Joe Biden says mass shootings rarely happen outside the United States. What have other countries done that America has not done?


After the life of 19 children and two teachers were snatched by an armed teenager from a Texas elementary school, US President Joe Biden said shootings like this “rarely happens elsewhere in the world“.

He’s right – other countries have mass shootings, but nowhere near as frequent as in the United States. This has been the case for some time.

“They have mental health issues (and) domestic conflicts in other countries, they have people who are lost, but these kinds of mass shootings never happen with the frequency that they happen in America” , Mr. Biden said in his first speech after the Robb Elementary shooting.

Here is what some of these countries have done in response to some of the largest mass shootings outside the United States over the past three decades.

New Zealand immediately banned semi-automatic weapons

A total of 51 people died after an Australian gunman opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch in March 2019.

The New Zealand parliament then:

  • Introduced a bill less than two weeks after the attacks to ban semi-automatic weapons (and the parts that could be used to build them) and remove them from circulation
  • Did the bill in less than fifteen days to introduce it
  • ‘Guns Bill’ presented six months later for tougher gun laws ownership, Licence and storage

No mass shootings have been reported in New Zealand since.

Jacinda Ardern said the Christchurch massacre was New Zealand’s “darkest days”.(ABC News)

Norway enacted a similar ban (but not as quickly)

In 2011, a right-wing extremist shot and killed 69 people at a Labor Party youth camp on Uteoya Island after killing eight people with a car bomb in central Oslo.

Seven years later, in 2018, the government announced that it ban semi-automatic weapons after securing the support of a majority of parliamentarians.

At the time, Peter Froelich, deputy head of Parliament’s justice committee, said the ban would force anyone with semi-automatic weapons to abandon themas well as prohibit future sales.

Norway has been ranked among the safest countries in the world when comparing rates of gun violence, despite gun ownership rates comparable to the United States.

It only took a few days for Australia to implement a plan

It is 26 years this year that 35 people were killed during the Port Arthur massacre in April 1996.

In one of the most unified approaches in the country by state and federal governments, it was decided that:

  • Semi-automatic weapons would be banned in the vast majority of cases
  • Arms sales were to be registered in a national database and could only be sold through authorized dealers
  • Firearms licenses could only be issued to persons over 18all new applicants were required to complete safety training, and permits had a 28-day waiting period (which has since been relaxed in some states)
  • Perpetrators of domestic violence would be banned from holding a firearms license for at least five years
  • “Self-defense” was is no longer a valid autonomous reason buy a gun
  • Anyone who possessed prohibited weapons after the laws changed had 12 months to return them for compensationand licensed owners had to adhere to strict storage requirements
Memorial at Port Arthur Historic Site.
Australian states and territories collectively established a national firearms agreement in just 12 days after Port Arthur.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Was this accepted as the best way forward at the time? Not by everyone.

The legislation has been fiercely opposed by gun rights advocates in Australia and there are still calls from some groups to relax the rules.

Was 1996 the last time someone died in a mass shooting in Australia? Also no.

Some of the largest mass shootings reported in Australia from Port Arthur include:

  • that of Melbourne Love Machine Nightclub shooting, where two people died in 2019
  • A shooting in Darwin in 2019 where four people were killed with a prohibited weapon
  • The Lindt Cafe Headquarters in 2014 where two people were shot dead

For comparison, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 45,222 total gun deaths in 2020 alone – more than 19,000 of them were classified as homicides.

The British government ordered an investigation (and accepted its recommendations)

A few weeks before Port Arthur, a man shot dead 16 children and a teacher at a primary school in Dunblane, a small town north of Glasgow.

Hundreds of thousands of people have signed petitions calling for tougher gun laws after the tragedy, with families of victims leading the campaign for change.

A young man holds an adult's hand as he visits a memorial
The victims of the Dunblane massacre in 1996 were the same age as those killed in Uvalde last week.(AP: The San Antonio Express-News)

In response to this lobbying and an independent inquiry into the Dunblane Massacre, the British government made sweeping changes to gun laws, including prohibit private possession of handguns in the majority of cases.

The following year, further changes were made to gun laws, further limiting the types of guns classified as legal for private ownership.

According to UK parliamentary data, 30 people died from gun homicide in England and Wales in the year from April 2019 to March 2020.

Canada has just introduced a law to limit the sale of handguns

The Canadian government this week introduced a bill that will put a freeze on the importation, purchase or sale of handguns, which is expected to be enacted Later this year.

“In Canada, owning a firearm is a privilege, not a right,” said Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair.

“It’s a principle that differentiates us from many other countries in the world, especially our colleagues and friends from the south.”

The country has already planned to ban 1,500 types of military-style weapons and offer a compulsory buy-back program that will begin at the end of the year. It also tightened background checks.

A man kneels next to a yellow police tape holding a bouquet of flowers with his head bowed
The US president said most Americans support “common sense” gun laws to reduce mass shootings.(PA: Jae C. Hong)

So where is the Uvalde investigation so far?

Authorities continue to investigate the shooting and what led up to it, including the police response, which has been widely criticized.

As far as firearms laws are concerned, there remains more thoughts and prayers what to reform and change.

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphywhose impassioned speech immediately after the Robb Elementary shooting was seen around the world, said the United States recorded 18 mass shootings in the days that followed this incident.

The backlog in the US Senate means Democrats would need the support of at least 10 Republicans to make progress on gun control measures.

But the prospect of an agreement has already been dismissed by several Republican leaders.

Pallbearers carry a coffin with flowers in the foreground
The funeral of 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza was among the first victims of the Uvalde shooting.(PA: Jae C Hong)

“You see Democrats, and a lot of people in the media, whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens“said Republican Senator Ted Cruz.

“It doesn’t prevent crime.”

Bigger reform, like reintroducing an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, would need congressional support — that would be tantamount to overcoming the influence of National Rifle Associationwhich remains prominent despite declaring bankruptcy last year.

The grieving relatives of the victims chanted “do something” when President Biden visited memorials at Robb Elementary School this week.


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