Vice President Kamala Harris lauded gun control laws in Australia where citizens do not have a legal right to gun ownership and where a mass gun confiscation took place in the 1990s, during a speech Thursday.
Harris said Australian gun laws proved that mass shootings do not have to be a regular occurrence, during her remarks delivered at a State Department luncheon earlier in the day with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Her comments came after a shooting in Lewiston, Maine, on Wednesday left at least 18 dead and more than a dozen injured.
‘As we gather details, we must continue to speak truth about the moment we are in,’ Harris said. ‘In our country today, the leading cause of death of American children is gun violence. Gun violence has terrorized and traumatized so many of our communities in the United States.’
‘And let us be clear, it does not have to be this way — as our friends in Australia have demonstrated,’ she continued to applause.
According to a brief on the Australian Parliament’s official website, there is no legal right to gun ownership in Australia ‘in contrast to the position in the United States.’
In addition, Australian law requires individuals to prove they have a genuine reason for owning a firearm. Self-protection is not considered to be a genuine reason under that statute.
Further, the nation’s laws further mandate that individuals who purchase firearms must have a license and each firearm they own must each be individually registered. Such a requirement, according to the Australian Parliament brief, contrasts with New Zealand and Canada which require firearm purchasers to obtain a license, but allows them to freely purchase firearms after obtaining said license.
Australia’s crackdown on firearm ownership came in 1996 following a spate of widely-publicized mass shootings. The so-called 1996 National Firearms Agreement banned automatic and semi-automatic firearms, introduced firearm registration, established stricter storage requirements for all firearms, and tightly restricted non-military style semi-automatic rifles and shotguns purchases.
The Australian government also initiated a mandatory gun buyback program that resulted in it collecting nearly 700,000 privately-owned firearms.
‘In the end, we won the battle to change gun laws because there was majority support across Australia for banning certain weapons,’ former Australian Prime Minister John Howard wrote in a Newe York Times op-ed in 2013. ‘And today, there is a wide consensus that our 1996 reforms not only reduced the gun-related homicide rate, but also the suicide rate.’
On Wednesday evening, suspect Robert Card opened fire in a Lewiston bowling alley before leaving and opening fire in a nearby restaurant, killing more than a dozen.
Card — a trained firearms instructor and petroleum supply specialist in the Army Reserve who has a history of mental health issues — remains at large as more than 350 law enforcement personnel from federal, state and local agencies continue to search for him.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.