Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has repeated the Australian gun-control movement’s incorrect claims that gun laws here have led to fewer deaths.
It is a statement made repeatedly around the world but it is not backed up by statistics, particularly in light of the fact that there are now far more legally owned firearms in Australia than before the laws changed in 1996 yet gun crime is significantly lower.
“The truth is that Australia’s experience shows that the less guns — particularly less automatic weapons — the less crime occurs and the less tragedy occurs,” Mr Albanese said in an interview with CNN.
As America struggles with continuing mass shootings, Albanese claimed the difference between the US and Australia was that Australia was in “the fortunate position … of having these strong gun controls”.
A comparison of statistics for firearm-related deaths before and after 1996 reveals there is no substance to those claims, as shown in the chart below, from a study at rand.org.
Shooting deaths of all kinds were falling prior to the 1996 gun laws, and there was no relevant acceleration in the overall decline of shooting deaths afterwards.
Gun homicides continued to drop until about 2004, and have been occurring at a rate of 0.1-0.2 homicides per 100,000 population ever since.
Meanwhile, in less than 20 years gun ownership returned to pre-1996 levels, with around 3.6 million legally registered firearms on the books by 2017.
That’s about 1.1 million more than after the 1996 buy-back, in which 640,000 weapons were handed in.
The cause of the reductions in firearms deaths since 1996 is still contentious, and the anti-gun lobby has focussed strongly on the gun laws brought about by the Howard government in 1996 as the reason, ignoring other possibilities.
The Australian anti-gun lobby is vocal in its steadfast belief in the benefits of local gun laws, and the media rarely queries them.
Both sides of Australian politics are content to maintain the status quo, with Prime Ministers and other political figures of both sides repeating the same ‘facts’.
Yet with more guns in private hands than ever before in Australia, and ongoing very low rates of gun crime, their over-simplified opinions are not contributing anything meaningful, let alone helpful, to the American debate.