It's "worth considering" whether the United States should emulate Australia by instituting a national gun buyback program, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Friday at a town hall in New Hampshire.
A man in the audience asked Clinton whether she thought it would be possible for the U.S. to enact such a program, and if not, why. Gun buybacks have happened at the metropolitan level in the U.S., but any effort at the national level would be sure to run into intense political opposition.
Clinton, for her part, seemed open to the idea.
"Australia is a good example, Canada is a good example, the U.K. is a good example. Why? Because each of them have had mass killings" she said. "Australia had a huge mass killing about 20, 25 years ago, Canada did as well, so did the U.K. And, in reaction, they passed much stricter gun laws."
Australia’s mandatory gun buyback program of semiautomatic and automatic rifles and shotguns was enacted after a shooter killed 35 people in 1996. The country bought back more than 650,000 weapons.
"The Australian government, as part of trying to clamp down on the availability of automatic weapons, offered a good price for buying hundreds of thousands of guns," Clinton said. "Then, they basically clamped down, going forward, in terms of having more of a background check approach, more of a permitting approach, but they believed, and I think the evidence supports them, that by offering to buyback those guns, they were able to curtail the supply and to set a different standard for gun purchases in the future."
Clinton said such a gun buyback program "would be worth considering" federally, "if that could be arranged." She compared it to President Barack Obama’s so-called "cash for clunkers" program, which bought back old cars with lower levels of energy efficiency in order to stimulate the economy and reduce pollution.
"I do not know enough detail to tell you how we would do it, or how would it work, but certainly the Australian example is worth looking at," she added.
While voluntary gun buyback programs at the municipal or county level in the U.S. haven’t been found to contribute to a reduction in gun violence, they do appear to increase public awareness of gun violence and reduce the incidence of accidental shootings.
The candidate has made gun control a central part of her campaign since the Oct. 1. mass shooting at a community college in Oregon renewed the national debate over how to address gun violence. She has promised to take executive action to close gun show and Internet sale loopholes and to make it more difficult for domestic abusers and stalkers to buy and own firearms.
Clinton has pushed to repeal the law that allows gun manufacturers and dealers to have legal immunity from civil lawsuits -- a law her leading primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), voted for as a member of the House of Representatives. She has also called for "a national movement" to counteract the political power of the National Rifle Association, and for gun rights supporters to form an alternative organization that is willing to compromise.