Canadian writer Stephanie Smith wrote on SciLogs this week:
For me, there are three extremely good reasons never to go to Australia – huge furry-bodied poisonous spiders, venomous lightning fast snakes and sharks with great mouthfuls of serrated teeth. After reading a recent article, I am now happy to add a fourth to the list: the Australian box jellyfish.
Of course I live in Australia. There are plenty of poisonous red-back spiders living in nooks and crannies around the exterior of my house, and holidaying in rural South Australia we encounter the odd brown snake and even shark from afar (this huge Great White shown above was photographed by my husband whilst fishing off Eyre Peninsula). Box jellies live in the Northern waters, so don’t form a regular concern for me down here on the Antarctic side of the country.
It does amuse – and even bemuse – me somewhat that dangerous animals could be perceived such a threat that a person would stay away from a country. And yet every year millions travel to the United States where guns are legal and accessible to just about everyone.
I know Stephanie’s ‘dangerous animal’ angle was probably only used to create a good story, but let’s give the poor animals a break, and focus on the real bad guys – people who promote guns as an ordinary part of life.
Gary Stix at Scientific American wrote this piece in the wake of the recent Newtown massacre, citing the Australian example of reformed gun laws following a mass shooting at Port Arthur, Tasmania in 1996. Prime Minister at the time John Howard responded swiftly to the terrible event, introducing new legislation which
“banned semi-automatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns, which were purchased back from civilian owners, removing more than 600,000 guns from Australia’s adult population of 12 million. There were 13 gun massacres (the killing of four or more) in the 18 years before the 1996 National Firearms Agreement and none afterward. The law also reduced substantially homicides and suicides using firearms.”
This is the part of Australian life I’d like more North Americans to know about. Not the scary animals.