West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, in my eyes, is a Democrat in name only. So it’s sad when a conservative like Manchin makes a statement that sums up the way the nation feels right now about the Newtown tragedy. It’s powerful:
Politico: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — who has an “A” rating from the NRA and is a lifetime member of the pro-gun rights group — said Monday that it was time to “move beyond rhetoric” on gun control.What can be done, what works? Here's something from Slate about the Australia solution:
“I think opening up and seeing a massacre like this, of innocent children, it’s changed things,” Manchin said. “It’s changed America.”
“Never before have we seen our babies slaughtered,” he added. “It’s never happened in America that I can recall, ever seeing this type of carnage. Anybody, anybody that lives in America, anybody that’s a proud gun owner, anyone that’s a proud member of the NRA, they’re also proud parents, they’re proud grandparents. They understand this has changed where we go from here.”
On April 28, 1996, a gunman opened fire on tourists in a seaside resort in Port Arthur, Tasmania. By the time he was finished, he had killed 35 people and wounded 23 more. It was the worst mass murder in Australia’s history. Twelve days later, Australia’s government did something remarkable; it announced a bipartisan deal with state and local governments to enact sweeping gun-control measures. A decade and a half hence, the results of these policy changes are clear: They worked really, really well.
At the heart of the push was a massive buyback of more than 600,000 semi-automatic shotguns and rifles, or about one-fifth of all firearms in circulation in Australia. The country’s new gun laws prohibited private sales, required that all weapons be individually registered to their owners, and required that gun buyers present a “genuine reason” for needing each weapon at the time of the purchase. (Self-defense did not count.) In the wake of the tragedy, polls showed public support for these measures at upwards of 90 percent.
What happened next has been the subject of several academic studies. Violent crime and gun-related deaths did not come to an end in Australia, of course. But as the Washington Post’s Wonkblog pointed out in August, homicides by firearm plunged 59 percent between 1995 and 2006, with no corresponding increase in non-firearm-related homicides. The drop in suicides by gun was even steeper: 65 percent. Studies found a close correlation between the sharp declines and the gun buybacks. Robberies involving a firearm also dropped significantly. Meanwhile, home invasions did not increase, contrary to fears that firearm ownership is needed to deter such crimes. But here’s the most stunning statistic. In the decade before the Port Arthur massacre, there had been 11 mass shootings in the country. There hasn’t been a single one in Australia since.