Americans love their guns, and the rest of the world loves to think Americans are stupid for that. Australians are amongst the first of all nationalities to lecture Americans on the stupidity of their gun control laws, contrasting them with our own experience of gun ownership reform. As recently as yesterday the SMH ran an editorial on this topic.
In Australia, our murder rate is 1.0 per 100,000 inhabitants, with a firearm related death rate (which includes suicides) of 1.06. In comparison, the US the murder rate is almost five times higher at 4.8, while the firearm related death rate was a whopping 10.3 in 2011.
All this corresponds to the US having by far the largest gun ownership rate in the world. In 2007 it was estimated that there were 94.3 guns for every US citizen, while in Australia the rate was 15.0 guns for every Australian. This alone is compelling evidence that lowering the gun ownership rate in the US would cut down gun crime.
How could they be so stupid? Surely if you have something like the world’s biggest gun ownership then a range of social problems are bound to follow.
Australians would never be so stupid as to allow a social vice to be prevalent to such an extent as to be far ahead of the rest of the world right? Well actually, that’s wrong. Like gun ownership in the US, Australians gamble like no one else.
The Economist estimated that in 2010 the average gambling spend per adult Australian was US$1,209. Singapore is not far behind Australia, but after them Ireland is the next country on the list, which Australia has more than twice the level of, and about four times the rate of the US.
Now while gambling is arguably no way near gun crime in terms of a social problem, there are parallels between the gun debate and gambling in Australia. Much like the gun reforms which America tried to push through congress failing recently, the failure of pre-commitment measures for pokies reform feel short of the starting line.
Australia has a gun control reform history that it is right to be proud of. However, when it comes to the gambling industry Australia sits alone among international peers, much the same way the US does for gun ownership.
This is not to argue that gambling is anywhere near the social problem in Australia as guns are to the US, but more to highlight the fact that many people from the rest of the world may picture Australians sitting alone, atop a pile of pokies machines, the way they see American sitting alone atop a pile of guns.