Gun-control advocates in the U.S. are hoping 2012 marks a turning point in the country’s struggle with gun violence. The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary — where most of the 26 victims were killed with an assault rifle similar to the M-16 rifle issued to U.S. soldiers — might spur Washington lawmakers into action following a year of grisly, tragic mass shootings. There are now calls to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons; the weeks ahead may see a heated debate over the long-enshrined place of guns in American society.
In other words, 2012 may be the watershed moment 1996 was for two countries that have shared histories and bonds with the United States. Separate mass shootings 16 years ago in the U.K. and Australia prompted soul-searching, anger and a rapid political response in both London and Canberra. Anti-gun legislation passed then, say many experts, has had a lasting, positive impact in both countries.