NAMA WINSTON: What gun control and marriage equality have in common.

America and Australia walk into a bar.

Australia: “When are you getting it together about gun control?”

America: “When are you getting it together about marriage equality?”

Bartender: “It’s the same bloody question; are we equal or not? You both know the answer; you already answered it on one of the issues. Now shut up and drink your appletinis.”

The bartender’s right, of course. The major issues that are currently facing both countries are, at their core, about equality. An even playing field. In Australia, it’s the right for couples to get married, regardless of sexuality or gender. In America, it’s for every unarmed person to be given a chance to live freely and not expect to be shot.

Both are a debate about the value of human life, and if some lives matter more than others. Both are a fight for basic human rights. Both affect the lives of thousands, if not millions, of each country’s citizens. Both issues, whilst they remain unresolved, are taking and ruining lives.

We should help each other see the simplicity of the respective issue before us, and how, like a small child who takes itself off to bed when it needs a nap, we already know what to do. But that hasn’t happened, and it’s clouded the conversation.

This week, the Australian media has been full of reactions to the Las Vegas massacre. We’re  proud of the fact that we’ve done it better over here, and rightly so. Appalled at the senseless loss of life, we’ve repeated our cries for America to tighten their gun control, and expressed our dismay at the country’s stubborn attitude to their Constitutional and completely outdated right to bear arms; which, when it was written, didn’t envisage weaponry that could kill 59 people and injure more than 500 from the 32nd floor of a building across the street from thousands of innocent people.

Here in ‘Straya, we’ve got that subject sorted. In 1996, John Howard established very strict firearm laws in response to the Port Arthur massacre, where Martin Bryant went on a shooting spree, killing 35 people. Semiautomatic rifles and pump action shotguns were banned, a gun registry was established, as was a buy-back scheme for illegal weapons.

Most Aussies are happy with that, because we abhor any sort of imbalance of power. Now in 2017, we’re at one of our biggest equality crossroads in decades; do we allow same sex couples to marry, or not?

But rather than applying similar logic, it’s become an ugly, divisive debate, that’s strayed far from the basic question put to us. And ironically, it’s John Howard who’s leading the “No” Campaign, because he can’t see the fundamental similarities between the two issues.

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Our postal survey has even made international headlines, with high profile identities from all over the world, especially from America, urging Australia to settle things for once and all.


Because for Americans, who voted to allow marriage equality on 26th June 2015, it’s a done deed. President Barrack Obama said at the time; “This ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts: when all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free.”

It is blatantly clear after this week’s events in Las Vegas, after an individual was able to stockpile weapons and singlehandedly cause 22 000 people to flee in terror, that the same can, and should, be said for gun control; when all are treated as equal, we are all more free.

But the American gun lobby doesn’t see it like that. The almighty National Rifle Association continues to demand that the desires of a group of individuals take precedence over the majority’s right to a peaceful existence. The NRA has argued that “the right to bear arms” is in the second amendment of the Constitution, and that despite the consequence of extreme, mass violence and loss of life, it is an incontrovertible right.

The second amendment has been infinitely debated, so legalities aside, I’d like to ask the NRA, who are sticking to their guns, a basic question: “How’s that working for you?”

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Perhaps the only hope America has is for enough mass shootings to occur that more and more members of the NRA are directly affected, and motivated enough to open their minds. When their own freedom is at stake, not just the esoteric freedom of strangers, would they possibly come out from behind the second amendment?

The response of guitarist Caleb Keeter, a supporter of the second amendment until he was shot at in Las Vegas, indicates that the answer is yes.

But many more lives will need to be unnecessarily lost for gun fatalities to affect enough members of the NRA for them to want change. Currently, the group is lobbying for easier access to silencers to protect the hearing of gun users. As Hillary Clinton tweeted, “Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer” and people in Las Vegas had not been able to hear shots.

Talk about an unfair advantage – and I don’t mean that lightly.

In Australia, we don’t like unfair advantages, and we need to remember that when we complete our postal surveys. It may be some time before America officially recognises the gun control issue as one about freedom and equality for all, but the choice about marriage equality is right in front of Australia, and we can do something about it now. And we know what needs to be done.

So let’s make Australia truly the land of the free, and the home of the brave.