Real men don't need guns

The Howard decade was a grim time for those of us that believe that the economy is but one measure of a strong, progressive and cohesive society.

But Prime Minister John Howard's swift and decisive action on gun control legislation in the wake of the 1996 Port Arthur tragedy was for me, a shining light in an otherwise bleak decade of social policy.

There's a statistic doing the rounds on social media that quotes the number of handgun deaths around the developed world in 2011. It compares the figures of Japan, UK, Israel, and Germany - all double digits with that of America where the figure was well over 10,000.

It's no doubt a social media oversimplification complete with picture of a handgun decorated with the star and stripes.

But the fact remains that there are massively more firearms in circulation in the US, and significantly fewer controls in place to ensure that seriously mentally unwell individuals, like the weekend's Newtown shooter don't get hold of the kinds of weapons that can cause death and destruction on such a horrific scale.

The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has rocked the world, and in particular rural America - the heartland of the ultra-powerful American gun lobby.

With the relative freedom that comes with a second term in US politics, it will be interesting to see if Barack Obama can take on one of the most powerful lobby groups on the planet.

The right to bear arms is enshrined in the US Constitution and Americans take this particular constitutional right pretty seriously. Obama will have his work cut out for him.

Let's hope if there is anything good to come out of this tragedy it's a shift in American 'gun-consciousness'.

Meanwhile back on home soil the legislative gains of 1996 are slowly being eroded. In 2007 the Fishers and Shooters Party gained the balance of power in the Upper House of the NSW Parliament and gun ownership has risen steadily there in the years since.

The figure is also on the rise nationally and the Howard legislation, whilst removing 700,000 guns from circulation, has also contributed to a significant rise in gun club membership and resulted in the gun lobby in Australia becoming far better organised and resourced over the last decade and a half.

The Fishers and Shooters party plans to run candidates at the next federal election along with Bob Katter's Australian Party. It is possible they could hold the balance of power in the Senate.

Katter's party promises to "return to boys the right to be boys in this country - we'll give them back hunting, fishing and shooting".

If the events of Port Arthur, the Columbine shooting, the Newtown shooting and too many others tell us anything it's that sometimes, something goes terribly, terribly wrong when young men get easy access to guns.

I'm all for protecting a boy's right to be a boy, and making sure our culture promotes genuine models of masculinity.

Surely we can do this for our boys without putting guns in their hands?