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I compared America's gun laws to laws in 5 other countries. This is what I learned.

In 1996, Australia initiated the most successful gun intervention to date. Here's what we can learn from it.

I compared America's gun laws to laws in 5 other countries. This is what I learned.

In 1996, a mass shooting took 35 lives in Australia. Immediately after, newly elected Prime Minister John Howard decided that something needed to change.

A mere 12 days after the tragedy, the government drafted and agreed on the legislation. This led to the National Firearms Programme Implementation Act of 1996.

The new act was fairly intense. It restricted the private ownership of high-capacity semi-automatic shotguns, semi-automatic rifles, and pump-action shotguns. While guns were certainly a part of the culture (and Howard's plan was met with some objection), most Australians were actually for the legislation because they were so horrified at the loss of innocent lives.


Howard didn't just disrupt the overarching gun laws, though. He also confiscated private weapons. Citizens took part in voluntary surrender and mandatory buyback programs. Essentially, the government paid citizens to give them their illegal firearms, and the guns were then destroyed.

This is arguably the most successful gun intervention implemented to date, and there hasn’t been a mass shooting in Australia since then.

Compare this to America, where people are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries.

Graph by Erin Grinshteyn/David Hemenway/The American Journal of Medicine. Image used with permission.

A mass shooting (typically defined as four or more people shot in a single incident) occurs, on average, almost daily in the U.S.

Solutions to this problem can get really political, though.

We don't have much research on gun deaths in the U.S. (which is a whole other issue), but we do know that violence is determined by a variety of factors, such as population and gun culture within a society.

Lots of other countries allow their citizens access to guns — but America's gun problems are far worse than many other countries, and the comparison is especially stark with other developed countries.

After reading about Australia, I wondered: What makes America different, really? And what's working elsewhere?

Today, Australian applicants are required to give a "legitimate reason" to apply for a firearm license.

Personal protection doesn't qualify as a genuine reason either. And background checks — such as criminal, mental health, physical, addiction, and domestic violence checks — are mandatory to obtain a license. Generally, a firearm safety and law course is required. License terms can vary depending on the license, and there's a limit on how many firearms and how much ammunition a person can own.

While buying back guns from people who already own them probably won't happen in the U.S., we can certainly take notes from Australia's banning of assault weapons.

And we can hold our government accountable for not making swift and comprehensive legislative decisions that protect the vast majority of Americans.

Mourners gather to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre in Australia. Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images.

In France, the amount of ammunition allowed in a person's home is pretty limited.

If you live in France, you must have a hunting license or a shooting sport license if you want to buy a gun.

The country also has restrictions on the amount of ammunition that can be kept at home and the total number of firearms owned by an individual.

By comparison, there are no set federal restrictions on how much ammunition a person can keep in the U.S. In fact, after a mass shooting, folks often buy more guns and rounds, despite cries for regulating how many rounds a person can own.

It's also worth noting that France has experienced an unusual number of mass shootings in recent years. That said, in Europe’s worst terrorist attack in 11 years, 130 people were killed at a concert, which is almost as many people as those who die from gun homicides in all of France in an average year.

But even if France had a mass shooting as lethal as the Paris attack every month, the annual rate of gun homicide death per capita in France would still be lower than the United States. We could follow France's example by making ammunition ownership a permit-based privilege, rather than an assumed right.

In Japan, gun ownership is discouraged altogether.

Japan's gun laws are incredibly restrictive, and obtaining a gun involves an arduous process. Gun owners must have a license, and the National Police Agency heavily regulates gun ownership. Handguns are banned in Japan, and firearms are extremely rare. Penalties for disobeying gun laws (which include a prison sentence) seem to discourage the use of guns overall.

Despite Japan's sizable population of 130 million, these rules seem to be working: gun homicides in Japan averaged around 33 per year from 1995 to 2011.

In Spain, applicants must go through a variety of tests and background checks if they want to buy a gun.

Spain has a variety of requirements for various forms of gun ownership. Exams are sometimes required, depending on the type of license, and the length of each license can vary. In most cases, to obtain the license, applicants must have a stated reason, criminal background check, mental health check, and a check into domestic violence records. Police also may inspect firearms at any time.

Spain's most recent massacre was in 1990 in the village of Puerto Hurraco, where nine people were killed. In 2007, 90 people were killed with guns, making their homicide-by-firearm rate 0.2% per 100,000 citizens.

Spain's various tests to get a gun are certainly extensive and much more detailed than America's processes, which can vary by state. By taking more time to examine folks who want to purchase a gun, though, many people argue that we could prevent mass shootings.

Image via iStock.

In an effort to curb gun violence, Canada recently added restrictions on owning a gun too.

Because target shooting and hunting are so popular in Canada, owning a rifle or shotgun is pretty common, but obtaining handguns and semi-automatic rifles is now a restricted process.

An applicant for a firearm license in Canada has to pass an extensive background check, including criminal, mental health, addiction, and domestic violence. Applications also require a third-party reference.

Licensing authorities also conduct interviews with or advise spouses, partners, or next of kin when someone is obtaining a license. A theoretical and practical training course is required, and a license lasts for five years.

Can we implement some of these strategies in the U.S.? Maybe.

The U.S. Constitution protects the right to own a gun. And right now, there are more guns than there are people in the U.S. A Pew Research Center study from 2014 shows a gun homicide rate of 3.4 per 100,000 people in the U.S.

To purchase a gun, American buyers must go through a background check, but several groups (fugitives, those with severe mental illness, and those convicted of domestic violence) are prohibited from buying guns (though many still get ahold of them). And while we have restrictions on buying guns, there are many loopholes in place that make obtaining a gun pretty easy.

The Pulse shooting in Orlando left 49 people dead. Image via iStock.

What are our options?

We can ban assault weapons like Australia. We can reduce the number of rounds people can have on hand like France. We can do research when we see a problem like Japan. We can raise our standards for who can own a gun like Spain. And we could even add new restrictions on gun ownership like our friends in Canada.

It's not likely that we'll find a solution in the U.S. by making ultimatums though. Banning all firearms is not a likely scenario, nor is it something that works anywhere else.

But looking at these other countries gives me hope that we can find reasonable solutions for reducing gun violence while maintaining Second Amendment rights as well.

Image via iStock.

Of course, adjusting our gun laws won't solve everything. Criminals will still find ways to circumvent the law, and bad things happening are simply a fact of life.

My biggest learning here is that we do, inarguably, need to update our policies to mirror changes to the political and cultural climate.

The U.S. Constitution is great and unique, but it has historically been flawed and has required several amendments. Reexamining former laws and implementing ways to make them better as society changes helps the Constitution to be a living document.

By moving forward with caution and thought, we can create an American society that is better, and safer, for everyone.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Chris Evans is playing the lead role in the upcoming Pixar film "Lightyear."

Chris Evans was already skilled at squeezing hearts on social media, cavalierly sharing sweet pics of his adorable dog and piano-playing videos on Instagram, as if we could just casually watch him be a near-perfect man without swooning. And now he's being even more delightful with his gushing giddiness over getting to play his dream role.

The guy is already best known as the studly Marvel superhero Captain America, so what could possibly top that? Pixar, apparently. Evans' ultimate acting dream is being in a Pixar movie. And now that dream is coming true, the most eligible of the Chrises could not be cuter in his expressions of joy.

Sharing the new trailer for "Lightyear"—Pixar's origin story about the astronaut the Buzz Lightyear toy was based on in the "Toy Story" universe—Evans wrote on Twitter:

"I'm covered in goosebumps. And will be every time I watch this trailer. Or hear a Bowie song. Or have any thought whatsoever between now and July cause nothing has ever made me feel more joy and gratitude than knowing I'm a part of this and it's basically always on my mind."

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Cipolla's graph with the benefits and losses that an individual causes to him or herself and causes to others.

Have you ever known someone who was educated, well-spoken and curious, but had a real knack for making terrible decisions and bringing others down with them? These people are perplexing because we're trained to see them as intelligent, but their lives are a total mess.

On the other hand, have you ever met someone who may not have a formal education or be the best with words, but they live wisely and their actions uplift themselves and others?

In 1976, Italian economist Carlo Cipolla wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay called "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" that provides a great framework for judging someone's real intelligence. Now, the term "stupid" isn't the most artful way of describing someone who lives unwisely, but in his essay Cipolla uses it in a lighthearted way.

Cipolla explains his theory of intelligence through five basic laws and a matrix that he believes applies to everyone.

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