Labor MP Kelvin Thomson has written to members of the US Congress and Senate on gun laws in the wake of the Newtown school shooting. This is what he sent …

As a member of the Australian Parliament I am writing to urge you to adopt Australia’s gun laws in the United States.

I am aware of the risk of advice from outsiders being unwelcome, but feel compelled to write all the same because we cannot sit idly by and just allow senseless and avoidable deaths, in this case including 20 small children, to go on, and Australia’s experience is crystal clear and I believe the United States can benefit from it.

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After 35 people, including small children, were killed in the Australian island state of Tasmania in April, 1996, the Australian Police Ministers Council agreed to a national plan for the regulation of firearms. The plan is known as the National Firearms Agreement and its terms include:

  • Banning military style automatic and semi-automatic firearms;
  • Limiting the availability of non-military style semi-automatic rifles and shotguns to primary producers, professional vermin exterminators, and a limited class of clay target firearm users;
  • Introducing registration for all firearms, including longarms;
  • Grouping firearms into 5 broad licensing categories;
  • Requiring all licence applicants to establish a genuine reason for firearms ownership;
  • Requiring all licence applicants other than those applying for category A firearms to establish that they have a special need for the particular category of firearm;
  • Requiring that permits be acquired for every new firearm purchase, with the issue of a permit to be subject to a waiting period of at least 28 days to enable appropriate checks to be made;
  • Stricter storage requirements for all firearms; and
  • Requiring all sales to be conducted by or through licensed firearms dealers.

Since these laws were enacted in 1996 Australia has not had a repeat of the massacres we had before they came into effect.

The number of gun deaths in all categories — homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings — has declined dramatically since 1996, and thousands of Australian lives have been saved as a result.

I implore you to look at our experience. As the number of guns in Australia reduced, so too did gun violence. It is simply not true that owning a gun makes you safer. The fact that Adam Lanza’s mother was killed with a weapon she owned is all too familiar. More weapons in homes and schools equals more killing.

Those families who have lost a loved one are in our hearts and thoughts at this time. But please let this not be yet again condolences and prayers and hand-wringing — let this be the time when something real was accomplished.

There are plenty of problems in our world which are beyond the power of legislators to do much about. This is not one of them.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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