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.

More

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

Keep Reading Show less
Packard Foundation
True

Someday, future Americans will look back on this era of school shootings in bafflement and disbelief—not only over the fact that it happened, but over how long it took us to enact significant legislation to try to stop it.

Five people die from vaping, and the government talks about banning vaping devices. Hundreds of American children have been shot to death in their classrooms, sometimes a dozen or so at a time, and the government has done practically nothing. It's unconscionable.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information
via Hollie Bellew-Shaw / Facebook

For those of us who are not on the spectrum, it can be hard to perceive the world through the senses of someone with autism.

"You could think of a person with autism as having an imbalanced set of senses," Stephen Shore, assistant professor in the School of Education at Adelphi University, told Web MD.

"Some senses may be turned up too high and some turned down too low. As a result, the data that comes in tends to be distorted, and it's very hard to perceive a person's environment accurately," Shore continued.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information
Truth

Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

truth
True