Gun Control 2.1
November 3, 2017
Gun Control 2.3
November 17, 2017
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The second episode of our series on gun control and gun violence, finishing up our chat about the Aussie experience.

Did the gun restrictions put into place in 1996 have an impact on reducing gun homicide, suicide, other forms of homicide and crime rates in general?

Theme music: Holy Deep by The Passion HiFi

Show Notes:

  • The NFA placed tight control on semi-automatic and fully automatic weapons, although permitted their use by licensed individuals who required them for a purpose other than ‘personal protection’.
  • The law created a national firearm registry, a 28-day waiting period for firearm sales, and tightened firearm licensing rules.
  • The law requires anyone wishing to possess or use a firearm with some exceptions, be over the age of 12.
  • Owners must be at least 18 years of age, have secure storage for their firearms and provide a “genuine reason” for doing so.
  • A gun buy-back scheme started on 1 October 1996 and concluded on 30 September 1997.
  • It was mandatory for illegal firearms – eg semi-automatics – but not for legal guns.
  • A lot of people surrendered their legal guns they no longer needed anyway – it was a chance to get paid for them.
  • The government bought back and destroyed 650,000 firearms.
  • Today we only have 13.7 guns per 100 people.
  • Still sounds like a lot to me.
  • A recent study revealed that Australians now own as many guns as they did at the time of the Port Arthur massacre.
  • So we took guns out of the system but they have crept back in.
  • Anyway…
  • Between 1991 and 2001, the number of firearm-related deaths in Australia declined 47%.
  • In 2014, 35 people were victims of firearms homicide, compared to 98 people in 1996.
  • Since then, we haven’t had another mass shooting – in 21 years.
  • Non-gun homicide rates fell by 59% and gun homicides fell by the same 59%
  • Gun suicide rates have fallen by 65%.
  • Today, 20 years later, none of our major political parties have an issue with The National Firearms Agreement
  • Although some of our minor political parties do have an issue with it.
  • How did the people feel about it at the time?
  • In an Age poll of 2058 Australians taken on 3-5 May 1996, 90 per cent of those surveyed supported a national ban on all automatic and semi-automatic firearms.
  • How do they feel about it today?
  • In a 2015 poll of over 1,700 people, Essential Research found 40 per cent thought Australia’s gun ownership laws were “about right’ – while a further 45 per cent believed they were “not strong enough’.
  • Just 6 per cent of those surveyed responded that current laws are too strong, while 10 per cent said they didn’t know.
  • Interesting, those who thought they were about right or not strong enough were pretty equally spread across the voting spectrum.
  • And just a few months ago, we had another amnesty, where another 26,000 firearms were surrendered.
  • But Did it really have an effect on Australia’s crime / murder rate?
  • The national homicide rate has decreased from 1.8 per 100,000 people in 1989-90 to 1 per 100,000 in 2013-14.
  • This trend is supported by longer-term Australia Bureau of Statistics datathat shows the use of firearms in homicides remains at historically low levels.
  • In contrast, UN data indicates that about 40% of global homicides are caused by firearms.
  • But it’s also worth pointing out that the homicide rate in the U.S. has been falling as well during the last 20 years.
  • Data from the ABS also indicates the rate of suicide by firearm fell by 67 per cent from 2.1 deaths per 100,000 of the population in 1996 to 0.7 deaths in 2014.
  • But there are studies that suggest homicide rates and suicide rates were already falling before the NFA and that it may not have had much of an impact.
  • In terms of suicide, other factors like suicide help lines, mental health programs and suicide prevention might have played a larger role.
  • Research shows that people who attempt suicide and fail, usually regret the attempt later.
  • And it’s must harder to fail if you have a gun.
  • But in terms of homicides, the research is inconclusive.
  • Some studies say the buyback had an impact while others say it didn’t.
  • However, I’d argue that while the impact on homicides might be hard to determine, it has had an impact on the national psyche.
  • Mass shootings just aren’t something that Australians worry about.
  • Neither is gun violence in general.
  • Just a few days ago, there was a shooting at the University of Utah.
  • I have a niece who goes there. She lives on campus.
  • That kind of shit just doesn’t happen here.
  • Or at least very, VERY rarely.
  • We don’t have to deal with the daily occurrence of asking ourselves if we could have done more to prevent the deaths of kids in a school or of dancers at a nightclub or of people enjoying country music – as if enjoying country music is actually possible in the first place.
  • It contributes to the overall feeling of safety in the nation.
  • In the 2017 “most livable cities” survey, Australia had three spots in the top ten.
  • As did Canada.
  • And both countries were in the top ten of the happiest countries in the world.
  • Report co-author Jeffrey Sachs said that “happiness is a result of creating strong social foundations,” and that if other nations prioritized “social trust” and “healthy lives,” they could also find that their citizens become more content.
  • BTW, the countries in the top ten happiest ranking are also the countries with the highest taxes.
  • In January, US Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz said in an interview that the rate of sexual assaults and rapes in Australia rose significantly after the gun buyback program “because women were unable to defend themselves”.
  • Now keep in mind that the buyback program had nothing to do with handguns.
  • So unless women were walking around with semi-automatics, the argument is stupid.
  • On top of that, several statistics show that while the rates of sexual assaults in Australia did increase after 1996, these statistics could not be directly linked to the buyback of 1996, according to Samara McPhedran, senior research fellow at Griffith University and chair of the International Coalition of Women in Shooting and Hunting.
  • Australia does have one of the highest rates of reported sexual assault in the world, at almost 92 people per 100,000 of the population, according to the United Nations.
  • More than double the global average.
  • Increases in reported rape could be due to a variety of reasons, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology, including a greater awareness about what sexual assault is.
  • In the last five to 10 years there’s been quite an increase in media coverage and community debate around sexual assault.
  • When you actually look at women’s self-reported instances of sexual assault, the numbers have gone down since the buyback.
  • The only thing going up is the number of people going to the police.
  • This is because “we’ve done a lot in Australia to encourage women to report sexual assault, and the whole justice system is getting better at supporting women when they do report sexual assault.”
  • In short, it’s got nothing to do with guns.
  • But it is true that our assault rate has been going steadily up over the last 20 years.
  • Again, a lot of this seems to do with reporting of domestic assault.
  • However the number of victims of violent crime has been going down.
  • National crime statistics show that since the year 2000 the recorded rate of:
  • * break and enter has declined by 64%,
  • * motor vehicle theft has declined by 69%,
  • * robbery has declined by 63%; and
  • * general stealing offences have declined by 37%.
  • But again, the violent crime stats in the U.S. have also dropped in the last 20 years.
  • So these things might have more to do with macroeconomic issues and harder prison sentences than just gun control.
  • Might also be due to an aging population, changing policing practices and strategies, the rise of technology, shifts in unemployment, variations in alcohol consumption, neighbourhood characteristics, or changing attitudes towards illegal and risky behaviour.
  • Or perhaps even abortions.
  • Or removing lead from gasoline and paint.

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