John Howard: gun laws make Australia safer, not a ‘nation of victims’

ABC News: by Alexandra Kirk —

NICK GRIMM: It was former prime minister John Howard who took on the gun lobby in 1996 in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre, first announcing and then clinching an agreement with the states for nationwide gun law reforms.

Well, almost 20 years on and in the wake of another violent tragedy, Mr Howard is responding to those who believe the deaths at the Lindt Cafe could have been avoided if Australians were allowed to carry concealed weapons.

Most notably, the federal parliamentarian Senator David Leyonhjelm commented earlier today that John Howard’s gun laws make Australia a “nation of victims” because people can’t properly protect themselves.

Mr Howard told The World Today’s Alexandra Kirk the senator’s statement isn’t correct.

JOHN HOWARD: It’s a very simplistic and flawed analysis.

The gun laws that were brought in in the wake of Port Arthur have made Australia a safe country and there’s very strong, properly based research evidence to the effect that gun-related homicides have fallen in this country, the incidents of mass shootings is lower than what it was, and around the world, those laws are praised and seen as a model for other countries struggling with gun violence to emulate. 

So I don’t agree with the Senator. I respect his attitude on other issues and agree with it but I don’t agree with him on this.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: If you apply Senator Leyonhjelm’s argument to this week’s siege in Martin Place, which is presumably what’s prompted him to say this, the suggestion is that if one of the hostages had been armed, in other words, had a concealed gun, they could have protected themselves against the gunman.

JOHN HOWARD: That’s an example – with the deepest of respect of generalising from a particular set of circumstances – the truth is that in countries that have laxer gun laws, the likelihood of people who obtain a gun legally then using it for murderous, even terrorist purposes is much greater.

There’s no country in the world that can have a system of gun licensing and registration which can guarantee that somebody who gets a licence and buys a gun in accordance with the law won’t later on use that for a purpose perhaps he or she never had in mind when the gun was purchased.

It’s just an exercise in logic to understand that the more guns there are in the community, the greater the likelihood of mass murder.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Are you worried about a resurgence of the gun lobby sort of arguments in the wake of the Martin Place siege this week?

JOHN HOWARD: No, I don’t think so because most Australians are sensible. They understand that the fewer guns there are in the community, the fewer gun related deaths there will be. Most Australians accept and understand that.

There are some who don’t and I understand their view. I don’t accept it, I don’t agree with it but it’s their right to have that view. I don’t think there is going to be a resurgence of attempts to roll back those laws. 

I’m confident that at both the federal and state government level, any attempt to roll back the laws would be resisted. 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: You think Australians now accept that you were right and people like Senator Leyonhjelm are wrong?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, I’m not trying to turn this into a debate between myself and the Senator. I say I agree with his stance on some other issues but I have been convinced for a long time that what my government did way back in 1996 has made Australia a safer country and that’s the constant feedback I get from the Australian people and it’s also the view of many Americans.

I have a lot of contact with Americans and I talk quite a lot about this issue to them and overwhelmingly, from both sides of the political divide, Republican and Democrat, individual Americans are unhappy with the gun laws in that country.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: You and Senator Leyonhjelm share some similar views about small government, personal freedoms, so why do you say that those arguments then don’t extend to gun ownership?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, every issue is different and my very strong view is that the safety of the public is better guaranteed by as fewer weapons being in circulation as possible.

I would like to see fewer weapons in the Australian community, not more, and I’m convinced from applying common sense and also from the experience of other countries, sadly the United States is the most prominent example, the more guns there are in circulation, the greater likelihood there is that they’re going to be used to kill people because you can never guarantee that a seemingly sane, calm person who’s got a license to hold a weapon can then, not at some time in the future, go berserk and use it.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Do you think there needs to be another concerted effort to further reduce the number of guns in the community?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, that is one of those operational day to day matters that I will leave for the state and federal governments.

I’m out of government now. I’ve chosen to talk about this issue today because of my association with Australia’s gun laws and because I have a strong view that what was done in 1996 made our country safer.

And we are all shocked and saddened by the terrible events of a few days ago but it’s very important in the wake of that terrible event for us to keep calm and understand what the right responses are but to also understand what the wrong responses would be and I don’t think a right response is to make guns more freely available in the community.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Mr Howard, thank you.

JOHN HOWARD: You’re welcome.

NICK GRIMM: And that was the former prime minister John Howard, speaking to Alexandra Kirk.

Origional Post here:

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