Soon after the completely senseless murder of an Australian athlete in Oklahoma, former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer pleaded with Australian tourists to boycott the United States due to our supposed proliferation of guns which, as Mr. Fischer evidently believes, leads to an increase in violence and crime.
“I am deeply angry about this because of the callous attitude of the three teenagers [but] it’s a sign of the proliferation of guns on the ground in the USA,” he said. The problem with Mr. Fischer’s statement? The data simply does not support his accusation, and even statistics from Mr. Fischer’s own country reinforces how little of an effect gun control truly has.
In 1996, Australia enacted strict new controls on guns after a massacre in Tasmania that left 35 people dead and another 23 wounded. Then Prime Minister John Howard forced Australia’s states to implement a ban on ALL semi-automatic rifles and pump-action shotguns and tightened licensing requirements for his nation’s people. He also organized a massive FORCED year-long gun buy-back program in an attempt to remove guns from circulation. Residents were required to sell back their now-banned guns to the state.
Between October 1996 and September 1997, the government bought more than 631,000 guns from its residents – mostly 22-caliber semi-automatics and shotguns. The government spent $360m in Australian dollars. Only an estimated 60% of Australian residents obeyed the law.
But crime statistics in Australia reveal that increased gun control made no impact on violent crime and homicides in the country since 1996, nor did the gun buy-back program show any positive effect on Australia’s crime rate. Australia’s crime rate has always been lower than that of the United States, but no observable statistic links Australia’s crime rate, relative to the United States’, to gun control. Their own data fails to provide that connection.
One of Australia’s own newspapers, in fact, considers gun violence in Sydney to be “out-of-control”. How can gun violence get so bad if government “controls” guns?
According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, the “percentage of homicides committed with a firearm continued a declining trend which began in 1969“, which was well before the strict new controls on gun ownership in 1996.
Data does indicate that the number of homicides committed with a gun declined since the middle 90s. However, homicides committed with knife or other sharp objects increased dramatically, more quickly than the decline rate of gun crime. In other words, nothing changed in Australia’s violent crime statistics beyond the weapon of choice.
Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister is understandably upset at the death of one of his countrymen in the United States via a gun, but data shows his subsequent lecture of gun control to be entirely unnecessary and unsupported by facts. Like Sandy Hook, using the emotional climate of a tragedy to push for ineffectual government power is not only shallow and transparent, but it further ignores factual solutions that might actually resolve the problem with violent crime in both of our countries.
Do not lecture us about gun control, Mr. Fischer. From our nation’s fight for independence hundreds of years ago, gun ownership has not only been an integral part of American culture but is a constitutionally-protected right of every American. As YOUR country proves, Mr. Fischer, criminals will find a way to commit crimes, whether that is at the barrel of a gun or the edge of a knife. Instead of focusing on the weapon used in the crime, try focusing on the climate that harbors and encourages criminal activity. You might be surprised at what you find.