In an outtake from a 2018 interview with Australian television, Ben Simmons talked about U.S. gun culture, how mass shootings in the U.S. had made things “kind of scary being over here” compared to his native Australia.
In the “Extra Minutes” clip from an interview with “60 Minutes Australia,” Simmons called the ability of anyone to walk into a Wal-Mart and buy a gun “crazy.”
“To me, just being an Australian and seeing what goes on back home, we don’t have people carrying around guns and we don’t have mass shootings like that. And it’s kind of scary being over here,” he told interviewer Tom Steinfort. “You can go to Wal-Mart and go buy a gun which is crazy. You know you can’t do that in Australia. So I just think being an Australian and seeing the politics back there and comparing them to the states ... It’s a whole other level.”
When Steinfort asked, “Do you like the idea of perhaps helping convince people to change their ways?” Simmons responded, “For sure, for sure. I mean, I don’t see a reason for a gun ... at all. I mean What do you need a gun for?”
The interview, which took place shortly after 17 people, mostly high school students, were killed in Parkland, Florida, has relevance now because of the wave of mass shootings in the last month that has killed dozens of people including 19 children at a school in Uvalde, Texas, and another 10 at a Buffalo supermarket. Over the weekend, another three people, including a high school teacher, were killed and 11 others were wounded or injured in Philadelphia where Simmons played three years as a member of the 76ers.
The clip also points up Simmons political activism which hasn’t gotten much, if any, attention since his trade from the Sixers to the Nets in February. Around the same time as the Australian interview, Simmons donned a “March For Our Lives” t-shirt on the 76ers bench after putting up a triple-double. The gesture came a week after the “March for Our Lives” student-led demonstrations in support of gun control legislation.
“It really sticks with me,” he said at the time. “I don’t think anyone should have to worry about somebody coming and shooting up the place. I mean, that’s a scary thought.”
He pointed to measures that Australia put in place, including a ban on assault weapons, after a 1996 mass shooting that led to the deaths of 35 people in the Australian state of Tasmania.
“And there hasn’t been a major shootings or anything like that—no one carries around guns. To me I think that’s very important. Just where I come from, you want kids to feel safe going to school and the parents [too].”
There wasn’t another mass shooting Down Under for 22 years. Australia’s rate of gun homicide is now 33 times lower than that of the U.S.
Even as a 20-year-old rookie in 2017, Simmons expressed his feelings about the U.S. political culture, calling then-President Trump “an idiot,” “a dickhead” and “definitely not a leader” following Trump’s remarks regarding Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who had knelt in protest of racial inequality during the national anthem.
“He just brings more anger and hatred to the U.S. It’s unneeded,” he said. “I think the U.S. is a great country. I love being here. I’m very appreciative of the job I’m in. I think he’s the wrong person to be in charge. He’s definitely not a leader.”
(Thanks to NetsDaily viewer tweep for bringing the clip to our attention.)