I met quite a few Australians when Tom and I walked the rugged (for me, not the Australians) 497-mile Camino Frances branch of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela through Northern Spain,
On our second Camino as we approached the end of the journey I walked for a while with a towering, muscular, sunburned, bearded middle-aged Australian ex-convict in a sleeveless black tee shirt who'd started walking in Paris a couple of months earlier. He'd already backpacked over a thousand miles trying to find peace but thought he might have to walk another thousand.
The flight from Australia to Spain is over 10,000 miles, and yet many Australians brave the trip to hike another 500 or more miles,
But this wasn't always so. Once upon a time the Australians were, as we their American brethren still are, gun-loving, gun-toting, automatic rifle-owning folks who, like Americans, suffered one mass shooting after another.
But in 1996, when a 28-year-old man armed with semi-automatic rifles barged into a cafe in Port Arthur killing 35 people, injuring 23 more and leaving the country in a state of more shock and horror than usual after a mass killing, this one being the worst in Australia's history, the newly-elected Prime Minister John Howard sprung into action and "put together the most sweeping gun control reforms ever contemplated by any Australian government." (1)
Prime Minister Howard pulled together the Australian people and the government and immediately instituted a government gun buyback and turn-in program; over 700,00 Australians turned in their weapons.
Within fourteen days after the Port Arthur Massacre the Australian government had put together and passed the National Firearms Agreement.
Since the Australians laid down their arms in 1996 there's been not one mass shooting in that country and gun deaths are at now their lowest in Australian history.
And yet the Australians continue to be a strong, freedom-loving lot.
They just don't die from gun shot wounds as often as we do.