The United States has a very different history and culture than Australia when it comes to guns, the Australian ambassador to the U.S. told CNBC on Monday.
Australia has strict gun laws, enacted after a 1996 mass shooting that killed 35 people. The country has been held up as a model for the U.S. to follow when it comes to tightening gun control laws.
Ambassador Joe Hockey called it a “tough issue” and pointed to the U.S.’ constitutional right to bear arms as outlined in the Second Amendment.
“Your safety is in your hands, appropriately, and we’re not going to give you a lecture from the other side of the world,” he said in an interview with “Power Lunch.”
Australia banned automatic and semi-automatic weapons in response to the ’96 shooting, the worst mass murder in the country. It also has a restrictive system of licensing and ownership controls, including mental health checks and a delay between the time of purchase and receiving a weapon.
There have been no mass shootings since.
The Feb. 14 massacre of 17 people at a Florida high school has renewed the gun control debate in the U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants to improve existing background checks and advocates arming some teachers.
Hockey’s comments echoed those of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. In a joint news conference with Trump on Friday, Turnbull said he was “very satisfied” with Australia’s laws.
“We certainly don’t presume to provide policy or political advice on that matter here,” he said. “You have a very, very different history.”
However, in a recent op-ed in The New York Times, Australian writer A. Odysseus Patrick expanded on the argument that Australian-style laws won’t work in the U.S.
He said the difference stems from the fact that Australia never had a revolution or fought foreign troops on its soil. Over time, Australians came to view firearms with suspicion, he said.
“This ingrown cultural hostility toward firearms explains why there was no fear and only isolated anger at the government, even among owners, when it took away people’s guns in 1996,” he wrote. However, in the U.S. “such widespread appropriation of private property and limits on personal liberties would most likely be met with fierce, even physical, resistance.”