me to wonder, “How different are Texas’ gun laws from that of Australia’s?” So I did a bit of investigating. And here are the results:
Everything Changed for Australia After Port Arthur
In 1996, a man who doesn’t deserve to be named murdered 35 people and wounded a further 23 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania. He did this using two rifles, one being an AR-15 and the other being a semi-automatic rifle. At the time, both of these weapons were legal in Tasmania. According to The Guardian, his shooting spree lasted around 30 minutes long.
John Howard had only been Prime Minister for six weeks when this mass-shooting event had taken place. While he was a conservative, he knew that this event was horrific and that something had to be done about Australia’s gun laws. So he did something. As per The New Daily, Howard made each state and territory government tighten their gun regulations. These places restricted who could purchase self-loading rifles and shotguns. They also banned all automatic and semi-automatic weapons.
Howard didn’t stop there, though. His team created a mandatory national firearm registration system. He then made all gun-owners sell their illegal and unregistered guns back to the government. Since these rules have been implemented, there hasn’t as a mass shooting event on scale of Port Arthur’s here in Australia.
The Gun Laws In Texas Are Incredibly and Unsurprisingly Weak
The difference between Australia’s gun laws and Texas’ ones are so stark. In an article by The New York Times, they outline that basically any 21-year-old citizen of this U.S state can carry a handgun. These people don’t need a license, they don’t get background checked, and they don’t need to pass a safety course. Instead, Texans can carry these guns around in public and on college campuses.
Moreover, The Dallas Morning News has gone through some other of Texas’ lenient gun laws. Legally, you are allowed to possess a gun at any age in this state. If you’re eighteen years old, you’re able to purchase a rifle. People are able to buy military-style weapons.
The Chasm Between Two Worlds
To an outsider, Texas and America’s gun laws seem incomprehensible. Personally, I cannot get how a country or a state could keep letting its own children be slaughtered by its own citizens. Nor have I ever heard a pro-gun argument that’s made me truly understand another stance on this subject.
But I didn’t grow up with the Second Amendment’s words “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” bouncing around my head. I didn’t grow up with the all-powerful NRA arguing and propagating that these words are sacred to me. I didn’t grow up feeling like I needed a gun to protect myself from other guns. Using a gun is a privilege, not a right.