No matter which side of the gun control debate you're on, the bare statistics speak volumes: The U.S. makes up less than 5% of the world's population but holds 31% of global mass shooters. There are more public mass shootings in America than any other country in the world. Just three months into 2018, and 2657 people have died from gun-related violence. It's little wonder that now, in the wake of the horrific Florida school shooting, support for stricter gun laws is at a record high.
While America is an anomaly when it comes to mass shootings, thanks in part to the second amendment, it's worth noting that our global neighbors have struggled with gun control, too. Rocked by school shootings and staggered by gunmen with known mental illnesses, some countries have found ways to turn anger and despair into action. Here's how Australia, the UK, and Germany reacted to their own tragedies—and have managed to make mass shootings a thing of the past.
Illustration by Viviana Duron
The Incident: Australia was rocked by four mass shootings between 1987 and 1996, including the worst mass shooting by one person in the country's history, which took place in Port Arthur, Tasmania. The gunman shot 35 people in roughly half an hour, prompting a nationwide call for gun reform—no easy task in a country "where guns had long been considered an essential prop in the national mythology of life in the bush," The Guardian points out.
The Change: Less than two weeks later, the prime minister announced sweeping reforms. He proposed a registration system that required citizens to submit a "genuine reason" for owning a gun, which could include being a farmer or recreational hunting. He also introduced a national buyback scheme, which led to the buying and melting down of 650,000 weapons, The Guardian Australia reports.
The Impact: There have been no mass shootings in Australia over the last 20 years since the Port Arthur massacre. Prior to that, there had been 13.
THE UNITED KINGDOM
The Incident: In August 1987, a lone gunman went on a six-hour shooting rampage using two legally owned semiautomatic rifles and a handgun. Later, in 1996, 43-year-old Thomas Hamilton opened fire on children and staff at Dunblane primary school killing 17 people, most just 5 and 6 years old.
The Change: In the wake of the first massacre, Britain expanded the list of banned weapons to include semiautomatic rifles and required all shotgun owners to join a registry. Then, the government banned all cartridge ammunition handguns, which wiped out target shooting as a sport in the UK, The Atlantic points out. Almost overnight, 200,000 gun owners had their weapons banned, which was enforced with heavy fines and even imprisonment for 10 years.
The Impact: It has been over two decades since gun control regulations were introduced, and the UK has seen only one mass shooting in that time.
The Incident: When a 19-year-old German student was expelled from his school in 2002, he opened fire using weapons obtained from his gun club, killing 19 people. Then, in 2009, 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer shot dead 15 people at a school in Winnenden.
Germany is an interesting case study because it has one of the highest weapons-per-head rates in the world, yet one of the lowest gun homicide rates in Europe, Los Angeles Times points out. In short, a lot of Germans own guns, but they're not using them in mass shootings.
The Change: Germany is the only country in the world where anyone under the age of 25 who applies for their first firearms license must undergo a psychiatric evaluation with a trained counselor, The Guardian reports. This involves both personality and anger management tests.
Gun owners are also monitored on an ongoing basis. An unrelated offense like drunk driving can lead to gun owners being called in for psychiatric tests. Police also conduct home visits for those on the national gun register to ensure firearms are locked away in a safe with a security code or key only known to the owner.
The Impact: There has been one mass shooting in Germany in the past decade.
Do you think the U.S. can learn from the gun control changes implemented in Australia, the UK, and Germany?