Gun laws: a danger to society?


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Australia’s 1996 gun laws have had no effect, and the gun-control lobby’s insistence on pushing their fallacies could be costing Australian lives.

Poor policies resulting from bad science could be having effects on broader issues like suicide prevention by taking legislators’ attention away from key issues and redirecting them to irrelevant gun control laws.

A paper released by Women in Hunting and Shooting (WiSH) sheds light on how flaws in gun-control policies are not being scrutinised because gun-control advocates are stifling debate and promoting research that is wrong.

As a result, knowledge that could improve public safety is regressing while ineffective policies are being allowed to flourish.

WiSH has published various research contradicting the findings of supporters of the 1996 gun laws, and its latest paper makes the point that an “increasing weight of evidence [shows] that Australia’s 1996 National Firearms Agreement (NFA) did not produce tangible results in the ten years following its introduction”.

“In the instance of firearms legislation, proponents of increasingly restrictive legislation have made a concerted effort to dismiss evidence that contradicts their viewpoint, and to produce more of the ‘poor science’ that generates ineffective policy,” WiSH says. “This approach leads not to progress, but rather to a ‘regress’ of knowledge.”

Unfortunately, reasonable efforts by the firearm community to get this message across have had as little effect as the gun laws.

WiSH’s website contains a mass of correspondence and debate over gun-law research, marked by a handful of overriding points:

  • the refusal of the anti-gun (or pro-gun law) side to acknowledge the legitimacy of arguments put forward by WiSH members Dr Jannine Baker and Dr Samara McPhedron, who believe the gun laws had no effect
  • the steadfast way in which the anti-gun researchers stand by the lack of mass shootings in Australian since 1996 as proof of their arguments
  • the willingness of Baker and McPhedron to openly publish background information, even criticism aimed at them, so that people can draw their own conclusions.

There is truth in both camps, but the problem lies in identifying where the truth lies and what to do with it. The proposition that the 1996 gun laws have had no effect must not be ignored, especially when you consider how gun-control advocates attempt to dismiss it.

WiSH notes that in New Zealand, where semi-automatic longarms are legal and longarm registration is not required in the same way as in Australia, there have been no mass shootings since 1997, after a series of them before then. The implication is that other other factors must have been at play. Those factors have not been analysed in Australia, where all credit for the lack of mass shootings is given to the 1996 gun laws. 

When looking at gun-related suicides, which did drop after the 1996 gun laws were introduced, the gun control researchers have ignored parallel reductions in other means of suicide, as well as a nationwide suicide prevention program that was running at the time. BM’s wider reading of suicide shows the gun laws did not have the effect claimed by those who focussed on gun stats alone. The gun control lobby has not only dismissed this, they have ridiculed it.

Both parties are represented by lobbyists. Researchers who are positive about the 1996 gun laws include Philip Alpers and Simon Chapman, gun control proponents who proudly boast of their involvement with establishing the laws. McPhedron and Baker, the two key people behind Women in Hunting and Shooting, are both shooters. What this analysis needs is an object referee who can find the balance between the arguments and determine the next direction for research. What questions remain unanswered? What don’t we know?

Firearm policy (all policy, for that matter) must, as WiSH says, be “based on empirical data, and careful evaluation of accumulated empirical study, rather than outdated assumptions that are proving increasingly unfounded.” Without that, Australian society is not benefitting at all.


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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.

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