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Australia`s Gun Ban, Crime & Video Tape

Tuesday, March 28, 2000

Between 1980-1995, Australia`s firearm-related death rate was cut nearly in half and its firearm-related homicide rate nearly by two-thirds. (The former decreased 46%, from 4.8 deaths per 100,000 population to 2.6; the latter decreased 63%, from eight per 100,000 to three). In 1995, the annual number of firearm-related deaths fell to its lowest point in the 16-year period.

Despite this real progress over a decade and a half, the demented acts of a lone gunman in Port Arthur, Tasmania, on a Sunday in April 1996 were used to launch a massive campaign against law-abiding Australian gun owners. Rather than acknowledging one man`s insanity, opportunistic gun control activists and scared politicians rushed to blame "loose gun laws." It didn`t matter that those laws required any Tasmanian who wanted to own a firearm or even an air rifle to pass a gun handling course and carry a photo-bearing gun license that had to be produced prior to the purchase of any firearm or ammunition. The end result for all Australians was a government turn-in scheme and the follow-on destruction of more than 640,000 hunting rifles and shotguns.

Ban supporters, including gun prohibitionists in the U.S., are actively promoting the legislation`s alleged crime-fighting benefits. Crime statistics, however, contradict them. For example, from 1997-1998, assaults and armed robberies increased in all Australian states. Armed robberies increased from 42% of all robberies in 1997 to 46% in 1998. The number of total violent crimes and the numbers of all individual categories of violent crime, with the exception of murder, increased. In addition, unlawful entries rose 3.3% from 421,569 in 1997 to 435,670 in 1998.

The violent crime statistics shown below were retrieved on March 27, 2000, from the Australia Bureau of Statistics website:

VIOLENT CRIME

1997

1998

TREND

Murder

321

284

-11.5%

Attempted Murder

318

382

+20.1%

Manslaughter

39

49

+25.6%

Assault

124,500

132,967

+6.8%

Sexual Assault

14,353

14,568

+1.5%

Kidnaping/abduction

562

662

+17.8%

Armed Robbery

9,054

10,850

+19.8%

Unarmed Robbery

12,251

12,928

+5.5%

TOTAL

161,398

172,690

+7.0%

In a March 22, 2000, letter, Australia`s Attorney General Daryl Williams raised objections to an NRA video (www.nralive.com/gunban/gunban.cfm) which asserts that after the Australian government`s confiscation of hunting rifles and shotguns, armed robberies rose, assaults with guns rose, murders with guns rose and home invasions rose. Williams said NRA was using "misleading" statistics to make its case against gun control. He also claimed "the national firearms agreement has succeeded in removing more than 640,000 dangerous weapons from circulation in the community." Would he call it "misleading" to say instead that "the national ban has led to the destruction of 640,000 commonplace semi-automatic rifles and semi-automatic and pump shotguns?"

If the Attorney General has a real problem with NRA`s video, his problem is much closer to home than NRA headquarters. The video shows real people protesting their loss of liberty and loss of the right to self-defense. Those people are Australians. And the statistics presented in the NRA video were reported in real newspapers--Australian newspapers. Here are several examples:

  • "The number of Victorians murdered with firearms has almost trebled since the introduction of tighter gun laws.
    --Geelong Advertiser, Victoria, Sept. 11, 1997.
  • "Gun crime is on the rise despite tougher laws imposed after the Port Arthur massacre, but gun control lobbyists maintain Australia is a safer place. . . . The number of robberies involving guns jumped 39% last year to 2183, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and assaults involving guns rose 28% to 806. The number of gun murders, excluding the Port Arthur massacre, increased by 19% to 75."
    --"Gun Crime Rises Despite Controls," Illawarra Mercury Oct. 28, 1998.
  • "Crime involving guns is on the rise despite tougher laws. The number of robberies with guns jumped 39% in 1997, while assaults involving guns rose 28% and murders by 19%."
    --"Gun crime soars," Morning Herald, Sydney, Oct. 28, 1998.
  • "Murders by firearms have actually increased (in Victoria) since the buyback scheme, which removed 225,000 registered and unregistered firearms from circulation. There were 18 shooting murders in 1996-97, after the buyback scheme had been introduced, compared with only six in 1995-1996 before the scheme started."
    --"Killings rise in gun hunt," Herald Sun, Melbourne, Dec. 23, 1998.
  • "Victoria is facing one of its worst murder tolls in a decade and its lowest arrest rate ever."
    --Herald Sun, Melbourne, Dec. 11, 1999.
  • "The environment is more violent and dangerous than it was some time ago."
    --South Australia Police Commissioner Mal Hyde, reported in The Advertiser, Adelaide, Dec. 23, 1999.

Attorney General Williams should look closer to home if he truly objects to "misleading" the public policy debate. In fact, he should look directly at the anti-gun group Gun Control Australia (GCA). When the Sporting Shooters Ass`n of Australia (SSAA) recently ran a TV campaign that promoted the shooting sports as activities for the whole family, GCA spokesman Randy Marshall said: "People should not be fooled by pretty images of family life enjoying shooting--shooting is about practising to kill--that`s why guns are manufactured. Every person who joins SSAA helps destroy the gun laws which protect Australians."

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