One of the critical differences between Australian gun culture (and yes, we do have one) and the US gun culture are the gun lobbyists. Ours advocated [in 1996 after the Port Arthur massacre] for fair laws that would minimise risk. In other words, they worked with the government to create the new laws. No law abiding pro-gun person should have a problem with Australian laws. We require a minimum 100pt identity check, a gun license, gun safety training and evidence that you participate in gun safety retraining at regular intervals. You can only legally buy guns from registered gun shops and even then to buy a firearm you must order it and then pick it up on a nominated date. The gun you buy is then registered under your name and you are required to store your gun in an approved gun locker. Your gun locker is also subject to occasional inspection to ensure it meets code. You also have to have a reason to own your gun. This includes being a farmer, being part of a sports shooting association, being a hunter, being a police officer, being a ranger, being a vet, being part of the armed services etc.
Since 1996, we have only had three gun massacres: the Lindt cafe hostage threat where two people were killed and others injured, the Monash University shooting and the Hunt family shootings.
Since 1996, death by guns has dramatically decreased. In the same period, death by other weapons has not increased. In fact, death by knives has also decreased. We also have laws regarding the carrying of knives and other weapons. One other statistic, death by children accidentally firing their parents’ guns. There has been one where the father left his gun out and didn’t lock it up. This is also an extremely high statistic in the States.
We’ve never had a shooting in a school or kindergarten.
Prior to the gun law change in 1996, we averaged one gun massacre per year since the 1960s.
Gun crime still happens. Criminals can buy guns illegally of course, but even that is harder in Australia because it’s harder to bring illegal guns into our country than it is in the states.
We have a gun culture here, but the thought of needing to have a gun to protect us from home invasion is a totally foreign concept to us. Home invasions are so rare that they make the nightly news.
[I] just got back from the States and did what every Aussie does visiting the States, took a picture of the no guns allowed here sign. We don’t have these in Australia.
But in fairness, apart from gun laws there are other factors in play. America is much poorer than Australia. Crime is always higher is poorer countries. We don’t have the same level of social issues that the US does. We don’t have the same level of homelessness and drug use. We also pay higher taxes and our social support system is better serviced.
In Melbourne, we are experiencing a meth epidemic and that is having a pronounced impact. Domestic violence has increased with increased meth consumption.
The US is more advanced in its support of getting people off drugs than we are. Australia is looking to the US for guidance on dealing with our meth epidemic. Perhaps it is time for the US to look to other countries such as Canada and Australia that both have high gun ownership but low gun deaths.
On a personal note, I simply cannot understand why the NRA would not be in support of gun laws that would better protect US citizens. Part of the success of our gun laws is that our NRA equivalent accepted that there was a problem and advocated for change that was fair and reasonable. They actively participated in the change.
I will add that the change in our gun laws are not the only factor in our lower homicide rates. At the same time, there was also a higher investment in the mental health system because Martyn Bryant had been let out of the system due to cut backs.
The most influencing factor on homicide rates is poverty, the second is drug abuse (the exception to this rule is of course countries with domestic wars). The less poverty and drug abuse the less crime and less homicide rates.
Which is why Melbourne in particular is experiencing a spike in homicides at the moment. Meth is proving to be the mitigating factor and it’s also thought to be a factor in the increase of our domestic violence deaths.
But as for our gun laws, some of those research papers dismissing their affect have been debunked. Probably the most famous was the one written by a member of the NRA. As my dad says, it was full of b*llsh*t. Lol.
The author had basically made up figures and stated the Australia had the highest knife deaths in the world (we don’t) and that we had higher gun homicides than the US (yeah, the US is number 8* and we are 86th in the list). When challenged on his statistics, he stated that he calculated all figures for the disparity in populations. Even if you do this, we still have significantly lower gun crime rates, knife crime rates and homicides than the US. The world rankings are already adjusted for population disparity.
This particular piece of ‘research’ went on to be the basis of a number of documents ‘proving’ Australian gun laws to have no affect and if anything caused gun homicides to rise. John Oliver did a wicked piece on this several years ago after a republican politician cited this report as fact.
There’s plenty of evidence which proves the guns laws are effective. The simplest is that the number of gun deaths dropped dramatically after the laws were introduced. Another is that only one child in 19 years was killed by playing with a gun at their home. The father hadn’t locked it away, his four year old daughter found it. Prior to the law changes there were several children a year killed from finding guns in their homes. From 1966 to 1996 there was a gun massacre every year. Since 1996 there have been three.
Suicide rates is a difficult one as suicide rates for men in high in farmers, police officers, and those that have served on the armed forces. They all have access to guns. And you would have to compare suicide rates by guns and non-gun methods prior and after the law changes. Given that you can easily access over the counter drugs that you can overdose on, I’m not sure that suicide by gun was ever a mitigating factor in the law changes. Perhaps it was, I’ll need to ask my dad as he was part of the Sports Shooters of Australia Association who contributed to the recommended changes. He was also a fed at the time and contributed his recommendations.
The other big difference between us and the US was the acceptance that there was a need for change. When people had to hand in the guns they could no longer legally own, most did so without complaint. My father owned a semi-automatic gun that had been his grandfather’s. He had sentimental attachment to it and did ask if he could keep it if it was modified. There were limited exceptions. Dad was not granted the exception. Others who owned historically important guns were able to donate them museums instead of surrendering them. Dad’s gun didn’t fall into this category. Yet, like many others he willingly gave up a number of guns because he felt the laws were largely fair.
* Correction: I found a newer list. Jamaica is also in the top 10 and they don’t have a domestic war for homicide rates. Couldn’t find their gun death rates. Think the US may now be number 11 according to that list. It was am info graph and reading it on my phone. Couldn’t quite tell who was what number on that listing. Interesting that Australia’s homicide rate was so low that we didn’t appear on that list. Neither did the UK.
Jennifer Margret first published the above comments on Facebook over the weekend in response to a chart comparing gun death figures with those for terrorism deaths in the US. US President Barack Obama called on the media to look into those stats in his emotional speech following the latest mass shooting in that country.