Not wishing to let a tragedy go to waste, President Barack Obama on Tuesday reacted to recent highly publicized shootings in California, Nevada and Oregon by telling an Internet audience the United States should emulate Australia’s infamous “assault weapons” ban.
Responding to a gun control question from a student at the University of California at Santa Barbara — the same school attended by former student Elliott Rodger before he gunned down six people and then killed himself last month — Obama told a Tumblr blog audience that a lack of Congressional action on gun control has been one of the biggest disappointments of his Administration.
“I’ve got two and a half years left,” began Obama. “My biggest frustration so far is the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of… of people who… can, can do just unbelievable damage.
“We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens. It happens now once a week. And it’s a one-day story. There’s no place else like this.”
Then Obama brought up Australia, which instituted gun restrictions, a national registry and gun buy-back program following a 1996 massacre in Tasmania that claimed the lives of 35 people.
“Couple of decades ago, Australia had a mass shooting, similar to Columbine or Newtown. And Australia just said, ‘well, that’s it; we’re not doing — we’re not seeing that again,’ and basically imposed very severe, tough gun laws, and they haven’t had a mass shooting since,” said Obama. “I mean, our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There’s no advanced, developed country on Earth that would put up with this.
“Now, we have a different tradition — we have a 2nd Amendment. We have historically respected gun rights. I respect gun rights.”
Obama then went on to outline some of the Democratic Party’s gun control ideas that Congress has so far declined to pass.
It’s worth revisiting the President’s claim that “our levels of gun violence are off the charts.” They do have charts for these sorts of things, and the charts don’t reflect Obama’s claim.
Here’s one from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports for 2007-2011 that tracks the overall U.S. rate of violent crime:
And here’s another from the Pew Research Center that shows a general overall trend of decline in the rate of homicide deaths involving firearms since 1981: