The two graphs below show how the rates of firearm homicide and firearm suicide have varied in Australia over the period 1915 to 2006. More recent figures (up to 2009) suggest that the rates remain near 0.1 per 100,000 of population for firearm homicide and 0.8 per 100,000 of population for firearm suicide. It is clear that the declines in death rates are associated with the list of stricter gun laws introduced, as shown on the right hand side of each graph.
Several Australian gun clubs are deceiving the public by claiming that the National Firearms Agreement of 1996 has not been successful. The Sporting Shooters Association (SSAA) and the International Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting are two examples. We believe that soon our politicians will realise that it is often unwise to trust gun club leaders on gun law matters.
The two graphs shown below use Australian Bureau of Statistics data, they show how the number of deaths by firearm homicide and firearm suicide have been greatly reduced since stricter gun laws were introduced after 32 people were murdered in six massacres by legal gun owners in 1987, and 41 people were murdered by non-criminal gun owners in two massacres in 1996.
The improved gun laws after 1996 are usually called the National Firearms Agreement (NFA) or sometimes referred to as the Howard gun laws.
From the graphs it can be seen that the reduction in yearly rates of firearm homicide and firearm suicide are approximately two thirds of what they used to be in the days before improvements were made to the laws (The long period of approx 30 years between 1956 and 1986). Thousands of lives have been saved: why do the gun clubs deny this? Are they ashamed of their stance that more Australians would die?
It took over a decade for the full worth of the post-1987 and post-1996 gun laws to be revealed, but the facts are known now and have been known for several years.
In our opinion, over a decade’s examination of gun incidents has also revealed that there were two weaknesses in the NFA, the superficiality of shooter training and insufficient rigour in several of the regulations relating to gun storage. These could be addressed now, and should be, without any major changes to the successful structure of the NFA.
Thanks to ex PM John Howard for permission to reproduce this article from the SMH. In the past, two Prime Ministers have made major contributions to greatly assist public safety in this country; Bob Hawke, in the aftermath of the six gun massacres of 1987 and John Howard in 1996, in the aftermath of the mass gun murders at Hillcrest and Port Arthur. Australia is fortunate to have had such leaders who stood up to our ruthlessly selfish gun lobby. How tragic, then, that our present PM will not represent the needs of the Australian people today and do the same. Both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard are happy to be advised by panels consisting of shooters only – shooters who, for the most part, are dedicated to destroying the Hawke and Howard gun controls that have saved thousands of Australian lives.
Brothers in arms, yes, but the US needs to get rid of its guns
Published: August 1, 2012 – 8:13AM Sydney Morning Herald
EARLY in 2008 Janette and I were guests of the former president, George H. W. Bush or ”41”, as he is affectionately known, at his Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. I spoke to a warm and friendly audience of more than 300 who enthusiastically reacted until, in answer to a request to nominate the proudest actions of the Australian government I had led for almost 12 years, I included the national gun control laws enacted after the Port Arthur massacre in April 1996.
Having applauded my references to the liberation of East Timor, leaving Australia debt free, presiding over a large reduction in unemployment and standing beside the US in the global fight against terrorism, there was an audible gasp of amazement at my expressing pride in what Australia had done to limit the use of guns.
I had been given a sharp reminder that, despite the many things we have in common with our American friends, there is a huge cultural divide when it comes to the free availability of firearms.
Just under two weeks ago, my wife and I were in Dallas, Texas, when the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, took place. The responses of President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, his presumed Republican opponent, were as predictable as they were disappointing. While expressing sorrow at such a loss of life, both quickly said that they supported the Second Amendment to the US constitution: long regarded as providing an extensive right for Americans to bear arms.
The Second Amendment, crafted in the immediate post-revolutionary years, is more than 200 years old and was designed to protect the right of local communities to raise and maintain militia for use against external threats (including the newly formed national government!). It bears no relationship at all to the circumstances of everyday life in America today. Yet there is a near religious fervour about protecting the right of Americans to have their guns – and plenty of them.
In this respect it is worth noting that the local police claim that James Holmes, the man now formally charged over the Aurora shootings, had in his possession an AR15 assault rifle (similar to one used by Martin Bryant at Port Arthur), a shotgun and two Glock handguns and 6000 rounds of ammunition. All had been legally obtained.
Obama and Romney are both highly intelligent, decent men who care deeply about the safety of Americans. Yet such is the strength of the pro-gun culture in their country that neither felt able to use the Aurora tragedy as a reason to start a serious debate on gun control.
There is more to this than merely the lobbying strength of the National Rifle Association and the proximity of the November presidential election. It is hard to believe that their reaction would have been any different if the murders in Aurora had taken place immediately after the election of either Obama or Romney. So deeply embedded is the gun culture of the US, that millions of law-abiding, Americans truly believe that it is safer to own a gun, based on the chilling logic that because there are so many guns in circulation, one’s own weapon is needed for self-protection. To put it another way, the situation is so far gone there can be no turning back.
The murder rate in the US is roughly four times that in each of Australia, New Zealand, and Britain. Even the most diehard supporter of guns must concede that America’s lax firearms laws are a major part of the explanation for such a disparity.
On April 28, 1996, Bryant, using two weapons, killed 35 people in Tasmania. It was, at that time, the largest number of people who had died in a single series of incidents at the hands of one person.
The national gun control laws delivered by the Howard government, following this tragedy received bipartisan support. They, nonetheless, caused internal difficulties for some of my then National Party colleagues. Tim Fischer and John Anderson, then leader and deputy leader of the National Party federally, as well as Rob Borbidge, then National Party premier of Queensland, courageously faced down opponents in their own ranks to support a measure they knew to be in the national interest. Many believed, in the months that followed, that hostility towards these gun laws played a role in the emergence of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation cause.
These national gun laws have proven beneficial. Research published in 2010 in the American Journal of Law and Economics found that firearm homicides, in Australia, dropped 59 per cent between 1995 and 2006. There was no offsetting increase in non-firearm-related murders. Researchers at Harvard University in 2011 revealed that in the 18 years prior to the 1996 Australian laws, there were 13 gun massacres (four or more fatalities) in Australia, resulting in 102 deaths. There have been none in that category since the Port Arthur laws.
A key component of the 1996 measure, which banned the sale, importation and possession of all automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, was a national buy-back scheme involving the compulsory forfeiture of newly illegal weapons. Between 1996 and 1998 more than 700,000 guns were removed and destroyed. This was one-fifth of Australia’s estimated stock of firearms. The equivalent in the US would have been 40 million guns. Australia’s action remains one of the largest destructions of civilian firearms.
Australia is a safer country as a result of what was done in 1996. It will be the continuing responsibility of current and future federal and state governments to ensure the effectiveness of those anti-gun laws is never weakened. The US is a country for which I have much affection. There are many American traits which we Australians could well emulate to our great benefit. But when it comes to guns we have been right to take a radically different path.
The Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (SSAA) has continually promoted gun
law policies that would make Australian society similar to the private gun
mayhem society called the USA. Gun Control Australia condemn’s these sickening
policies and the groups that hold on to them such as the SSAA. No organisation
in Australia is working harder to destroy our successful gun laws than the SSAA;
thus it has become an enormous danger to the future of our society. We call on
the Gillard government to break all ties with this ruthlessly selfish organisation
that has such close associations with America’s National Rifle Association
(NRA) and the international gun and ammunition trade.
A week ago major gun control groups in America released this statement concerning
the recent mass gun murder in Colorado.
Over 30 National, State, and Local Gun Violence Prevention Groups Issue Statement
on Colorado Mass Shooting
Washington, DC—Following today’s mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater leaving at least 12 dead and dozens wounded, national, state, and local gun violence prevention organizations (see list at bottom) issued the following joint statement:
“Our deepest sympathies go to all those affected by this terrible tragedy.
“Today’s mass shooting is the price paid in death, pain, and suffering by families and
communities for an out-of-control, militarized gun industry that prides itself
on selling increasingly lethal products to virtually anyone with little concern
for the inevitable tragedies that result. In America today—where virtually
anyone with a credit card and a grudge can outfit their own personal army—mass
shootings are as predictable as they are tragic. Just as predictably, those who
celebrate this lethal shift—the NRA and its gun industry partners—remain mute
when families and communities suffer the consequences. And when attention
fades, they’ll once again resume their lethal trade, unless we stand together
as Americans to stop them.
“Gun violence is preventable. It is long past time for policymakers at all levels to
act. Americans have a right to feel safe in their communities—in schools,
restaurants, movie theaters, and all public places. Using the cynical desires
of the gun lobby and firearms industry as an excuse for inaction is shameful.”
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and its national network of chapters
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
States United to Prevent Gun Violence
Violence Policy Center
Arizonans for Gun Safety
Women Against Gun Violence (California)
Ceasefire New Jersey (a project of the Coalition for Peace Action)
Connecticut Against Gun Violence Education Fund
Georgians for Gun Safety
Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah
Hawaii Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence
Hoosiers Concerned About Gun Violence
Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence
Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence
Stop Handgun Violence (Massachusetts)
Northland Brady Chapter (Minnesota)
Million Mom March, Richmond, VA chapter
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence
North Carolinians Against Gun Violence
Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence
Lance Orchid, National Organizing Director, Gun Violence Prevention
Maria Roach, New Organizing Institute, Gun Violence Prevention Senior Fellow
Virginia Center for Public Safety
Wisconsin Anti-Violence Educational Fund
Gun Control Australia praises these organisations that seek to protect American people from the pro-violence policies of that country’s shooting groups.
Samantha Lee and Roland Browne Now With Gun Control Australia
From July 2012 the National Coalition for Gun Control has merged with Gun Control Australia. Samantha Lee, based in NSW and Roland Browne, based in Tasmania, will join Rhonda Collins and John Crook as spokespersons for GCA.
We welcome the commitment towards responsible gun laws in Australian society of two people who have given many years of their lives to this cause.
GCA takes this opportunity to present our policy on gun control.
Gun Control Australia’s Policy on Gun Control
1. The International gun lobby is largely based on the profit desires of commercial gun interests and the political beliefs of ideologically extreme gun organisations in the USA. It exerts considerable influence on the beliefs of most politicised Australian shooter groups; it is, therefore, an immense danger to public safety in Australia, as well as a major threat to our country’s long-established non-violent value system.
Some legal gun owners have caused great suffering in Australia and forceful constrictions have been shown to be necessary to restrict this aberrant segment of legal gun owners. Illegal gun ownership also constitutes a serious risk to public safety and requires continued governmental action to reduce the flow of guns to the illegal and criminal sectors.
2. Gun access restrictions made to our gun laws following the six mass gun murders of 1987 and two mass gun murders of 1996, as well as the 2002 Monash University shooting have made major reductions to the annual death rates for gun homicide and gun suicide.
3. The National Firearm Agreement’s introduction of nation-wide gun registration and greatly limited access to pump-action and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns has been successful, but time has revealed that unfortunate variations within the gun law regime have ocurred between the eight State and Territory jurisdictions; these, along with weaknesses in the training for a Shooters Licence and regulations governing several areas of gun storage must be improved.
4. Mass handgun murders overseas at Dunblane, Winnenden, Virginia Technical University and other places, strongly advise us that semi-automatic handguns should be banned from private ownership.
5. Misbehaviour with legally and illegally owned guns will be more effectively controlled if the entire nation has common gun laws operating. It is in the long-term interest of public safety for gun laws to be in Commonwealth government hands.
6. The complexity of ensuring safe private gun ownership and the often deceptive efforts of spokes-groups within that sector of Australian society to destroy our existing gun controls in favour of American-style gun laws suggests that a federal Gun Control Authority is badly needed to defend the existing successful gun laws and examine the weaknesses still remaining in the National Firearms Agreement.
During April 2012 the website of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (SSAA) has a message from its National President, Bob Green. His message tells readers about the role of privately owned guns used as a pastime and recreation.
April 28th 2012 is the 16th anniversary of the Port Arthur gun murder of 35 people, so Australians may well choose to recall the part played by the SSAA in trying to prevent the introduction of the very successful gun laws that came into operation following that tragic event.
No group in Australia tried harder to stop the improved gun laws than the SSAA. Indeed, no group is trying harder, now, to destroy those wonderfully successful gun laws than the SSAA.
Background – Gun Law History Over Recent Decades
In the three decade span between the mid 1950’s and the mid 1980’s Australia experienced very high yearly rates of gun deaths. During this period shooter groups were the government’s main reference advisors on gun laws.
In 1987 there were six gun massacres, 32 were murdered with guns. Most murderers held their guns legally.
Soon, most Australian jurisdictions made stricter gun laws resulting in a significant lowering of gun homicide and gun suicide rates. The SSAA organized a march of almost 30,000 shooters through the streets of Melbourne in an attempt to stop the proposed gun law improvements being enacted.
In early 1996 a dedicated shooter murdered six members of his family at a suburb of Brisbane and on 28 April 35 were murdered by a young man called Martin Bryant, at Port Arthur in Tasmania.
In the following year or two stricter gun laws were introduced by most Australian jurisdictions resulting in further lowering of the gun homicide and gun suicide rates. The SSAA organized shooter marches in capital cities aimed at stopping the proposed new gun laws being enacted.
In 2002-03, against the SSAA’s wishes, stricter controls were also introduced on handguns following the gun murder of two students at Monash University.
By 2004 it was becoming clear that the combination of new gun laws had been most effective and this was supported by subsequent statistics.
About one third of the number of people who used to be murdered with guns before stricter gun laws came about in the period 1988 to 2003 are now murdered with guns. About one third of the number of people who used to die from self-inflicted gun wounds now do so.
Perhaps about 2000 more Australians are alive now because of the stricter gun laws. This change has occurred since governments followed the public’s wishes regarding gun laws and not the wishes of Australia’s major shooting groups.
Shooter Groups Deplorable Attitude to the Above Evidence
Once it was obvious the stricter gun laws were working, the SSAA set about concealing the facts from politicians and public. In academic papers and media interviews SSAA representatives ridiculed the stricter gun laws in the hope of covering–up the true facts – this has continued till today, in what is an extraordinary and sickening attack on the interests of the general public.
So when, in his April 2012 message, SSAA president Bob Green tells you about the less harsh side of shooting, as in these words:
……… the Victorian duck hunting season opened, with hunters legitimately harvesting what nature provides them in the form of green, lean and healthy alternatives to our diets. No doubt, there were many members who took to the field to help reduce the impacts of foxes, rabbits, feral goats and pigs on our native wildlife or to find some meat for the family dinner table.
Please remember the SSAA’s attempt to stop the stricter gun laws that have saved about 2000 lives and the ugly side of the SSAA’s aims that are not mentioned, eg, the SSAA’s continued attempts to have almost all types of guns as readily available in Australia as they are in America – regardless of the sickening consequences to public safety.
But, above all, remember how, at Port Arthur on the 28th of April, 16 years ago, in the Broad Arrow café, Victorian mother Mrs Carolyn Loughton threw herself on top of her 15 year-old daughter, Sarah, in a desperate attempt to save her life from a young man with a semi-automatic rifle. Then go to the Melbourne suburban cemetery and on Sarah’s grave, read the mother’s heart-breaking tribute to her daughter.
Suddenly you’ll find you have learnt something about the dark side of Australia’s ruthlessly selfish gun lobby.