Debates over gun control laws in the USA have been ignited once again following the tragic death of a young Australian baseball player who was randomly shot while jogging in Duncan, Oklahoma. As reported by CNN News, 22-year-old Melbourne-born Christopher Lane was “a promising young athlete” studying in Oklahoma on a baseball scholarship. He was allegedly shot by 15-year-old James Francis Edwards, who told police he and two other male teenagers – Chancey Luna and Michael Jones – “were bored and didn’t have anything to do, so we decided to kill somebody”. Michael Jones allegedly drove the car carrying the suspects, and has been charged with “the use of a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon” and “accessory to murder after the fact”. Edwards and Luna were charged with first-degree felony murder, and as ABC News reports, local police chief Danny Ford have voiced his concerns over the lack of provocation on the part of the victim, and that the accused admitted to shooting him “for the fun of it”. Questions are being asked over how three teenagers had access to a gun, after a Facebook image of Edwards surfaced, depicting him posing with guns and “wads of cash”.
The shooting of Mr Lane has triggered fury and outrage in Australia, as former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer told CNN, “it is another example of murder mayhem on Main Street”. According to a chart in the Washington Post, the USA has the highest gun-related killings in the developed world.
In Australia, following the Port Arthur massacre of 1996, Australia’s gun laws were tightened by way of a buy-back scheme that has reduced the use of guns in accidents, suicides and homicides. Semi-automatic weapons and hand guns were also outlawed except where the person was a member of a gun club or had a legitimate need to carry the firearm for their work. While Australians do not have the constitutional right to bear arms they do have the legal right to use an appropriate level of force to defend themselves. We can only hope that the lessons learned in Australia on gun crime can be considered by our friends on the other side of the Pacific.
Meanwhile, the scene of Lane’s death is now adorned with flowers and “messages of regret and condolence” from the local community.