Sydney, October 8, 2017 : Australians have handed in 51,000 weapons during the first national gun amnesty in more than 20 years.
Authorities in Australia believe the three-month gun amnesty that ran through Sept. 30 has made the country safer. By their count, 51,461 firearms were surrendered in Australia’s first no-questions-asked amnesty since a mass shooting in the state of Tasmania in 1996.
A proliferation of illicit weapons and the potential impact on national security prompted the government to urge Australians to hand in their firearms without fear of prosecution. Officials were worried that unwanted military-style rifles, pistols and shotguns could fall into the hands of extremists and criminal gangs.
It is estimated that there are about 260,000 unregistered weapons in Australia, which has some of the world’s toughest gun control measures. They include a 28-day waiting period, comprehensive background checks, and a requirement to have a “justifiable reason” to own a firearm. There have been no mass shootings in Australia since the legislation was introduced.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the measures are crucial to Australian society.
“Now, it is vitally important that we maintain our gun control laws. They are among the strictest in the world,” he said. “We have seen the shocking tragedy in Las Vegas. The killer there had a collection of semi-automatic weapons, which a person in his position would simply not be able to acquire in Australia. So, we have strict gun control laws … we do not take anything for granted.”
Anyone found with an unregistered firearm in Australia now faces up to 14 years in prison or a heavy fine.
The opposition Labor party has called for the three-month gun amnesty to be extended, and for life sentences to be handed down on criminals who smuggle firearms into Australia. (VOA)
3 million-strong citizen army of moms are bringing the fight to the National Rifle Association (NRA)
“Everytown For Gun Safety” and “Moms Demand Action” together have some 3.5 million supporters
Everytown has helped push through legislation to block domestic abusers from owning a gun
Devastated by the recent shootings, a new gun control group has emerged. With billionaires on board and an army of 3 million-strong citizen army of moms, they are bringing the fight to the National Rifle Association (NRA)
Much of the ground-swell behind this crusade comes from just regular people pulled into it for their own reasons. After the mass-murder at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn, Shannon Watts could not control her anger as the victims were grade-school children.
Six and seven-year-olds shot dead in their first-grade classrooms. Determined to do something about it, she went online and started searching for a group to join or to donate money to. Unable to find anything, she decided to put up a Facebook page: “One Million Moms For Gun Control. “Starting with just 75 friends on her regular Facebook page, the likes went on from the hundreds to the thousands to the tens of thousands. “Moms Demand Action” became the new name, when it crossed a million likes.
As the group grew, Watts caught the notice of Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former Mayor of New York who was ready to launch “Everytown For Gun Safety” with a pledge of $50 million. What it lacked were foot soldiers. And today the two groups have merged and together have some 3.5 million supporters, said the NPR report.
The National Rifle Association which had been a gun-lobbying superpower for generations has finally met its match.
According to the NPR report, the “Moms Demand Action” group’s members regularly turn out for rallies at statehouses around the country to push for new, Everytown-backed gun-safety legislation. After the latest shooting at Orlando, the fight is getting more intense.
Tina Meins, the daughter of a shooting victim in the San Bernardino, California, shooting last December and other survivors of gun violence joined Democratic senators yesterday on Capital Hill, to push for tougher gun control laws.
The 40 Democratic senators who participated in the filibuster ended up winning a promise that legislation would come up for a vote, following a week of partisan congressional battles over ways to prevent future attacks like Orlando.
She speaks to VOA,“ People don’t understand that the ease of accessibility is really going to contribute to potential attacks. People don’t understand the risk, especially in cases like Orlando and San Bernardino. I don’t think people understand the risk of homegrown terrorist attacks.”
Everytown for Gun Safety trained Tina Meins and more than 800 other gun violence survivors to meet with politicians, speak in public and write op-eds as part of a growing nationwide movement. This new gun control group has been instrumental in several campaigns and talks on gun legislation.
On Wednesday, June 15, the state chapter leader for the group, Jennifer Herrera spoke with local politicians at a vigil in front of City Hall in Alexandria.
“My sorrow over the tragedy in Orlando runs deep,” she says, “but make no mistake, we are making strides every single day.”
Everytown has started producing results. It has helped push through legislation to block domestic abusers from owning a gun. In some contests the group has outspent the NRA and won.
In the past week, her group organized more than 50 vigils, met with scores of lawmakers, made 52,000 volunteer phone calls to members of Congress, and sent in more than 100,000 petition signatures urging congressional action. She believes that a big change is underway.
-prepared by Ajay Krishna, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @ajkrish14