Twenty-two years ago, I lived in Houston, Texas. There, I witnessed how deeply ingrained gun culture is - how normalised, or even expected - it is to own a gun in America.
It's not something I’ll ever forget.
When it comes to guns in America, not much has changed since I lived there. In fact, data shows gun-related deaths and mass shootings have increased significantly over the past two decades.
In 2020, firearms became the leading cause of death for children in America. I know, so shocking and hard to believe you might just need to read that twice.
Watch Mamamia's news editor, Gemma Bath speak about America's pro-life pro-gun contradiction. Post continues below.
The tragic deaths of 19 children and two adults this week from a mass shooting at an elementary school in Ulvade, Texas, brings gun law reform back into the spotlight. Again. But the resistance to change still appears insurmountable. Even when innocent children are killed and will continue to be.
Sitting here in Australia, the solution seems simple.
Many people suggest: limit access to guns to reduce mass shootings and gun-related deaths, like then-Prime Minister John Howard did after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996.
It worked here, but Australia doesn’t - and even in 1996, didn't - have the pervasive gun culture that America does. This means it is harder to get political consensus to implement reform.
Back in 2000, I volunteered at a grief counselling agency in Houston.
I’d been doing similar work in Melbourne; peer support and community education in grief and loss. What stood out to me doing this work in the US, in contrast to my work in Melbourne, was the prevalence of clients seeking support following gun-related deaths.
The clients I worked with in Melbourne were grieving because their loved ones had died of cancer, heart attack, suicide, car accident - but rarely because of a shooting.
In fact, in the two years I worked with the agency in Melbourne, I didn’t meet one bereaved as the result of a shooting. That’s not to say my colleagues didn’t, but death by shooting wasn’t a common cause here like it was in Houston.
The woman I co-facilitated the Houston peer support group with, had only recently returned to the role as she herself had been a victim of gun-related violence. One night, driving her car through Houston, she stopped at a traffic light.
A man opened her car door and held a gun to her head. He pulled her out of the car and drove off. It took her months to recover from the trauma of the incident.