Australia’s response to gun massacre

Words to the wise: "Lord, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." No guns, no massacres, and fewer suicides. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Australia’s ban on assault weapons has been mentioned several times here. In this NYT essay, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard describes how he and his conservative National Party responded to a horrific massacre by banning assault weapons.

In the end, we won the battle to change gun laws because there was majority support across Australia for banning certain weapons. And today, there is a wide consensus that our 1996 reforms not only reduced the gun-related homicide rate, but also the suicide rate. The Australian Institute of Criminology found that gun-related murders and suicides fell sharply after 1996. The American Journal of Law and Economics found that our gun buyback scheme cut firearm suicides by 74 percent. In the 18 years before the 1996 reforms, Australia suffered 13 gun massacres — each with more than four victims — causing a total of 102 deaths. There has not been a single massacre in that category since 1996.


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31 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. All well and fine

    but Australia does not have a 2nd Amendment. And recent SCOTUS decisions have affirmed the 2nd as an individual right. Settled law.

    Progressive should stop whining about the UK and Australia and Japan and Canada and start the process to amend or repeal the 2nd Amendment.

    Let the body politic settle the matter once and for all.

    • Maybe the whining is part of the 2nd amendment amending process

      and this idea that it’s “settled law” is a bit strange considering that SCOTUS made that decision quite recently, overturning what many folks had thought was “settled law”.

      • Settled because it was never decided

        Talking about individual right. Except possibly for Miller in 1938, and I say possibly because Miller did not directly address an individual’s rights under the 2nd, there has never been a direct matter before the court concerning the 2nd. There have been mixed state and circuit decisions, but not until Heller, really, has the SCOTUS addressed the issue front on.

        “Settled law” is not the same as selected law school faculty insisting that the 2nd didn’t address individual rights. There was always a countervailing legal theory, but collision within academia is quite recent.

        • No private right to own firearms under 2nd Amendment

          Settled law. Radical faction in control of SC put George Bush in office and has overturned centuries of sensible law in many areas, including 2nd amendment jurisprudence. They are just a few appointments away from being consigned to the dustbin of history. Anyway, limiting private ownership of firearms to single-shot rifles is well within range of even current radical and non-originalist legislation from the Supreme Court.

          • No private right to own firearms under 2nd Amendment?

            What was Heller, then? And McDonald?

            BTW, every post-election review of FL’s vote count has GWB winning Florida.

            BTW, part 2, 5 presidents have been elected to the office winning fewer popular votes than their challenger, unfair as I know that seems to you, but those are the rules.

  2. How does an assualt weapons ban affect suicide rates?

    I’m just guessing here, but I don’t think assault weapons and high capacity magazines are often used in suicides. Heck, you usually only need one bullet.

    And the Japanese have shown you can have a 26/100,000 suicide rate, versus 11 in the US and 9 in the UK, without any guns at all!

    • You need to read more carefully

      I won’t tell you where in the essay the things you’re on about are addressed, because you should have found them yourself before you wrote your comments.

      • Where have I misread?

        And today, there is a wide consensus that our 1996 reforms not only reduced the gun-related homicide rate, but also the suicide rate.

        That seems to me to be saying an AWB reduced suicides. If I’m missing something, please point me in the right direction.

        • OK, I'll waste some time

          Where did you misread? Here:

          The American Journal of Law and Economics found that our gun buyback scheme cut firearm suicides by 74 percent.

          Since you haven’t bothered to find out what the actual components of the Australian reforms were, that’s as far as I’m going with your education. Do it yourself.

          • I think you are being unfair

            Note that “firearm suicides” are not “suicides”. It is possible that non-firearm suicides could have gone up during the same period. The essay doesn’t actually say one way or another.

            I would imagine that having less access to guns might lower the number of people killed in murder-suicides, and that does seem to be the case in Australia. It is less clear that it will prevent suicidal people from finding other ways to kill themselves.

            • Not what I was responding to

              bs wrote: “That seems to me to be saying an AWB reduced suicides.” The essay said it was the gun buyback that reduced suicide, not an assault-weapon ban. This the “ready, fire, aim” school of argument. Sometimes the front page of BMG is riddled with bs comments, which is evidence of an automatic-comment weapon. It gets tiresome.

          • Total suicides went UP after the gun buy back

            My point has always been that disturbed, depressed, and mentally ill who are suicide risks will use any method to kill themselves. If a gun is not available, then they will use Rx medication, jump off buildings (Foxconn,) or hang themselves. Gun availability has little or no effect on the suicide rate.

            This is the Australian experience, as graphed in the section “Impact On Suicide Rates.”

            After the 1997 gun buy back, TOTAL suicides went UP for some years before declining while after 1997 gun suicides declined at around the same rates since the late 1970′s. There’s no down spike in firearm suicides.

            This is like the rooster believing his crowing makes the sun rise.

            • That link is pretty weak

              it’s not much different than citing a blog as a source. Without a better source, I’m not inclined to believe much of that blog. I’m not accusing the text of being incorrect (willful or otherwise), merely stating that the source doesn’t appear to be particularly credible.

          • It should be clarified

            When discussing the Australian gun ban, it’s the same thing John Howard refers to as gun “buyback.”

            Is this your understanding?

    • Reducing access to common suicide methods reduces deaths

      Comparing cross culturally is not useful because the base level of suicides varies dramatically in different societies.

      • By that logic, Australia's post-ban experience is immaterial

        They’re a country of 22 million with a different heritage, culture, and lifestyle, so I guess we shouldn’t compare their suicide/homicide rates to ours, gun use notwithstanding.

        • No, that's not what I said.

          Studies show that universally restricting access to methods used in suicides make them less frequent. Saying that other countries with fewer guns have more suicides than us (or the Aussies) isn’t relevant, because culture and factors like daylight levels also affect the suicide rate. It is however possible to isolate the effect of reducing firearm access and conclude that it would lead to less suicides.

  3. Could we have extra levy on guns?

    Certain products have specific taxes — gasoline, cigarettes, and booze all come to mind. Would it pass constitutional muster to put a special tax on guns, above and beyond sales tax?

    If so, could we use those proceeds to fund gun buy-back programs? Rewards for tips related to illegal gun ownership?

    At the end of the day, the folks who want to preserve as wide a range of legal gun ownership as possible have a vested interest in reducing acts of gun violence, be they intentional, accidental, or suicidal. After all, it’s not the 300 million guns I care about. It’s the more than 100,000 injuries and deaths in 2010 in America due to firearms that concern me. The smaller that number gets, the less time guns will be the focus of political rhetoric or regulation.

    • Yes and it's a good idea

      See my post on the Chris Rock tax. I think taxing ammo or guns arguably does not limit the right since even Roberts affirmed the taxing power of an elected Congress is nearly unlimited.

      • "...nearly unlimited"

        Well, not so. You cannot ban an enumerated right by taxing it out of existence.

        Example: taxing newspapers so they cannot stay in business profitably is an infringement of the 1st. Same for guns, and by extension, ammo.

    • 100,000 is way off

      I cannot link to the CDC’s online app, but the result for “Unintentional Firearm Gunshot Nonfatal Injuries and Rates per 100,000, 2011, United States, All Races, Both Sexes, All Ages,” was 14,675 on a population of 311,591,917.

      CDC has a report showing 680 unintentional deaths by firearms. Statistically, this is noise. We need to ban swimming pools first. And bicycles.

      And from the 2011 FBI Expanded Homicide Data Table I get 8,583 firearm homicides. Note that homicides by RIFLE is 323 so an AWB is sort of meaningless in the scope of things.

      • So post an actual link or source

        The FBI link shows 8500 murders by firearm. The CDC link doesn’t work. You haven’t included suicides.

        This Firearm Injury in the US monograph published by UPenn’s Firearm & Injury Center at Penn shows about 33,000 firearm deaths per year, for each of the past 30 years or so. See page 5. They wrong too?

        As for injuries, on page 6 near the very top they state that “In 2008,
        there were 78,622 nonfatal firearm injuries in the United States.” That very closely matches the source I referenced earlier.

        Both of the documents I listed — with links — list their sources. You’re claiming a substantially different number, but haven’t given any evidence at all. Kindly do so…

  4. Should be noted...

    …Howard is a giant figure on the Aussie right. He’s no hippie liberal, but a hard-right manipulator unafraid of power, and he knew when enough was enough. We need more conservatives with courage in our country.

    sabutai   @   Thu 17 Jan 9:42 PM
    • Brains, not courage, are what's lacking

      I think America has no lack of conservatives with courage.

      I think it’s the brains that are lacking.

      • Conservative brains aren't the problem

        It’s a progressive’s inclination to believe, contrary to the studies, statistics, history, law, and common sense that regulating or banning something makes the problem go away.

        This is subset of a progressive’s belief that their only their opinions, views, and convictions are valid and righteous and occupy the moral high ground. No other opinions, views, and convictions permitted.

        That, and your hoplophobia, is the problem.

        • Take it to the Globe

          You’ll find a receptive echo-chamber for rubbish like this in the comments section of the Globe and Herald.

          • Tom, I'm happy to debate and discuss

            and respect others’ opinion. Library shelves groan under the weight of CDC, FBI, and other academic studies on guns and violence, so both sides of the issue can find applicable stats and make their case.

            That’s why I love posting here, and why I skip the Herald and the Globe.

            But when you level ad hominem attacks like “I think it’s the brains that are lacking,” that signals you’re unwilling or unable to debate constructively.

            • Who are some current conservatives with brains, then?

              Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley and David Brudnoy had brains and were enjoyable to listen to, even when they espoused opinions I disagreed with. Barry Goldwater would be drummed out of today’s GOP for being too liberal. I know of NO similar intellects in today’s public or political forum.

              You seem to forget that this thread is discussing the successful regulation of guns and ammunition that stopped the growing gun violence problem in Australia. I have an “inclination” to believe facts like that, especially when they stand in contrast to the garbage uttered by the NRA and parroted by the GOP (and, sadly, too many “conservative” Democrats).

              I was specifically referring to your second paragraph. I’m sorry, but when I look at issues like climate change, availability of contraception, sex education and its relationship to STDs and abortion rates, “austerity” and economic growth, and so on, it is the GOP — not progressives — that dismisses anything that violates its dogma.

              It is the GOP who is purging moderates and intellectuals from its ranks as it hurtles ever more loudly right-wards.

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