“What is happening in the United States?” asked Susie O’Brien in the Herald Sun (Australia). Melbourne baseball player and college student Chris Lane, 22, was shot to death in Duncan, Okla., last week “just because three bored teenagers were looking for kicks.” The drive-by shooting may have been a gang initiation or just something to do on a summer day, but either way, it couldn’t have happened if the teenagers didn’t have easy access to weapons. Former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, who was instrumental in tightening our own gun laws in the late 1990s, is now calling on Australians to avoid the U.S. until it does the same.
Boycotting America “may sound like a crazy idea,” said Jack Tame in The New Zealand Herald. “But, on the subject of guns, I can think of crazier things”—like sending your child to school on a typical day and claiming him in the morgue that night. There was potential for another school tragedy just last week, when a man walked into an Atlanta elementary school with an AK-47 but was talked out of massacring the kids by a brave secretary. Despite the man’s history of mental illness, he “had no dramas getting hold of an AK.” Should any of us want to visit such a place?
A boycott won’t do any good, said Helen Pitt in The Sydney Morning Herald. Americans have “two blind spots: guns and the death penalty.” Already this year, “more people have died from guns domestically than in combat abroad,” but they don’t see that as horrifying. If America can’t be jolted into sense by the Newtown, Conn., massacre of 26 first-graders and teachers, what could the loss of a few Australian tourism dollars possibly teach them? There’s not much Australians can do beyond “appeal to the better nature of the people of Duncan.”
America’s compassionate side is certainly on display in Duncan, said Nick O’Malley in The Age. Within moments of the shooting, “a trio of Samaritans” had called 911 and was trying to revive Lane. The community seems genuinely horrified by the shooting and has rallied in memory of the slain Australian. Locals have held prayer meetings and organized a memorial run, and the main street is “decked in red, white, and blue ribbons to match the colors of the Australian and American flags.”
But that wasn’t their only response, said the Sunday Herald Sun in an editorial. In a sign of America’s “firearms obsession,” some Duncan residents bought handguns after the shooting. Compare that to our own “swift and decisive” reaction to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, when an armed maniac killed 35 people. Then–Prime Minister John Howard bravely faced down the gun lobby and pushed through a ban on semi-automatic rifles and tough restrictions on other guns, and we’ve had zero gun massacres since. Newtown, in contrast, prompted President Obama to offer a few tepid proposals that went nowhere. “Australians can count our blessings we live in a different society.”