The Daily Telegraph

By Jessica Marszalek

His wife was shot in the head in a mass killing last year, now astronaut Mark Kelly says the child victims of America's latest massacre deserve brave leaders who will finally tackle gun reform — not just send condolences.

Former politician Gabrielle Giffords survived a bullet to the head at an Arizona shopping centre in January 2011 in an attack that killed six, including a nine-year-old girl, and sparked renewed calls for gun control.

Those calls went nowhere.

Since then, there have been a further 65 mass shootings in the US, according to The Observer.

That is compared with none in Australia since John Howard overhauled gun laws in 1996. Australia had had 13 in the 18 preceding years.

"As we mourn, we must sound a call for our leaders to stand up and do what's right," Captain Mike Kelly said yesterday. "This time our response must consist of more than regret, sorrow and condolence."

Amid the sentiment, some Democrats have demanded these shootings no longer be considered a part of American life and have called for action on guns. Standing in the way is one of the most powerful and well-funded lobby groups in US politics, the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Experts say the chances of any meaningful change are low, despite arguably the most compelling case for gun law reform that has ever confronted political leaders.

David Weisbrot, a professor of legal policy at the US studies centre at the University of Sydney, said US President Barack Obama might try to reinstate a ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004 under former president George W Bush, which allowed them to become "the mass murderer weapon of choice".

Mr Obama may also tackle the sale of handguns that sell for less than $75, as well as improve background checks and waiting periods, he said.

"I think he is likely to try to move for some reform, but I'm not greatly optimistic about it," Prof Weisbrot said. "In the US it's almost a monthly occurrence (shootings) and nothing happens.

"It's even more shocking that it's little kids, and the sheer brutality of it, but there's been one supposed wake-up call after another ... that didn't lead to anything."

There are 300 million guns in the US for 350 million people, and people are evenly split on standing up for the right to bear arms as they are for gun control.

Funded by weapons manufacturers, the NRA has hundred of millions of dollars ready to "terrorise" politicians who dare to advocate change, Prof Weisbrot said.

Earlier this month NRA president Wayne LaPierre criticised the media for seizing on national tragedies to "piggyback their anti-second amendment national agenda". Gun proponents say mass shootings are best tackled by arming more people and a law is in motion that would enable people to carry concealed guns on university campuses.

Gun Control Australia spokesman Roland Brown said America's culture was "bewildering" for Australians who were so horrified by the deaths of 35 people at Port Arthur.

"America has failed to respond with a public health response to what is a public health crisis in terms of the number of people dying each year in America," he said.

This article was originally published by The Daily Telegraph