opinion

Two men. Six minutes. The desire to do harm: Australia’s gun laws make all the difference.

On Tuesday, a man in Sydney’s CBD terrorised the streets with a 30 centimetre kitchen knife.

A 24-year-woman, Michaela Dunn, was found dead in an apartment block just after 3pm. Another woman, 41, sustained a stab wound and was rushed to hospital. Her injuries are reported to be “not life threatening”.

There was one casualty as a result of the alleged depraved and abhorrent actions of a man in Wynyard. That is one too many.

Would the outcome have been different, however, if this man was standing in the middle of Dayton, Ohio, and not Sydney, NSW?

In the footage that was released by Seven News, the 20-year-old can be seen standing on a car, shouting at passersby, wielding a kitchen knife. It’s difficult not to wonder: What if that wasn’t a knife in his right hand, but an AK-47?

In the six minutes the man ran through the streets of Wynyard, he could have fired 3,600 bullets. All with the squeeze of an index finger.

There might have been dozens, even hundreds of casualties.

Earlier this month, a 24-year-old man – for reasons we can never fully understand – decided to go on a killing spree on a street lined with bars and restaurants in Ohio, in the United States, just after 1am on a Sunday morning.

In 31 seconds he murdered nine people and injured 17 others. Police shot him dead – their only option when the assailant was carrying a high-powered gun.

Just hours before, a 21-year-old man entered a Walmart in El Paso Texas. In six minutes, almost the exact amount of time the Sydney stabbing lasted, 22 people were killed and 24 severely injured.

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The youngest was 15 years old.

In 13 hours, the United States lost more innocent people to mass shootings than Australia has in years.

And the bullets that killed them, as well as the rifle that shot them, were legal for purchase.

In fact, the Walmart where the attack took place, stocks the weapons that killed their costumers.

A man in Sydney this week did not have that option.

If it had been available – why wouldn’t he walk into a shop and purchase a weapon that could do more damage in less time?

Carrying a firearm is illegal in Australia thanks to the decisive work of then Prime Minister John Howard in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre.

We know nothing about the gunman’s motive. Only that on the 28th of April, 1996, Martin Bryant went on a shooting spree in Port Arthur, Tasmania, and murdered 35 people.

Since the National Firearms Agreement 23 years ago, Australia has not had a mass shooting anywhere near the scale of Port Arthur.

This year, Australia has had one mass shooting, which was carried out by a prohibited firearm in Darwin in June.

The United States has had well over 250.

That doesn’t mean Australia is perfect. We’re not. Every country on the planet has people who choose to do horrendous things.

But not every country provides them with the weapons to carry it out.

The fact that this man in Sydney was holding a knife and not a firearm meant he could be pursued by ordinary people. It meant he could be restrained with a chair and a milk crate. It meant he didn’t need to be shot.

A woman lost her life this week, and none of this will likely provide any comfort to her family and friends. It was an act of violence that never should have happened.

In light of what has unfolded in the United States this month, we can be thankful that that man did not have ready access to a firearm.

If he did, we might be telling a very different story.

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