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  • Students and parents arrive for campus orientation at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland

    Students and parents arrive for campus orientation at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 February 2018
That there is a change in the air is evident this time.  Since the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14, there have been demonstrations by school kids, their parents and others, confrontations of politicians including the president, and a general feeling that enough is enough.

The most prominent opposition to gun control, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is not quite able to stir up its supporters this time.  Its president, Wayne LaPierre, got only a muted response to his frequent line, "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun."

Donald Trump's response to the crisis certainly takes that page from LaPierre's book; Mr. Trump wants to arm school teachers.  In this 'Wild West' scenario, Trump's schools become a battlefield.  Guns for teachers, if they actually agree to them, will be headline news.  And forewarned, prospective shooters are more than likely to wear body armor (as a previous mass shooter did) to be protected from teachers' pistols.  It also invites the terrible possibility some school teacher, disturbed of course, shoots up her own class.

 NRA Retaliates As Dozens of US Companies Severe Ties With Gun-Lobbying Group

No, Mr. Trump (and Wayne LaPierre) the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to make sure he does not get one.  Australia has already proven that proposition.  After a mass shooting killed 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania, the country was in deep shock.  The response was strict gun control including the mandatory buyback of existing firearms through which 650,000 weapons were destroyed.  The facts speak for themselves:  from 1978 to 1996, Australia had 13 mass shootings; since 1997, it has had none.

Look at the United States.  With 5 percent of the world's population, it has 31 percent of global mass shooters 42 percent of the world's privately owned guns.   the Second Amendment is likely to preclude laws comparable to those enacted in Australia.  There remains the slim, very slim, possibility of the courts reviewing the relevance of the Second Amendment in an age of heavy tanks, artillery, even nuclear weapons.  Still, more can be done than has been so far at the Federal level.

After Sandy Hook, where a gunman in 2012 killed 20 little children and 6 adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, protests and outrage led to attempts to pass laws in Congress.  But the NRA lobby was much too powerful and they were blocked.

If Australia's response stopped mass shootings, what about the U.S.?  Since Sandy Hook there have been over 1600 mass shootings -- a mass killing is defined as a single incident causing the death of three or more persons.  Moreover, these comprise less than 2 percent of firearm deaths.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 33,594 gun deaths in 2014 of which 263 were in a mass shooting.  

Meanwhile, Donald Trump's wet-noodle response, which he characterized as strong and others might consider risible, will do next to nothing ... until another mass shooting presses the replay button and the Kabuki dance is repeated.

Dr Arshad M Khan is a former Professor whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media.

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