Since the beginning of 2017, at least 199 people have died in mass shooting in the United States. A mass killing is generally defined as four or more people killed in a single incident. The mass shooting in Las Vegas has sparked a national conversation about gun control, as most mass shootings do.
There are also reports of Australia’s government offering to share its two decades of experience with gun law reform with the U.S. since it has helped lower gun violence deaths there. Upon hearing this, KREM 2 looked in to how U.S. gun laws compare to other developed countries across the world.
Currently, there are two dozen high income countries that have all sorts of gun laws. Most of the countries used in this comparison implemented stricter gun laws after a mass shooting happened. Before we talk about other countries and their policies, here is a look at the current gun laws in the U.S.
In 2008, the United States Supreme Court confirmed an individual’s right to bear arms. Federal law sets the minimum standards for firearm regulation in the U.S., but individual states have their own laws. Federal law also has restrictions on the sale of guns, such as age and background check requirements.
So how does this compare to other countries?
Canada has gun laws like the U.S. with its age and background check restrictions, but it also requires individuals to take a public safety course as well.
Japan is regularly cited by gun control advocates for their highly restrictive firearms regulations. Under their “Firearm and Sword law,” only a few guns are allowed, such as shotguns and air guns. But in order to access these weapons, individuals are required to take formal instruction and pass multiple tests along with a rigorous background check. Owners of these weapons are also required to notify authorities of how the weapon and ammo will be stored and bring in their weapon for annual inspection.
The 1996 Dunblane Massacre in Scotland prompted Britain’s strictest gun laws yet. The “Firearms Amendment act” banned certain weapons and increased registration requirements. The UK banned handguns above a .22 caliber and restricted smaller caliber weapons to gun clubs.
As for Australia, it too tightened its gun laws after the 1996 mass shooting in Port Arthur. Australia banned automatic and semi-automatic firearms, adopted new licensing requirements, established a national firearms registry and instituted a 28 day wait period on gun purchases. It took only months for the country to implement these restrictions.
KREM 2 reached out to Dr. David Hemenway, the Director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. We asked Hemenway why it is difficult for the U.S. to establish gun laws like Australia or Japan. He said it is primarily because of politics.
“If we had the political will power we could do it, but we don’t so this hasn’t happened yet,” Hemenway said.
Hemenway added that stricter gun laws would be difficult to implement in the U.S. because we have a higher population and more guns per capita compared to other countries.