The Gun Control Debate – Australia Vs US

Do your students have opinions about the gun control debate? Here’s a video that will surely get them talking. This video also gives your students exposure to “sarcasm” in English. Before you show the video, be sure to have a chat about sarcasm. Explain that sarcasm is a form of humor that is often used on comedy shows to “make fun of someone” or to “prove a point”. 

Australia’s Gun Reform Vs. US Failed Gun Control Reform

The US Senate was unable to pass basic gun control measures this month. In response to the failed legislation, John Oliver from Jon Stewart’s comedy show The Daily Show interviewed American gun lobbyist Philip Van Cleave. The gun lobbyist opposes everything related to gun control, including background checks and a ban on assault weapons. To show the other side of the debate, Oliver interviewed former Australian prime minister John Howard. Howard introduced strict gun control reform in Australia 17 years ago, and there hasn’t been a single mass shooting in the country since. We hope this video (Part 1) will inspire your students to talk about their feelings on gun control.

“You can’t argue with Philip. Even his logic is bulletproof.” ~John Oliver

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Vocabulary and expressions from the video

Here are some collocations and expressions that you may want to pre-teach before you show the video:

  • mandatory waiting period
  • hypothetically speaking
  • a statistical anomaly
  • whoop-dee-doo (So what? Who cares? Big deal.)
  • couldn’t agree more


You can use this video to talk about sarcasm and some of the ways we can identify when speakers are using it. Explain that sarcasm usually involves saying the opposite of what you really mean or believe. Why do people use sarcasm, and what are the results? (e.g. make fun of someone’s intelligence, knowledge or behaviour; make fun of yourself; state that something is obvious or not surprising) Remind students that sarcasm can hurt people’s feelings and talk about when it should NOT be used. Pause the video, or ask your students to raise their hands when they think John Oliver is being sarcastic. How does his intonation change? What about his facial expressions? For example:

  • “Obviously gun control doesn’t work.”
  • “So, unless we can get rid of drugs, there’s no point in having drug laws at all.”

Note: This video contains Part 1 of Oliver’s special. Here is Part 2.

A Lesson Plan on Gun Control

Mini-Debates Lesson Plan on Gun LawsCheck out ESL-Library’s newly updated Mini Debates lesson plan on Gun Control.  This ready-made lesson plan is for high-intermediate to advanced learners. It discusses how Australia was able to eliminate gun massacres with its gun reform. It includes a warm up, vocabulary review exercises, a reading, and discussion and debate questions.

Note: This video contains Part 1 of Oliver’s special. Here is Part 2.


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