TUESDAY, 6 AUGUST 2019
SUBJECTS: Gun control and mass shootings in the United States.
HOST: The co-founders of the Parliamentary Friends of Gun Control - Dr Andrew Leigh, the Member for Fenner, and John Alexander, the Member for Bennelong - are urging lawmakers in the United States to take urgent action to prevent further senseless death. Dr Andrew Leigh joins me on the line now. Dr Leigh, the most recent appalling massacres in the United States. When will the Americans do something about this?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Well, I hope sooner rather than later, Tim. I see the mood is shifting in the United States, but at a glacial pace. In Australia it was extraordinary how the Port Arthur massacre galvanized action among politicians from all sides of the political spectrum. We saw within a fortnight of that massacre, police ministers meeting, standardising laws in order to make sure that we toughened up licensing and registration, got the buyback into place. We still have a sporting shooting culture in Australia, as we should. I can take a run in the morning and it will take me past the pistol club and the rifle range, but we don't have the guns tucked into the back of the teenager’s jeans when they go out on Saturday night.
HOST: The thing that got me in the last 24 hours, Andrew Leigh, was the fact that both the Democrats and the Republicans are united that if you've got mental health issues, you shouldn't own a weapon in the United States. You know, the president himself made remarks that it's the mental health of the individual that pulls the trigger. The rhetoric’s there, what are they going to do about it? What can Australia do to assist our American friends in understanding that this will save lives?
LEIGH: The simple fact, Tim, is that in communities where you have a whole lot more guns you end up having more gun crime. The Dirty Harry fantasy that there's good guys and bad guys just isn't borne out in real life. In reality, there’s a whole spectrum of human behaviour. You have people who get angry with their mates or angry with their spouse, and the question is whether they're able to turn to a lethal weapon or whether they sort out that violence through words or through fists. The fact is in Australia we averted mass shootings in the decade after the buyback, but we also reduced gun homicides and gun suicides because the person is most likely to kill you with a gun as yourself, closely followed by somebody you know. Stranger cause shootings are actually relatively rare statistically.
HOST: Lives have been saved here in Australia since the laws, the gun buyback. Is there a pathway - particularly with our new Australian Ambassador to the United States, senator Arthur Sinodinos will be going there - is it about America understanding the pathway and legislators such as yourself and John Alexander being able to educate the legislators the United States that it can be done and it will and has saved lives here in Australia?
LEIGH: No one's better placed to make that argument than Arthur Sinodinos, who was John Howard's chief of staff. He knows firsthand what it means to make those changes from a position of conservative leadership. I want to pay credit to John Howard and to Tim Fischer, who did suffer an electoral backlash in 1998, losing votes to far right wing parties following the National Firearms Agreement. But gee, their legacy has stood up well. The work that Christine Neill and I did looking at the impact of the firearms agreement suggests that around 200 lives are saved every year. I mean, every year since those changes in 1997-98, there are 200 more Australians walking the streets there would've been otherwise.
HOST: Thank you so much for your time today. I commend the work that you have consistently done, with of course John Alexander and right across the aisle in the Federal Parliament. Let's hope that the Americans can take heed of the success, the legislative success here in Australia, and let's hope that lives can be saved. Thanks so much for your time.
LEIGH: Thank you, Tim.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra.