Since Saturday’s March for Our Lives Protest, everyone from Pope Francis to LeBron James have been showing their support for (or against) stricter gun-control legislation.
However it was Ben Simmons, a 21 year old Aussie NBA sensation from Melbourne, whose stance best illustrates why Americans and Australians often struggle to understand each other.
After warming up and sitting on the bench in a March for Our Lives shirt, Simmons was asked by reporters what the issue meant to him.
“For me growing up in Australia, I think there was a gun ban way back in the day where they bought back all the guns, and there hasn’t been a major shootings or anything like that—no one carries around guns. To me I think that’s very important. Just where I come from, you want kids to feel safe going to school and the parents [too]”
As a dual citizen, Simmons has spent a lot of time in both countries. In fact, as reported by the Daily Telegraph, he attended high school in Monteverde, Florida, the same state in which the recent Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting—the one that kicked off the latest round of protests took place.
This, contrasted with his upbringing in the more laid back Aussie culture (the only thing you have to worry about in Melbourne is getting stuck in conversation with a coffee or quality-of-life-relative-to-Sydney snob), means that Simmons is part of a select group of expats who actually know what it’s like to live in both places.
After the Port Arthur Massacre of 1996, gun control was seen as an obvious solution to gun-violence by the majority of Australians, on all sides of the political spectrum (the policy was actually implemented by a conservative government).
However, in America many on the political-right, such as Paul Allen, a retired construction worker, see this movement and its advocates as, “Ignorant sheep who are being spoon fed by liberal teachers”, as he told The New York Times.
Our school has been through unspeakable tragedy. It is improper to now use this horrific event as an excuse to push gun control legislation that punishes law abiding gun owners. Instead, hold the cowards of Broward accountable, investigate the FBI, and enforce laws on the books
— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) March 26, 2018
Although it is less prevalent, this attitude not limited to older generations. Kyle Kashuv, student and survivor of the Parkland, Florida mass-shooting, also believes that the solution is not stricter regulation, but to better enforce existing laws.
Whilst it would be easy for an Aussie to dismiss this as a lack of imagination, and say that someone who grew up in an environment full of guns is bound to be cynical about the governments ability to successfully remove them, Kyle has a point: America in 2018 has a very different culture to that of Australia in the 1990’s.
So is America too far gone to change it’s legislation? Whilst there is substantial evidence that shows what is really needed is pressure to be put on law-makers, the way responses like that of Ben Simmons have been portrayed in the media as the only morally legitimate position, and the way in which the other side of the debate has been demonised, betrays an overconfidence in what is an educated guess, say many politically neutral Americans.
The difference with Aussies is we’re more likely to call a spade a spade. What Americans call demonisation we call legitimate criticism of a flawed viewpoint. Oh, and none of us harbour a deeply held belief that we could form a militia with our neighbours that would be able to hold off our national army if it ever went corrupt.