Photo: Remains of the penal colony in Port Arthur, Tasmania – site of the first and last mass shooting in Australia.
Ben James was one of the few adults who spoke at Saturday’s March for our Lives in Haddon Heights. Raised in England, he grew up in a country where people did not cling to their guns. The agony in his voice when he talks about dropping his sons off at school is something that is repeated millions of time a day across this gun-crazed nation.
He mentions the massacre in Australia in 1996. In Port Arthur, Tasmania, a gunman killed 35 people. But unlike here, the conservative Prime Minister, John Howard, took immediate action and implemented a massive buyback program along with strict, common-sense gun ownership rules. (And Howard was re-elected two years later). Australia has not had a mass shooting incident since.
Two years after the incident, I was living and working in Australia and visited Port Arthur. It had been a penal colony, mostly for the troublemaking British political rabble-rousers. As I spoke with some of the people there, the memories were still raw. But here, unless you are part of one of the affected families, life goes on until the next mass shooting.
It will take a generation to eradicate the religious zeal that the NRA and its acolytes have on guns. And the kids who spoke at the rallies around the world will lead the way.