The Daily Show’s Three-Part Special on Australia’s Gun Control Policy Kicks Ass

Kudos to The Daily Show for last week’s three-part special exploring Australia’s gun control policy and what American isn’t learning from its example.

Correspondent John Oliver traveled to the Land Down Under to interview the public officials who fought to enact the 1996 policy that saw the Conservative government buying back thousands of semi-automatic weapons, as well as imposing stricter background checks and storage laws on other forms of firearms. The change was implemented in the wake of a mass shooting and since it has taken effect, Australia has seen dramatically reduced levels of gun violence.

One of the most interesting interviews of the segment, for me, was a values comparison between a former conservative member of the Australian parliament, Rob Burbidge, who committed political suicide in supporting the legislation and a long-time former aide to Harry Reid, Jim Manley (found in Part 2). Oliver asked both men how they measured success in politics. Manley’s knee-jerk response: “getting re-elected by your constituents.” Burbidge’s: “making society a better place.” For him, his political career was worth the countless lives the legislation has undoubtedly saved since its enactment.

Though The Daily Show may not seem to take itself seriously, it regularly (and, often, eloquently) exposes the underlying corruption of values in American politics and news media. I generally have conflicted feelings about my American identity when watching The Daily Show (and, just, always): I am ashamed at the way our government and mainstream media conduct themselves and represent this country, but I am proud that the The Daily Show is also a part of the contemporary American landscape. It may be produced to provoke laughter, but laughter is a political statement as much as rhetoric is. Satire is a cutting political tool. As a young American and citizen of this increasingly globally-reflexive world, The Daily Show gives me something that is getting decidedly harder to come by these days: hope for the future.

One thought on “The Daily Show’s Three-Part Special on Australia’s Gun Control Policy Kicks Ass

  1. I think there is a problem with this line of reasoning. The murder rate in Australia was declining before the gun regulation came into a effect for many years, after the regulation came into effect this trend did not change, there was no acceleration in this trend. The Assault Weapons Ban in 1995 in America likewise was implemented after the murder rate started dropping in 1993 and the crime rate continued to decline after it expired in 2004. That legislation was not correlated to any change in the trend line describing the rate of murder or total crime. The US was and is still experiencing a dramatic decrease in murder and total crime rates, indeed it now has lower rates of both than at any time since 1907. And this correlated to a decrease gun regulation. Meanwhile Australia had a decreasing rate of murder but an increasing rate of total crime, a trend which is consistent in all other developed nations except the US were total crime is also decreasing.

    Similar trends can be seen between the US and all other developed nations, including Canada which is similar in almost all aspects. The US has 3-4 times the murder and 1/5-1/12 the total crime when the same definitions of crime and data collection methodologies are used.

    To understand why Americans including myself have no interest in gun control you must look at our self interest. 50% of all murder victims in the US have a felony conviction and 90% have a violent arrest record. 80% of all murderers are prior felons and 95% have a violent arrest record. Murder in the US is concentrated in urban areas, with 75% of all murders occurring in 1% of the counties, all invariably urban counties with large minority populations, gun control laws, and democratic mayors and city councils.

    For a resident of the US living in a rural area or a city of less than 8,000 inhabitants, which is 78% of the entire population, the chances of getting murdered are equal to that of an average Western European living in a rural area. Those designated as white in the US racial classification system have the same murder rate as native born Western Europeans in their respective nations. And those designated non-Hispanic white account for 72% of the population. So for a white voter living in rural America what incentive is there to trade his low comparable murder rate and much lower crime victimization rate for a European system which has a lower murder rate for all but also a higher crime victimization rate? It is not in his interest. Americans fundamentally do not care about urban criminals who are killed by other urban criminals.

    As for the incidence rate of public mass murders(4+) or multi-victim public murders(2+). Western Europe has the exact same rate of multiple victim public shootings as the US per capita and the same victimization rate as noted here: http://abcb.org/blog/?p=192. And the incidence and victimization rate of multiple victim public shootings in the US is decreasing. http://news.yahoo.com/no-rise-mass-killings-impact-huge-185700637.html The European nations in question have extensive gun control that requires stringent licensing for all firearms.

    This leaves the only one argument on the part of Oliver’s position. That at total semi-automatic, pump action, and lever action weapons ban will prevent all multiple victim public shootings, a claim for which their is exactly one data point in support Australia.

    Which is not only politically impossible but also physically impossible as semi-automatic weapons account for over 100 million of the weapons owned in the US out of total number between 300 and 900 million according to the ATF. And there are already 20 million illegal fully automatic weapons in the US that are not used regularly in crime, with only 17 deaths to automatic weapons since 1934. The shear number of firearms and the US’s uniquely extreme protections on private property in its legal system make any form registration impossible.

    And as previously stated the murder and total crime rates are decreasing as is the incidence rate of mass shootings. So I have to ask why bother with gun control if the problems are slowly resolving themselves?

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