In the wake of the massacre in Orlando, which killed 49 people, Americans are feeling frustrated about the prevalence of gun violence in the United States and are wondering what must be done to stop it. This has renewed the debate about whether stricter gun control laws could prevent mass shootings.
Perhaps there's something to be learned from countries such as Australia, Britain and Germany. After enacting stricter gun control legislation, those countries have seen a decrease in mass shootings.
In Germany, after two mass shootings in 2002 and 2009 killed a total of 31 people, politicians and lawmakers began tightening the country's already strict gun control laws. By making it more difficult for people to buy and own firearms, the total number of gun deaths decreased from 1,061 in 2002 to 819 in 2012, and gun homicides dropped from 106 in 2002 to 61 in 2012, according to data from GunPolicy.org. And what's surprising is that there was little public outcry about reducing access to guns. In fact, after the laws were changed, 200,000 guns were voluntarily turned over to authorities, Parliament leader Stephan Mayer told the Los Angeles Times.
After a man fatally shot 35 people in 1996, Australia enacted what some reports say was "one of the largest gun reforms in recent history." The legislation was called the National Firearms Agreement (NFA), and it banned various forms of semiautomatic guns, rifles and shotguns. Studies proved that the law was effective in reducing firearm deaths. As The Washington Post's Dylan Matthews pointed out, the firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent, and the firearm suicide rate fell by 65 percent, according to a study by Andrew Leigh of Australian National University and Christine Neil of Wilfried Laurier University.
Like Germany and Australia, Britain enacted some of its strictest gun control legislation after public outcry over mass shootings. After a shooting in 1987 killed 15 people in Hungerford, Berkshire, Parliament passed the Firearms Amendment Act. And following a school shooting in 1996 that killed 16 children in Dunblane, Scotland, more gun control measures were passed that made it difficult to own a weapon. According to reports, although it didn't stop gun violence entirely, it did limit it. And after Thursday's news that a gunman shot and stabbed a member of Britain's Parliament, who died shortly after the attack, debates about gun control are likely to be prompted again.
What sets the United States apart from other countries, however, is its gun culture. Studies have shown that gun sales in America almost always surge after mass shootings. Experts say that the United States could learn from policies other countries have enacted, suggesting that banning certain types of guns and expanding background checks could make a difference.