Gun Control in Australia – A History Lesson for the USA

In 1996 Australia enacted the National Firearms Agreement as the result of a mass shooting in Tasmania that left thirty-five people dead and 21 wounded.  Referred to as the “Port Arthur Massacre” the shooter, a man that had a history of violent and erratic behavior that started in his early childhood, opened fire on shop owners and tourists with two military style semi-automatic rifles. As a result of this the newly elected Prime Minister pushed through The National Firearms Agreement, a buy back program that by 1997 had purchased 631,000 banded firearms, mostly .22 rimfire rifles, semi-automatic shotguns, and pump-action shotguns.   Victoria, the only state that kept records of the type of firearms destroyed indicated that only 3% of the weapons destroyed were military style weapons.

Australia historically had a very low level of gun related violence.  Overall levels of homicide and suicide had been in decline for several decades while the proportion that included firearms had been in decline since the early 1980’s.  After the firearms ban gun homicide and suicide rates continued to decline at generally the same rate, about 3.2% according to a 2003 study by the Brookings Institution.  There was a modest reduction in of mass killings, (four or more indiscriminate homicides) since the firearms buy back, however they still occurred but were accomplished via knives, gas, and arson rather than firearms.   The supporters of gun control in Australia will point you to the reduction in suicide rates by firearms in the country since the National Firearms Agreement.  However,  suicides by other means increased while suicides with firearms went down.  If someone is intent on mass murder or suicide and they don’t have access to firearms, they are going to figure out a way to accomplish their goal.

2008 data from the Australian Institute of Criminology reported an 9% decrease in homicides and a one third decrease in armed robbery since the 1990’s, but an increase of over 40% in assaults and 20% in sexual assaults.

This video shows some of the problems that are being experienced in Australia now.   For each allowed firearm a “Genuine Reason” must be given that relates to protecting crops or livestock from pests, hunting, target shooting, or collecting.  The current gun laws do not allow for possession a firearm for self defense.   For allowed firearms there are stringent requirements for storage that restricts the access of the firearm and ammo should one need it.   The government makes it nearly impossible for you to defend yourself.

In Great Britain banning guns to the citizenry didn’t work much better.  Their very stringent gun laws already on the books didn’t prevent mass shootings.  In 1987 Michael Ryan went on a shooting spree in Hunderford, England where he killed 16 people, including his Mother, and wounded 14 other before shooting himself.  Since the public and even the police were not allowed arms Ryan wandered the streets for eight hours with two semiautomatic rifles and a handgun before anyone with a firearm came to the rescue. After this incident the British Government banned semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.

In 1996, Thomas Hamilton, a man known to be mentally unstable, walked into a primary school in the Scottish town of Dunblane and shot 16 young children and their teacher.  He wounded 10 other children and three teachers before taking his own life.  Hamilton had a firearms certificate that allowed him to buy a firearm, although under the requirements in force at the time he shouldn’t have been allowed the certificate.  The Dunblane incident resulted in the Firearms Act of 1998 which instituted a nearly complete ban on handguns.  Under this new law owners of pistols were required to turn them in or face a penalty of 10 years in prison.

The results were not what was wanted, within 10 years of the handgun ban and confiscation of handguns from owners, crime with handguns has doubled according to the British Government crime reports.  Armed street gangs have the British Police carrying guns.  In 2010, even though handguns are banned,  another mass shooting occurred when Derrick Bird shot his brother and a colleague then drove through rural villages killing 12 people and injuring 11 more before killing himself.

We have a different situation here in the US, the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.  In the Declaration of Independence the citizens of the United States staked their claim to our rights:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

With the right to life, we infer the right to defend one’s life, and The Constitution secures our right in the Second Amendment:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Remember what the one fellow said the the video, don’t trust your politicians?  The framers of the Constitution understood that, probably better than we do today.  They had lived with an oppressive government in England and they understood that the citizens needed built in protection from the government.  The Bill of Rights is specifically written to protect our personal rights from the government.  Today’s politicians look at it as if the Bill of Rights (and for that matter the Constitution also) are rights granted by the government to the people, and the government therefore can take them away at their whim.  That’s not what it means!

What do conclude from this?  Both Australia and Great Britain have had a similar path to gun control and gun ban as a reaction to horrendous mass shootings.  The results at best were basically little or no change,  and for the most part no real increase in safety and security for the populous. Looking at history from Australia and Great Britain and looking at what is going on today in the America, it seems that universally the knee jerk reaction of Governments to incidents like these is to ban firearms with poor results that cause more incidents and then in more bans until the citizens are completely disarmed.  Sheep for the slaughter.

Gun control in the US needs to be based not on disarming the entire citizenry, but making sure that guns don’t get into the hands of mentally unstable people.  I have seen several estimate on the number of gun owners in the US, it varies from about 37 million to almost 60 million home in the US with guns in them.  That’s approximately 50 percent of the homes that have a gun in them.  One other statistic that I saw  was from the UN (question is who would believe what they said, they are out to disarm the US)  is that America has 5% of the worlds population but owns 50% of the guns in the world.  I actually find that fairly comforting that we own have the guns in the world.  Makes me feel better, that we are holding heavy with the firearms.  So, there are a lot of gun owners in the US that are responsible gun owners because they never make the evening news.  That makes mass shooting like we saw in Newtown very rare, something like 0.0000125% of the gun owners parcipated in mass shootings.  What needs to happen is that we need to put in place processes that will assure that mentally unstable people will not have access to firearms.  People being treated for mental illness, taking behavior modifying drugs, and having a past history of mental illness should be put into the background check database and then not allowed to purchase a firearm.  I think we can do this without banning particular type of weapons, which, when you think about it really had nothing to do with the number of people killed in these mass shootings.   Every notice how most of these shooting occur in schools?  What better place to go postal?  A place where you can be assured that no one will be armed where you are shooting?

What can we do?  Write or call your Senator and Representatives, call the Whitehouse, tell everyone you know to do the same.  Stand up for your rights and fight back!

1 Comment so far

  1. SiGraybeard on January 27th, 2013

    Ruger has put together a page that fires off letters to everyone in one easy form.

    Does it matter? Hard to say.

    There’s widely quoted post around that came from It was posted by a guy who was an aide to some Senator. He said they sniff out form letters instantly (they see tons of them) and discount them – a personalized email works better. You can find your congress critters email addresses easily, and then tweak one of the form emails, or you can just tell send them a short “Please vote against the Feinstein bill”, or just a generic “we oppose gun bans – they don’t work”.