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America needs a lesson from our very own John Howard

The Queensland Times reporter Andrew Korner.
The Queensland Times reporter Andrew Korner. Rob Williams

JUDGING by the reaction to the recent massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, my guess would be that there aren't enough guns in the world to make Americans feel safe.

Only in America, a country where there are more than 85 guns for every 100 people, would the response to a mass shooting be to go out and buy more of the things.

A good percentage of the United States' population seems dangerously obsessed with the Second Amendment - the right to bear arms - but there are obvious problems that arise when so many people own guns.

It is not so much that they feel the need to own one or two or 15, it is also the type of guns they own and the way some individuals seem to want to show off with them that gives you the creeps.

A recent report highlighted the trend towards Americans posting photographs of themselves in front of a Christmas tree with their new weapons - many of them assault rifles.

All this less than a fortnight after 20 kids and six teachers were shot dead by another psychopath with access to something that was designed to kill people.

The old adage that "guns don't kill people - people kill people", doesn't add up when it comes to characters like Adam Lanza - who, from all reports, was a recluse who wouldn't have had the physical strength to harm so many people at once without such a weapon.

It is at this point I should qualify what I have said by stating I am no greenie when it comes to guns.

I have absolutely no problem with Australians owning shotguns and rifles - provided they live on a farm or in the outback and have a proper use for them.

I also support the use of guns for sport and recreation as a way of teaching people how to operate firearms responsibly.

I'm not big on statistics, but they show that Australia has more than 760,000 registered gun owners.

The last available figures from 2009 show that we had 30 gun homicides - 30 too many but still 0.1 per 100,000 people. Compare that to more than three gun homicides per 100,000 people in the US.

There is no doubt in my mind that the gun buy-back that followed the Port Arthur massacre was one of the best things John Howard ever did during his long tenure as PM.

Sure, crims still have guns in Australia, they also use knives, baseball bats, cattle prods, tasers and broken bottles - pretty much anything they can get their hands on. Banning guns can only achieve so much.

For the past 20 years in Australia, the rate of homicides committed with a knife has been higher than those committed with a firearm - except for the year of the Port Arthur Massacre - and the gap is increasing.

One thing you can say about Australia's gun laws is that they do something to protect everyday people from the Adam Lanzas of the world - the one-off freaks with no significant criminal record, who give no real warning about the mass carnage they are capable of with a semi-automatic gun in their hands.

Topics:  john howard, naughty korner, opinion, sandy hook elementary school



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