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.

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.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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