Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Gun laws haven't cut murder rates: study

Gun laws haven't cut murder rates: study
October 23, 2006 - 4:40PM

Australia's guns buyback has not reduced rates of gun murder or suicide, a new study says.

The paper, published in the British Journal of Criminology and written by pro-gun lobbyists Jeanine Baker and Samara McPhedran, found the buyback of 640,000 guns at a cost of some $500 million failed to make Australia safer.

That contrasts with the views of other studies and Prime Minister John Howard, who say the guns buyback has made Australia safer.

The buyback and tough national gun laws were instituted in the wake of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, when lone gunman Martin Bryant armed himself with an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons and killed 35 people.

Self-loading rifles and self-loading and pump-action shotguns were banned, with a 12-month amnesty period for people to hand in their weapons and receive compensation.

The laws outraged farmers and recreational shooters but were widely accepted as necessary to stop future massacres.

The new paper disputes whether the laws have worked.

Ms McPhedran is the chairwoman of the International Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting, while Dr Baker is the South Australian president of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia.

They cited data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) to say the gun law reforms had not affected actual gun murder rates per 100,000 of population.

Neither could the reforms be shown to have altered firearm suicide rates because suicide rates by other means had also begun to decline in the late 1990s.

"Reducing the number of legally held firearms, banning certain firearms, and increasing the requirements that must be met to legally own firearms has not produced the desired outcome of a safer society," Ms McPhedran said.

"We cannot say firearm suicide rates were affected by the laws. Social changes and emphasis on prevention initiatives appear to have lowered suicides using all methods."

AIC figures point to a long-term trend in falling gun death which preceded the 1996 gun laws reforms and continued after it.

In the period 1991-2001 the number of firearm deaths in Australia, including murder, suicide and accidents, dropped by almost 50 per cent.

But University of Sydney public health professor Simon Chapman attacked the report, complaining aspects were "verging on academic dishonesty".

Professor Chapman said the study failed to differentiate between gun deaths where one or two people were killed and the large-scale massacres that the tough gun laws were designed to prevent.

Prof Chapman said the best evidence that Mr Howard's gun laws were working was that there had been no mass shooting sprees since they were introduced.

The professor said the paper was based on "statistical smoke and mirrors".

© 2006 AAP

So Prof. Chapman, what you're saying is, you'd rather see 200 people die each year in ones and twos, rather than in groups of 10 or more? I suppose that is progress. In a weird sort of way.

Makes me glad I don't live down under!

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