“Gun violence has terrorized and traumatized so many of our communities in this country,” Harris said Thursday afternoon at the event with Australian leader Anthony Albanese. “And let us be clear, it does not have to be this way, as our friends in Australia have demonstrated.”
The vice president was referring to a series of gun-buyback programs in the commonwealth of Australia. The regulations followed a 1996 firearms massacre in Tasmania in which 35 people died and began with the National Firearms Agreement of 1996, which declared semiautomatic weapons illegal and prompted the surrender of close to 650,000 firearms.
Since then, the Pacific Rim nation has tightly restricted gun ownership and continued to buy back legally owned guns and confiscate illegally owned firearms. But the measures have not been very effective at reducing the number of legally held firearms in the nation.
While the past 27 years of gun restrictions in Australia have decreased the number of gun-owning households by half, as of 2016, the number of firearms per licensed owner had increased from 2.1 to 3.9.
In 2017, there were an estimated 3.6 million firearms in Australia, compared with 3.2 million in 1996, the year of the mass killings in Tasmania, the Sydney Morning Herald reported in 2019. The newspaper noted that in 1997, after then-Prime Minister John Howard’s initial buyback of guns, there were an estimated 2.5 million firearms in the country.
Australia has established that bearing arms is a privilege and not a right. Today, Australian gun laws do not even include self-defense as a “justifiable reason” for owning a firearm.
“It is a false choice to suggest we must choose between either upholding the Second Amendment or passing reasonable gun-safety laws to save lives,” Harris said in a written statement about the Maine shootings. “Congress can and must make background checks universal. Pass red flag laws. Ban high-capacity magazines. And renew the assault weapons ban.”
The Biden administration has been working to advance Second Amendment restrictions in the United States, establishing in September the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which Harris oversees. The office will push to “enact universal background checks and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” the vice president said in a statement about the initiative.
The suspect in the Lewiston, Maine, mass shooting that also left 13 injured is Robert Card of Bowdoin, Maine, who remains at large at the time of publication. Card, 40, a U.S. Army reservist, has been described as mentally ill, including by relatives. Investigators think he used a legally obtained .308 rifle in the shooting, The Washington Post reported.
Harris did not mention the suspect’s purported mental illness in her speech or the fact that legal guns save lives.
Each year in the United States, Americans rely on their Second Amendment rights for self-defense between 500,000 and 3 million times, a statistic the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has acknowledged. The Daily Signal publishes monthly roundups of self-defense cases, in which legally owned firearms have been discharged to save the lives and/or property of innocent Americans.
“Doug [Emhoff] and I mourn for those who were killed,” Harris said, referring to her husband. “We pray for those who were injured, and grieve with so many whose lives are forever changed and impacted by what happened. The Biden-Harris administration will continue to provide full support to local authorities, and as we gather details, we must continue to speak truth about the moment we are in.”
“In our country today, the leading cause of death of American children is gun violence,” Harris added, citing data from the CDC. Gun violence was responsible for the deaths of 2,590 children and teens in 2021, according to a report in April by the Pew Research Center on its analysis of the CDC data.
But the CDC does not include abortion in that calculation. Abortion kills an estimated 2,363 American preborn children every day, or more than 860,000 annually, according to figures compiled by the pro-life group Live Action.
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