US gun violence: Kiwis urged to think twice about visiting the States

New Zealanders are being warned to take care when visiting the US, particularly the Midwest, due to the risk of being shot.

Excluding suicides, around 12,000 Americans are killed in gun violence every year. Efforts to toughen laws have been stymied by pro-gun politicians and the powerful National Rifle Association lobby group.

Tim Fischer was Australian Deputy Prime Minister when the Port Arthur massacre happened in 1996. Under Prime Minister John Howard's leadership, the Australian government introduced tough gun control measures.

"Since 1996, since Port Arthur, since the gun laws were changed here in Australia - we have not had one mass shooting in Australia, and I'm very grateful for that," Mr Fischer told The Nation on Saturday.

He says the United States' inability to pass gun control legislation is "creating additional mass shootings", and if the NRA doesn't come to its senses soon, gun owners in the US face having their weapons prised from their hands - warm, cold or dead. 

"If they don't give some ground, if they don't allow full gun background checks for people on the no-fly list as a very minimum and a restoration of gun magazine limitations, then they may end up losing the lot - so great will be the boilover if there's another Orlando, another Vegas between now and Easter next year."

Until such legislation is passed, Mr Fischer says Kiwis should think twice about visiting the US.

"I think Australians, Kiwis should still proceed to the USA if they have to but think carefully about it - more particularly, plan carefully where they go in the USA. New York is actually slightly safer nowadays, thanks to some of the great work of then-mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"But Midwestern states, per capita, far worse. And to put it in brutal terms, you are 15 times more likely to be shot dead in the USA than here in Australia per million people."

New Zealand doesn't charge tariffs on ammunition or guns imported from the US. Mr Fischer says he and then-New Zealand Trade Minister Lockwood Smith are partly responsible for this - something Mr Fischer regrets.

"I should've done more work on the small print. I wasn't really fully realising I was letting in with zero tariff ammunition from the gun manufacturers in the USA, who then turn round and give massive donations to the NRA, who then make donations to campaigns here in Australia against gun-law reform."

He says introducing tariffs would not only send a message to the US about its gun problems, but also possibly prevent a Las Vegas-style massacre happening in Australasia.


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