The senselessness of the shootings in Aurora, Colorado scared us all. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere, right?
In the scheme of things, mass killings are very rare and very unpredictable. So how can we possibly stop them?
Last week, Ron LaPedis’s blog on Tips To Prevent An Active Shooter Situation, published two days before the Aurora shootings, received a big response from readers, with much of the conversation relating to security in an office setting. Some of the useful pieces of advice from readers and LaPedis relate to the fact that employers should try to help their employees achieve a balance in their work and personal lives so they don’t reach a point of desperation and “snap.” I highly recommend you read the comments here and here.
Emotions were running high across my news feeds and social media on Friday, with some seeking revenge (death penalty), others trying to console the victims' families with their well wishes, and a few looking for an answer to the question of “How can we stop this from happening again and again?”
In an interview Friday morning, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested our two presidential candidates offer solutions to the problem of gun violence. The host flatly replied with, “The reality is you know that will not happen.”
And the host is right: President Obama and Mitt Romney would likely be committing political suicide by even initiating a debate on the topic of gun control.
In the absence of such a debate, I’d like to share my experiences living in Australia during and after the Port Arthur massacre.
In 1996, a lone gunman used a semi-automatic rifle and shotgun to kill 35 people, mostly tourists, at the historic Port Arthur prison in the state of Tasmania, Australia. The details of the shootings are horrific, with several children shot at point-blank range.
As a nation, this extreme act of violence really shook us up and the response from the government was unprecendented. Led by then-Prime Minister John Howard from the right-leaning “Liberal” party, the federal government forced the states to adopt tight controls on rifles and shotguns, and initiated a gun buyback scheme to remove as many guns as possible from circulation; these guns were later destroyed.
More significant than the gun control legislation and buyback for me was the monumental shift in the public’s attitude on guns.
In 1996 I was a Cadet Under Officer (platoon leader) in my school’s Cadet Unit. During my previous three years with the unit we fired rifles during our annual camp and carried unloaded rifles with the firing pin removed during our end-of-year parade. After the Port Arthur massacre the unit’s senior officer informed the student officers that we would not be undertaking any activities that involve shooting and would not carry any rifles during the end-of-year parade. In his words, “Our society no longer condones the use of guns.”
The effect of the gun control laws and buyback in 1996 is a highly contentious topic, with experts and scientists offering varied interpretations of research data. However, one very compelling statistic has emerged: In the 18 years prior to 1997 there were 13 mass shootings in Australia; in the 16 years since there have been none.
Over the weekend I engaged a colleague on the topic of gun control. He is an NRA card holder and skilled hunter. Once we worked our way through self defense and the Second Amendment it became clear that his passion for hunting is the main driver for his views, followed by the notion that legal gun owners are not the problem. This conversation gave me a much better understanding of the highly ethical sport of hunting (putting the flesh to good use, safety and training, respect for the environment, etc.) and the regulations already in place, and I think it made him better aware of the drivers for anti-gun sentiment.
The fact is we had the conversation and we found some common ground. I’m disgusted by the fact that our federal leaders cannot do the same.
Among the comments on our blog and LinkedIn group is a general feeling that the Aurora shooter was an “outlier,” against which we have little control. Until we exhaust all possible options, I reject the notion that there is simply nothing we can do to stop these atrocities.