Matt Damon, on gun control: Australia ‘did it in one swoop, I wish that could happen’

Matt Damon and Alicia Vikander were in Australia over the weekend, promoting Jason Bourne, which is out in the US on July 29th and in Australia on July 28th. (They’re ahead of us time-wise so I guess it’s a wash._ Damon has been fielding a lot of questions about his family, his physique and training for the film, and politics, which seem like safe topics to broach with him.

He was asked about gun control, which of course is of primary concern in the US following the tragedy in Orlando three weeks ago. I’ve actually been hearing a lot about Australia’s change of gun laws in the wake of a 1996 mass shooting in Tasmania. After a lone gunman killed 36 people with a semi-automatic rifle, Australia instituted tough new laws in which they banned those type of weapons, bought back those weapons from Australian gun owners, and made it tougher to buy new guns. It’s been 20 years and Australia has not had one mass shooting since. So when Damon was asked about gun control in Australia he praised their stricter laws and said that he wish we could do something like that here.

“You guys did it here in one fell swoop and I wish that could happen in my country, but it’s such a personal issue for people that we cannot talk about it sensibly. We just can’t,” said Damon, who was in Sydney to promote the latest instalment in the Bourne film franchise.

“People get so emotional that even when you make a suggestion about not selling AK47s to people on terror watch lists, that’s a non-starter. I don’t know what needs to happen. Obviously mass shootings aren’t going to do it. There have been so many of them at this point. Sandy Hook, when those children were murdered, if that didn’t do it, you know, I just don’t know. Maybe we just need to evolve further before we can have that conversation, I don’t know.

“It’s wonderful what Australia did because you guys haven’t had a mass shooting since you went, ‘No, we’re going to be sensible about this.’ And nobody’s rights have been infringed, you guys are fine.
“I wish we could be sensible like that but I don’t think that’s going to happen in my lifetime.”

[From The Sydney Morning Herald]

I agree with him but I’m not a gun owner. When our forefathers wrote the Bill of Rights it was over 200 years ago and they had no idea how advanced gun technology would become. It’s not a citizen’s right to own a weapon like that, they were not intended for private use and should only be available to the military. Unfortunately, even a sit-in by Democrats couldn’t manage to enact stricter gun control laws in the US. I think Damon is right that change is not going to happen in his lifetime unfortunately, and that’s just sad.

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64 Responses to “Matt Damon, on gun control: Australia ‘did it in one swoop, I wish that could happen’”

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  1. Amy says:

    He looks terrible at the premiere.

  2. aims says:

    Full foreclosure, I hate guns. When my boys were little we never bought them toy guns because we thought that gave them a bad message, not even a water gun. Sadly,I don’t think guns will be controlled as it needs to be anytime soon. There’s too many boneheads that think if you take away guns, you’re taking away oxygen. It a no brainer for me and gun control needed to happen along time ago.

    • Melody says:


      • Erin says:

        I did this as well. I took major flack (and still do) because I would never let my children near a toy gun, or allow them to play at friends homes when i knew their parents had guns around. (it’s the first question I ask) it never ceases to amaze me that people think treating a deadly weapon as a toy won’t have consequences.

    • Esmom says:

      I hate guns, too, although I did let my kids play with squirt guns and nerf guns with their friends, with the clear understanding that in no way were they a gateway to actual weapons. Neither they nor their friends are interested in guns. It really is a cultural thing and I agree with everything Damon and CB says. People can’t discuss this rationally and people will continue to be murdered on a regular basis.

      The gun happy segment of our society , who really believe they need an arsenal to keep them “safe,” really turns my stomach. It’s like we’re living on different planets.

    • Carol says:

      ” There’s too many boneheads that think if you take away guns, you’re taking away oxygen.” – This made me laugh out loud because its so true! I hate guns too and want stricter gun control laws. Not sure that’s going to happen.

      BTW – I was listening to a few NPR reports and experts were saying that the majority of gun deaths, including mass shootings, were the result of hand guns not semi-automatic weapons. It was interesting to hear experts talk about our gun culture and why people love semi-automatic guns because I just don’t see how anyone would want one.

      • wolfpup says:

        The Civil War wasn’t that long ago. Guns and fighting for “liberties” is still the primitive American mind. The equation is guns = liberty.

        The other excuse, that there are intruders in the middle of the night like a spooky movie, (that never Exists), is on all of our TV’s; everyday, and all night long. Equation is fear= guns. Anyone can throw in a little xenophobia, or other hate stemming from fear of absolutely anything.

        And what are the computer games all about? Our media fries the brain with violence.

      • Mytbean says:

        This really comes down to fear of all things outside of a tiny bubble. Fear of government, lack of faith in law enforcement, fear of anything foreign… Just fear fear fear.

        An arsenal seems necessary when everyone is out to get them or an inch away from apocolypic levels of doom.

        The media choices that these people make just feeds that fire too. It’s sad.

  3. Ronaldinhio says:

    I think the government needs to lead the people. Sometimes the most unpopular things are the most important thing. Like parenting, sometimes you need to make a few unpopular rules and even go back on rules that you created before to fit in with a changing landscape and to keep everyone safe. You aren’t there to be everyone’s friend but to do the best job.
    I know that that isn’t an widely embraced viewpoint but it doesn’t seem as though the populace has the will to police themselves adequately respect to firearms.

    • Lynnie says:

      There was a segment John Oliver did three years ago talking to the original Australian politicians who called for the reform, and how even though it ended their political careers they felt it was worth it because they made a difference. That was a successful politician to them.

      Then it would switch to him talking to some aide for a Senate leader in D.C (I think it was Mitch McConnel or something) about what he thought made a successful politician, and without skipping a beat he said, “Continuing to get re-elected.”

      That to me is the whole crux of why nothing substantial comes about even though we keep on having a mass shooting every few months.

      • Rachel says:

        You nailed it on the head.

      • Antony Hutchings says:

        If you’re talking about the Prime Minister, John Howard, who enacted the laws. He was made PM in March 1996 and the Port Arthur Massacre was April 1996. It was a horrible day in our history. I was 12 at the time, and remember everyone thinking, ‘why could he buy that type of gun?’. The buy back was a no brainer and tightening of laws passed very soon after.

        It didn’t actually affect his political career, he stayed in office until 2007 as Prime Minister, for a total of four terms.

        One massacre was enough for us.

      • Lynnie says:

        @Antony No, the politician I’m talking about was the head of your most conservative state from what the video said (I can’t remember if it was Queensland or Victoria). He and other politicians helped write the laws and of course some of them got voted out the following election.

        That’s awesome about your PM though. And the response and the way your government handled it in general was just amazing. 😊

      • AnnaKist says:

        Lynnie, I’m confused about the politicians you’re referring to. Wayne Goss, Queenslamd premier until February 1996, was anything but conservative. He was replaced on 19 February 1996 (2 months before the Port Arthur massacre) by Robert Borbridge, definitely a conservative, who stayed in that position for a further two years. The Victorian premier, Jeff Kennet, a conservative, was elected for a second term on 30 March 1996 (one month before Port Arthur), so now I’m curious as to which politicians were interviewed. None of these premiers lost his job after the introduction of the current gun laws. Around that time, Australia was in a state of flux; ebbs, peaks and troughs, politically and economically, and we had a mix of conservative and liberal state governments.

        The gun laws were introduced very swiftly after Port Arthur, and there was no discussion or negotiation with the people – it just happened, and most of us are glad of it. Because of those laws, I was able to report my sister’s ex-husband – on the grounds that he had unregistered and unlicensed weapons – who had threatened to shoot our entire family. The police searched their home and found guns, ammunition, knives, machetes… He was arrested, charged and lost his beloved weapons, and she was able to finally get away from him. Without those laws I wouldn’t have been able to lodge a complaint about him, and who knows what might have happened to my sister…

        Having sad all that, we don’t have the gun culture that America has. Sure, some people love guns, shooting, hunting etc., but most are not bothered by the laws because we were never part of that world, anyway. It can’t be ignored that when the amnesty/buyback was on, there was real conviction among ordinary people, that only honest folk would hand their guns in, with or without payment. Criminals were never going to come to the party. Yes, we still see some horrific crimes involving these firearms, but any society is always going to have cash, bash or gash (sorry to be so crude) crimes, or nutters who will go to any lengths to commit heinous acts.

      • Lynnie says:

        @Anna Borbridge! That was it! Oliver interviewed him, and he claimed that it cost him re-election/support in the following election, but he would do it all over again no questions asked.

        I’m glad your sister is in a better place now 😊

    • k says:

      The problem is the people want better and stricter gun laws – 90% of the people in this country do. This isn’t a hard vote for them, except the NRA and that money. So in a sad sense the government is leading but not in the right direction or the direction the people want.

  4. BASI says:

    I agree Celebitchy.

    What scares me as an American are the pro gun “it’s black or white” types. That won’t even have an educated debate on it. Sandy Hook didn’t sway them.
    Thankfully guns are pretty integrated throughout the country otherwise I could see this issue come to blows if any strict law was ever (miraculously) enacted. Like civil war.

    • Jaxx says:

      Fine, all these people that keep quoting the constitution? Let’s take up the guns that kill 50 people in seconds, and give them back their muskets. Our forefathers would have never written up that amendment if they knew AK47′s, etc. were the wave of the future.

  5. Luca76 says:

    What makes me angriest is that the second amendment specifically referred to militias. Our forefathers weren’t trying to give individuals the right to bear arms. This disturbed gun culture we have is an NRA invention to sell death.

    • HH says:

      Yes, it was a well-regulated militia. Not individually bearing arms. I agree with Damon about people taking it SO personally here. People want to blame it solely on mental health or solely on guns. You know, the benefit of being craft legislation is the ability to tackle multiple problems at once. But hey, I’m not a politician.

      ETA: Also a well-regulated militia to fight back against a tyrannical government was put in place when the people and the government were working with the same weapons. Now, not so much.

    • Esmom says:

      Yes, yes and yes.

    • Rachel says:

      Gun toters love to quote the Second Amendment, but they always seem to forget the first few words before “the right o bear arms shall not be infringed.” I just want to give them a lesson on constitutional law. The individual right to bear arms was not even read into the Second Amendment until the 1970s!

    • Saraya says:

      “Our forefathers weren’t trying to give individuals the right to bear arms.”

      Well, the Supreme Court of the United States certainly disagrees with you on that.

      • Fire Rabbit says:

        Yeah. The same body that said Corporations (like gunmanufacturers)are people too. Big wealthy people who have the right to buy any politician they want for their own interests. Screw the little people, sanity and the (representative) Democracy.

      • Saraya says:

        It’s settled law. Deal.

      • Rachel says:

        No law is ever settled. It’s based on who sits in Congress and who sits the Court. That’s why political parties are always fighting over who gets to appoint new justices to the Court. Deal.

      • Who ARE these people? says:

        The Supreme Court also once said the slaves were property and segregated school systems were fair. Come on.

      • Lindsay says:

        At some point there has to be and end to that debate. It is not set in stone depending on how you view the Constitution: as a living, breathing document or with an originalist point of view. Congress shouldn’t be so quick to ignore Supreme Court decision. It’s why things like abortion are constantly up for debate. It is just rehashing the same heated discussion over and over again for four years. There is a lot Congress can do that won’t challenge the Supreme Courts decision. Work on that, if as in the case of Civil Rights the system is so broken it needs to be challenged and have modern legal scholars review it do that. But Congress can’t do nothing and claim the Supreme Court is tying their hands. You don’t get to flippantly disregard rulings you don’t agree with. They layout the pros and cons and rationale behind every decision they make.

        Plus most of the Supreme Courts Gun decision aren’t based on their reading of the Second Amendment but the Fourteenth. An civil right to life, liberty, or property can’t be denied without due process.

  6. susanne says:

    I thought the second amendment’s original intent was so that citizens could protect themselves against the government if the need arose.
    This is long and historical, but I think in order to fight for gun control, we need to examine what it was really about.
    Times have changed. A revolution will happen on twitter, not with ak47s in the US. There is no use for these weapons other than killing a lot of people, quickly. I can’t see why they exist at all.

    • Rachel says:

      No. The original intent was basically to require men to provide their own guns when the militia was activated BY the government. As a new independent nation, the government did not have funds available to arm a militia. When men were conscripted, they were expected to bring their own weapons. As you noted, times have changed. Now when someone joins the national guard, they are not required to provide their own weapon. The government does that.

      • Emma - The JP Lover says:

        @Rachel, who wrote: “No. The original intent was basically to require men to provide their own guns when the militia was activated BY the government. As a new independent nation, the government did not have funds available to arm a militia. When men were conscripted, they were expected to bring their own weapons. As you noted, times have changed. Now when someone joins the national guard, they are not required to provide their own weapon. The government does that.”

        I always thought local ‘Police’ Departments throughout our country represented the ‘Well armed militia’ the forefathers spoke up. At the time they had no way of knowing just how vast our nation would become.

        I just don’t understand why anyone would need an AK-47 or any of the AK’s for personal use. Matty D. is right … if Sandy Hook didn’t sway Congress, nothing will. :(

  7. Hudson Girl says:

    Slightly separate point but, Australia (and Hawaii) have more success with gun control because they are islands surrounded by so many miles of water. No morons can simply drive (or motorboat to the mainland) into a different state and buy what they want, which is what happens in the US.

    • anna says:

      australia has success with gun control because there IS a federal law that controls guns.

    • Who ARE these people? says:

      Canada has a long border with the USA, is not an island country, and has more success with gun control because of federal law. The main problem with guns here is how they come up from the USA, so please, USA, curb your guns so Canada can become even safer than it already is.

  8. Poppy says:

    I’m Australian and was 16 at the time the Port Arthur massacre happened. Thankfully, the government brought in the new gun laws but there were plenty of rednecks (we call them bogans) who opposed the law, claiming their right to own high powered weapons was more important than keeping the public safe from mass murderers.

    • Lozface says:

      I was about to turn 14 and lived in Tassie. It was such a scary and heartbreaking time. I remember how quickly the government moved on the changes and also the opposition from the ‘bogans’!

      What saved us was that we did not have a gun culture in the slightest, so it was pretty much common sense to the majority.

      It was such a brave move and I’m forever grateful for the law changes, as are most Australians. At least something remotely good could come from such horrific tragedy.

  9. familard says:

    Gun control (ban of semi-auto guns) was implemented by a conservative government: they raised taxes to buy back the guns at retail price and it was co-ordinated with all local authorities.

    • Lindsay says:

      But there wasn’t years of fear mongering before the buy back to the extent their is now. I don’t think it would be nearly as successful. Most gun buy backs now get broken guns, surplus military supplies, and gun with bodies on them because of the no questions thing. The tens of thousands of people that bought AR-15s post Sandy Hook and post Orlando are not going to turn in the pricey assault rifle they just bought.

  10. ItDoesntReallyMatter says:

    Funny that so many of his movies involve shooting people with guns. Do as I say, not as I do.

    What a hypocrite! He makes so much money off the promotion of guns.

    • Robin says:

      Seriously. If he feels that strongly about it, then he shouldn’t make movies with guns in them. But that would interfere with his income.

    • Emma - The JP Lover says:

      @ItDoesntReallyMatter and @Robin …

      Would you also ban all the books with people being shot with guns, bow and arrows, and stabbed with swords? You would have to ban books across many genres, which would include many classic novels.

      Would you burn all DVD copies of “The God Father,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Jurassic World?” Many actors who are against guns, casual sex, drinking, drugs, and smoking accept roles in which their characters engage in those traits. Shall we start another ‘McCarthy Blacklist’ for all actors/actresses who dare to warn against or disagree with the traits the characters they play portray on screen?

  11. Sixer says:

    The UK also has had similar success with introducing gun controls. The Dunblane school shooting was in 1996. Strict gun laws introduced immediately. There’s been only one multiple shooting since then. Now only 2% of homicides involve a gun, and our homicide rate is a quarter that of the US.

    I feel for you guys. I wish it could change for you.

    • Rachel says:

      Thank you for this example Sixer. Unfortunately, facts don’t actually seem to matter here… it sickens me to see the progression of public sentiment in my facebook feed after every mass shooting – 1-2 days of public “support” for the families, immediately followed by a week of pro-gun folks posting memes about their right to own a weapon that can mow down 30 people per minute, then nothing. The public memory is wiped clean of the loss of so many lives… until the next time.

    • msd says:

      The awful thing is, the Dunblane shooting ‘inspired’ the shooting in Australia a month later. **** (I’m not typing the murderer’s name, he deserves to be forgotten) was thinking of killing himself and when he read about what happened in Scotland he decided to plan a mass shooting instead. It’s not uncommon apparently for one event to trigger another in this way. :(

  12. Fire Rabbit says:

    Americans love their guns more than they love their own children. Period.
    Cry big, fat crocodile tears over abortion but it’s OK for them to become gun fodder later because “oh well, these things happen”. I’m saying this as an American. We are F*cked up in the head as a whole. Our culture is sick.

    • Lynnie says:

      There was a 4th of July party on a gun range in my town, and a father ended up shooting and killing his 14-year old son. The saddest part about that death to me is that it was 100% preventable, but it was more important to spread the gun culture in this particular family than worry about safety.

      • Fire Rabbit says:

        In gun culture, even a drunk’s right to wield a gun supersedes his child’s right to live.

      • Lucrezia says:

        I read about that case. Dad’s been making dumb-ass statements like “it doesn’t take but a split second for something to go wrong and that could be (the case) with a gun, it could be with the wrong medicine, it could be with any number of things.”

        I’m pretty sure no-one has ever been killed by standing behind someone else who was taking medicine.

  13. JenB says:

    It will be an uphill battle but we must not give up. The NRA is so twisted.
    Current local story to illustrate: our rural county is looking into putting a gun range in one area. There’s an effort to prevent the gun range organized by the people who live closest to where the range would be because they don’t want to hear gun blasts all day. These are people who live in a “red” rural county and own guns, etc. They just don’t want the range in the proposed location due to the noise. County officials have been considering the residents’ concerns and are rethinking the range. In response local legislators have been bombarded with letters and emails from people who are branding them “anti-2nd amendment!!, anti-gun!” etc. But NONE of the people sending these crazy emails actually LIVE here. (There was article in the paper about all of this because one legislator wanted people to understand he is not antigun.) And this is a pretty small town in Virginia. To me, this shows you the levels the gun nuts will go to and it’s insane. Not one bit of logic. To have their goons pester a random county’s leadership for something that does not concern them.
    We can’t give up because then they win. We have to keep pushing sensible gun legislation. I am 35 and I believe I will live to see the change. I’m in this for keeps and a better world for my children. America is better than the NRA.

    • Fire Rabbit says:

      Back in the eighties, the time of St Ronnie and the Backlashers, the NRA was taken over by corporate gunmakers looking to increase profits. The marketing changed from guns are serious and dangerous TOOLS and we’ll teach you how to handle them safely, to: guns are fun!! Real men have real guns! You civilized people must protect yourselves from the godless hoardes with bigger guns than they have, it’s your God Given right to have guns of mass destruction, and now, it’s your God Given right to use them whenever you get pissed off. They bought the politicians who fear monger and pander to hysterics, and the tragedies continue.

      • Lindsay says:

        The tragedies are a feature not a bug for them. Sales of guns sky rocket after mass shootings.

      • Kitten says:

        The conceal/carry laws have vastly changed the gun market in the most lucrative way imaginable.

        You have to understand that gun manufacturers have one very large hurdle to overcome in terms of sales: guns last a very, VERY long time. The conceal/carry law was the perfect excuse for Big Gun to market new, smaller sub-compact guns. In the past, these small guns were largely mocked by gun-owners but the new high-velocity sub-compact models have been fashioned to be far more effective killing machines than the previous versions.

        Interestingly enough, while the amount of people who own guns has reportedly decreased, the amount of guns that gun owners have has increased, with the average gun-owner having 8 guns in his arsenal.

        Meanwhile, prior attempts to create “smart guns” have repeatedly been shut down.

        So all of this is to say that the laws and the NRA and Big Gun are all working in tandem to make sure that Americans have as much access to guns as they want. It’s terrifying, especially when I see that many of my fellow humans can’t even walk and operate a cell phone at the same time. That does not engender confidence, knowing that they could legally have a concealed firearm on their person.

  14. RidleyHogg says:

    Hi all, apart from looking smart in pics with Alicia, Matt Damon has made a sensible analogy about the “shooting or gun laws” in Australia. Agree with him here, it’s just a matter of implementing tough laws.

  15. Irma says:

    Why do people compare small countr2 with different history and demographics, and say they should have the same policies and approaches? Australia has 23 million, USA nearing 400 million people. California is 40 million.
    Same happened with national healthcare. Um, Denmark has 5 million people. Compare it with states like Oregon, similar size. The USA has state rights for a reason. People need to have a voice. And management of infrastructurr in a large population is also difficult at a national level.

    • Who ARE these people? says:

      Well, if population size is the main problem, the epidemic of uncontrolled gun deaths will solve that problem for the USA.

      Another ridiculous argument that has nothing to do with states’ rights and everything to do with, well, ridiculous arguments. Gun sales are not an infrastructure problem.

      Most Americans have said they want more gun control – that’s their voice speaking. It’s a majority voice.

      The NRA’s voice – the voice of the gun makers profiting from all this bloodshed – happens to be louder right now, that’s all. Congress hears the sound of money.

      • JenB says:

        Exactly. To steal a term from the right, we are in fact the “silent majority” on the gun safety issue. The NRA is analogous to the 2 loud people in a movie theater who are ruining it for everyone.

    • Carol says:

      @Irma I get what you are saying and I think you are right. What works for Australia or Denmark may not necessarily work for the US. Although, I would love it if a few American congressmen would throw their careers on a hand grenade, forgo major NRA campaign donations and vote for stricter gun laws.

  16. The problem is that Australia is an island with a pop of only 25 mil and it doesn’t have to contend with illegal guns flooding across it’s boarders. Also, not many people had the automatic weapons to begin with. Not saying something shouldn’t be done, just that it’s really comparing apples to oranges.

    • Lindsay says:

      Mexico and Canada have pretty strict gun control. Their gun problem stems from our lax laws. So it isn’t going to be super easy to get them into the US either. Possible but arguably no easier than Australia.

  17. Meadow says:

    I think the US is a bit too far gone to put that genie back in the bottle. The best you can do is limit the type of weapons and really toughen up gun ownership laws. It would be great but not likely if you could limit ‘the right to bear arms’ to flintlocks which was what the founding fathers were had in mind.

  18. Lbliss says:

    I think it all comes down to the people who fund politicians who lobby to change the laws or make new ones. What are their agendas? If only rich people with guns fund a politician, wikl they lobby for tighter gun control?

    • RidleyHogg says:

      Yes, some deliberation is needed over Gun-killins and heartwrenching shootouts