A recent news article in a Sydney newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, made the assertion that gun regulation had failed, leaving guns in the hands of only the criminals.
By way of background, for those unfamiliar with Australia’s gun laws, guns are tightly regulated here. In the late 90s, following a gun massacre, stricter regulation was brought into effect. Semi-automatic weapons and pump-action shotguns were banned and a strict registration and licensing regime was introduced. Australians do not, and never did have, the right to bear arms, nor did they carry guns with the same frequency, as citizens of the United States do. 85% of the population supported the new gun control laws.
So at the time, the fear was the new gun laws would place guns in the hands of criminals and take them away from citizens (forgetting, for the most part, citizens didn’t have them to start with). And now some ass wanted to assert this was what had actually happened.
I had a number of gut reactions to this, one being criminals with guns seem to more often shoot each other with them than citizens. While this might be undesirable it is, arguably, better than, say, bullied school students taking guns to school and randomly shooting students and teachers. For the most part, tight gun regulation has put guns beyond the reach of such people.
But let’s take a more objective look at the statistics. This was prompted, in part, by a conversation with an American Tweep of mine, who was surprised by Australia’s homicide rate. I told him it was only a few hundred a year.
‘That’s just your gun deaths?’ he asks.
‘No, that’s the total homicide rate. Across the whole country.’
He was shocked. Not in a bad way, but it says something about America’s homicide rate that he found this number staggeringly low. Now I do, of course, realise Australia has a much smaller population than the US, so I did some research to do a proper comparison.
In 2010, Australia had 190 attempted murders and 229 actual murders. Of these, 140 (73%) and 154 (67%) respectively involved a weapon (not necessarily a gun). For a comparison that takes into account population figures, the homicide rate in America is 5.5 people per 100,000. In Australia, it’s 1.34, or one quarter the rate. That’s significantly lower.
|Funny... this doesn't seem to be the actual outcome|
In Australia, a knife was used in 33% of murders and 28% of attempted murders. It was the most common weapon, so it beat out guns. In fact, a gun was used in less than 20% of murders and less than 25% of attempted murders.
So murders do occur without guns, and you might be tempted to say murder will happen with or without access to guns. Which it will. But accessibility to guns affects the ease of murder. Consider this – 84% of people shot to the heart will die, but only 30% of people stabbed in the heart. So if someone is going to try and kill me, I think I’d rather it was a knife than a gun.
In America, 68% of homicides are gun deaths. So not only is their overall homicide rate much higher, but their gun deaths are higher. The gun homicide rate is 3.7, which is itself 3 times our total homicide rate. Our gun homicide rate is around 0.27. That’s a big difference. In America, you are 13 times more likely to be killed with a gun than in Australia. And someone is trying to tell me that has nothing whatsoever to do with the differences in gun laws?
Also in support of our gun laws, Australia’s homicide rate had a dip right after the gun buyback, and then has remained steady. However, armed robberies involving guns has been steadily falling, so even some criminals don’t have access to these weapons. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say the criminal element involved in organised crime has better access to illegal weaponry than petty criminals.
Given that America’s gun death rate is 3.7, compared to our 0.27, you can see a large part of the difference (not all, but a large part) between Australia's and America's overall homicide rates is attributable to the increased gun death rate, which has to be at least partly attributable to the accessibility of guns.
I’m sorry, which part of this tells you our gun laws have been a failure?
This is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge Series. If you missed the previous posts, you can find them here - A, B, C, D, E and F.
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Author’s Note: America has been used as a comparison only because of the discussion I had with a citizen of that country who expressed surprise at our statistics.