Australia just offered to help the U.S. with our gun problems. We should listen.

Australia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop has a message to America in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas: We can help.

Julie Bishop Photo by Putu Sayoga/Getty Images.

A gunman reportedly opened fired from his Las Vegas hotel room window on Sunday night, killing at least 58 people and injuring hundreds more. It's the type of inexplicable violence many Australians can recall from decades past.


“What Australia can do is share our experience after the mass killing in Port Arthur back in the late 1990s, when 35 people were killed by a lone gunman,” Bishop said, according to The Washington Post. “We have had this experience. We acted with a legislative response.”

Should Americans take her up on her offer? What's happened in Australia since 1996 certainly suggests we should.

Less than two weeks after that horrific shooting in Port Arthur stunned the world, the Australian government leapt into action. New gun laws were rolled out under the National Firearms Agreement (NFA), banning private gun sales and establishing a national firearms registry. Australians were also expected to present a "genuine reason" for the need to purchase a gun; self-defense simply did not suffice.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre on April 28, 2016. Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images.

A major component of Australia's gun reform legislation was a bold buyback program. After certain guns were banned outright — such as semi-automatic rifles — the government bought back hundreds of thousands of those weapons from gun owners. It also allowed for illegal guns to be surrendered to officials without fear of penalty.

Two months after the Port Arthur massacre, then-Prime Minister John Howard, a conservative, addressed a crowd in Victoria — a crowd of Australian gun owners.

In his speech — in which he stressed law-abiding gun owners "were not criminals" — the prime minister candidly noted that, yes, the new polices might be an inconvenience to many people sitting in the crowd.

But, he argued, saving Australian lives was worth it.

"Now I don't pretend for a moment, ladies and gentlemen, that the decision that we have taken is going to guarantee that in the future there won't be other mass murders; I don't pretend that for a moment," Howard said. "What I do argue to you, my friends, is that it will significantly reduce the likelihood of those occurring in the future."

In the two decades since that speech, he's been proven largely right. Australia hasn't had a mass shooting.

Implementing gun reform laws worked very, very well. Homicides involving guns dropped nearly 60% throughout the following decade. Death by suicide using a firearm plummeted 65%.

While gun proponents have pushed back on the new laws' successes in Australia, they've been fighting an uphill battle. Most of the evidence they tend to point to is cherry-picked and irrelevant in the big picture. A 2006 study they've touted, suggesting the drop in Australia's gun violence had to do with broader trends (not gun control laws), has been discredited; unsurprisingly, it was funded by pro-gun groups.

Will we ever see similar success on gun control in the U.S.?

We have reason to hope, but it won't be easy.

Gun rights activist rally in Virgina in July 2017. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

While Australia's 1996 mandates were bold, they were also extremely popular: 9 out of 10 Australians approved of the provisions at the time. Basic gun control measures share similarly overwhelming approval in the U.S. too — yet America has failed to pass meaningful gun reform legislation. The jaw-dropping power of the gun lobby may have something to do with that.

But as Bishop noted after offering her country's expertise in the wake of the shooting in Vegas, where there's a will, there's a way: “It'll be up to U.S. lawmakers and legislators to deal with this issue," she said.

She's right. And it's on us to force them to deal with it.

Here's how you can contact your representatives to pressure them to act on gun control.

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Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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