Debate Magazine

Shooting Down US Gun Law Critics

Posted on the 05 February 2013 by Mikeb302000
Several misperceptions are being aired in their media about guns and their relationship to crime in Australia by US "pro-gun" advocates. Australia is often cited in the US debate due to its institution of strict firearms laws. US "pro-gun" advocates are using data and findings from the early-2000s to argue that the Howard government gun reforms had little effect on violent crime in Australia.
This is because of arguments around the impact on gun crime after the 1996 ban and buy-back of semi-automatic rifles and pump-action shotguns following the Port Arthur massacre (35 killed, and 23 wounded) and the 2002 ban on both concealable and large-calibre automatic handguns in response to the Monash University shootings (two students killed and five wounded). Australia's firearms laws were seen by gun control activists as a test case for action against automatic weapons in the US and by the pro-gun lobby as an experiment that failed.
Dr Samantha Bricknell, a principal research analyst at the Australian Institute of Criminology addressed this in a piece published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail:
In the second decade of the 21st century the data was collected over a longer period and was more comprehensive, with real trends evident.
While there can be no direct comparisons of gun policies between Australia and the US - the "right to bear arms" is certainly not enshrined in the Australian Constitution - there are still lessons to be learnt from the 1996 Howard government buy-back and the current set of trend data.
These show that, while gun crime still exists and poses a law enforcement challenge in Australia, rates of gun-related crime have dropped significantly since the 1990s.
In the latter part of the '90s, 25 to 30 per cent of armed robberies involved guns.
From 1999 onwards, the average has been 15 per cent or about 1000 gun-related armed robberies a year and this has remained fairly static.
Homicide shows a similar trend.
In the mid-'90s between 50 and 100 homicides per year involved the use of a gun and this has reduced to 30 to 40 homicides over the past six years with a decline in the general murder rate to about one per 100,000 persons.
Most importantly since 1996 there have been no multiple killings using automatic long-arms and the Monash event in 2002 was the last handgun-related mass shooting.
The most recent AIC reports and statistics on gun-crime in Australia can be found at aic.gov.au/publications

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