TRIPLE M GRILL TEAM
WEDNESDAY, 15 JULY 2015
SUBJECT/S: National Rifle Association lying about the success of Australia’s gun buyback.
MATTY JOHNS: It seems like every couple of weeks we hear about shootings in America that just leave you shaking your head. Now, the National Rifle Association laughs at Australia's gun laws. They view them as pointless and ineffective but an absolutely brilliant article in The Age newspaper showed the gun laws had been anything but in this country. Andrew Leigh worked as a summer clerk at a Sydney law firm in 1995 and his mentor was a 28-year-old woman named Zoe Hall. Zoe was Martin Bryant's second-last victim in the Port Arthur massacre. The National Rifle Association of America's constant criticism and disregard for our gun laws inspired Andrew to do a bit of digging into the stats on whether our gun buyback scheme that John Howard brought in has actually worked. Andrew joins us on the line right now – g'day Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Morning gentlemen, how are you?
JOHNS: Good thanks. Now Andrew, is it fair to say straight off the top that these laws have been a stunning success?
LEIGH: Absolutely. In the decade before Port Arthur, we had, on average, one mass shooting every year. In the two decades since, we've had just a single mass shooting in Australia. We've got the firearms homicide rate down, but interestingly we've got the firearms suicide rate down as well. It turns out that the person most likely to kill you with a gun is yourself – we have four gun suicides for every gun homicide. So we've actually saved something in the order of 200 lives a year as a result of the gun buyback, and most of those come from fewer gun suicides.
GUS WORLAND: So Andrew, why do you think the NRA is so against us? Why do you think they're always trying to discredit us?
LEIGH: The NRA is not actually concerned about progressives like me. They're concerned about conservatives like John Howard and Tim Fischer. Howard and Fischer sit on the other side of the political fence from me but you can recognise courage when you see it in your political opponents. The NRA are scared that there will be parts of the moderate US Republican party that actually recognise that it is in the interests of law-abiding gun owners to have sensible regulations around guns. We've got a good sporting shooting culture in Australia. I've been down to my local shooting range and seen the care with which people handle guns. But you don't walk into the typical bedroom in Australia and find a gun in the bedside table; you don't find a gun in the car glovebox; you don't find many teenagers walking around the streets with guns tucked into the waistband of their pants on a Saturday night.
JOHNS: Andrew, Zoe Hall who was – as you've mentioned – your mentor, filling up her car at the petrol station and then this happened, it would profoundly change your life.
LEIGH: It was just horrific. Zoe was a wonderful mentor. You know, law firms are busy places, everyone is marking down their time in six-minute units, but Zoe always had the time to make sure that I fitted in to the firm. So it was just a senseless death. What outrages me is that the law change Australia put in place as a result of the Port Arthur massacre is just being lied about by the NRA. They tried it in 2000 when they ran ads just making up Australian crime statistics to try and persuade Americans. Now they're back again suggesting that the Australian gun buyback didn't work when in fact it was a stunning success.
WORLAND: Andrew, we look back at the courage of Prime Minister John Howard now and think that it was a gimme – we can't imagine Australia without these gun laws. But at the time, I mean, he was doing speeches with bullet-proof vests underneath his suit; he had real fear. Do you think the American presidents not only fear for their political future but also fear that one of these crazies will just hunt them down if they come out and take a really strong stance on outlawing guns?
LEIGH: I think it's less about physical fear than it is about the fact that guns are ubiquitous in America. There's more guns than people and this year one in 10,000 people will die of gun deaths. Today alone, 30 Americans will die in gun deaths. So guns are everywhere in the country and there hasn't been the leadership we saw here. I mean, John Howard and Tim Fischer did suffer a political cost for what they did. Remember they lost the popular vote in that 1998 election. I've spoken to Tim Fischer about this and he thinks it is part of the reason for the rise of One Nation in 1998. So they paid a political price but gee, the history books have judged them well.
JOHNS: They sure have. Andrew, before we let you go, I did notice when I was in Chicago a couple of years ago there was a carpark outside a shopping mall and it had a no-questions-asked buyback tent set up there with a couple of police officers. People were walking up with guns and getting paid in $100 or $200 shopping vouchers for them. So are they trying, in some states, to do some sort of buyback?
LEIGH: There's been some city-based buybacks. They don't work as well as the Australian one, which came alongside toughening up of gun laws as well. What strikes me about the Australian one is that we bought back one-fifth of the guns, and when you look at the share of Australian households that had a gun, we halved it. So a lot of people were handing in the only gun in the household. That means now if you've got a depressed teenager in the household, or if a domestic dispute turns sour, there's not a lethal weapon that people can turn towards. So we had smart, nationwide reform; they've had occasional patchwork changes. But when you can just drive across state boundaries and pick up a weapon, then it's hard to fix the problem. America is fuelling the Mexican drug wars in part, because it's so much easier to get a gun in the US than in Mexico. So Mexican crooks drive to the US, pick up their weapons and drive back down.
JOHNS: Andrew, congratulations on the article mate, it's certainly food for thought when you sit there and read something like that. Appreciate your time this morning.
LEIGH: Thanks gents, good to talk to you.
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