A couple weeks ago, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard wrote this opinion piece:
IT is for Americans and their elected representatives to determine the right response to President Obama’s proposals on gun control. I wouldn’t presume to lecture Americans on the subject. I can, however, describe what I, as prime minister of Australia, did to curb gun violence following a horrific massacre 17 years ago in the hope that it will contribute constructively to the debate in the United States.
After this wanton slaughter, I knew that I had to use the authority of my office to curb the possession and use of the type of weapons that killed 35 innocent people. I also knew it wouldn’t be easy.
Our challenges were different from America’s. Australia is an even more intensely urban society, with close to 60 percent of our people living in large cities. Our gun lobby isn’t as powerful or well-financed as the National Rifle Association in the United States. Australia, correctly in my view, does not have a Bill of Rights, so our legislatures have more say than America’s over many issues of individual rights, and our courts have less control. Also, we have no constitutional right to bear arms.
This isn’t about guns, it’s about control.
City dwellers supported our plan, but there was strong resistance by some in rural Australia. Many farmers resented being told to surrender weapons they had used safely all of their lives. Penalizing decent, law-abiding citizens because of the criminal behavior of others seemed unfair. Many of them had been lifelong supporters of my coalition and felt bewildered and betrayed by these new laws. I understood their misgivings. Yet I felt there was no alternative.
So they were forced to turn over their weapons or go to jail.
In the end, we won the battle to change gun laws because there was majority support across Australia for banning certain weapons. And today, there is a wide consensus that our 1996 reforms not only reduced the gun-related homicide rate, but also the suicide rate.
Consensus is opinion, not data. From the WSJ:
…Peter Reuter and Jenny Mouzos, in a 2003 study published by the Brookings Institution, found homicides “continued a modest decline” since 1997. They concluded that the impact of the National Firearms Agreement was “relatively small,” with the daily rate of firearms homicides declining 3.2%.
According to their study, the use of handguns rather than long guns (rifles and shotguns) went up sharply, but only one out of 117 gun homicides in the two years following the 1996 National Firearms Agreement used a registered gun. Suicides with firearms went down but suicides by other means went up. They reported “a modest reduction in the severity” of massacres (four or more indiscriminate homicides) in the five years since the government weapons buyback. These involved knives, gas and arson rather than firearms.
In 2008, the Australian Institute of Criminology reported a decrease of 9% in homicides and a one-third decrease in armed robbery since the 1990s, but an increase of over 40% in assaults and 20% in sexual assaults.
What to conclude? Strict gun laws in Great Britain and Australia haven’t made their people noticeably safer, nor have they prevented massacres. The two major countries held up as models for the U.S. don’t provide much evidence that strict gun laws will solve our problems.
Few aspects of the Commonwealth’s anti-gun policies have created as much discontent as the move to outlaw self-defence as a genuine reason to possess a firearm. Even the much vaunted United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims in Article 4: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” (1) Unfortunately, Australian governments seem happy to employ UN treaties when it comes to social re-engineering, but just as eager to disregard them when persecuting shooters. Article 18 of the same proclamation supposedly guarantees: “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property” (2), but it didn’t stop John Howard from imposing his ‘buy-back’ confiscation program.
The only people helped by the Australian gun bans were street criminals who oppress individuals and the power-hungry in government who oppress nations… even if it’s “for their own good.”
Australia has showed us for decades that there will always be violence among people, no matter if there are guns or not.
When chains with spikes and angle-iron tridents and boomerangs with razor edges are outlawed, only outlaws will have chains with spikes and angle-iron tridents and boomerangs with razor edges.
The “modern” argument to dealing with the Humungus would be to just walk away and give them whatever they want.