Guns, Politics, Logic and Lies
Politics: The 1996 Port Arthur tragedy gave newly elected Prime Minister John Howard the opportunity to exchange a perception of waffling political mediocrity for one of leader with dogged might.
Massaging the wave of national grief, Mr. Howard vowed to make Australians safer with the introduction of new gun control laws. That the Australian Bureau of Statistics had just released a 16-year study on homicide by gun showed a steady decline was ignored—John Howard was an avowed gun hater. That existing laws were obviously sufficient was inconvenient, but one could turn a blind eye to that, and politically motivated, he did.
With his irrational move against all law abiding gun owners in Australia Mr. Howard followed advice from those who knew little of firearms, or, more likely, had personal agendas to remove all firearms.
Ignorance and emotive speech had led to a belief that the words ‘automatic’, ‘fully automatic’, ‘semi-automatic’ connoted evil. Joined with the words ‘weapon’ or ‘assault’ every firearm in Australia was demonised. Even the word ‘gun’ uttered in some circles caused hysteria.
The criminalizing of the largely harmless, for-rabbits-only, .22 calibre semi-automatic rifles—rifles of sentimental value handed down through families for generations was an example of knee-jerk politics.
Rarely, if ever, mentioned in mainstream media in the current debate is the failed firearms buy-back program where more than $500 million spent appears to have had little effect. Also included in the “rarely mentioned” matters is the systemic corruption known for years in the Australian Customs at airports, seaports, and post offices.
Current official statistics are extremely difficult to uncover, other than graphs and reports by anti-gun groups, and this finding by: Wang-Sheng Lee and Sandy Suardi The Australian Firearms Buyback and its Effect on Gun Deaths is never mentioned. This is what the abstract notes:
The 1996-1997 National Firearms Agreement (NFA) in Australia introduced strictgun laws, primarily as a reaction to the mass shooting in PortArthur, Tasmania, in 1996, where 35 people were killed. Despite the fact that several researchers using the same data have examined the impact of the NFA on firearm deaths, a consensus does not appear to have been reached. In this paper, we reanalyse the same data on firearm deaths used in previous research, using tests for unknown structural breaks as a means to identifying impacts of the NFA. The results of these tests suggest that the NFA did not have any large effects on reducing firearm homicide or suicide rates. (JEL C22, K19)
http://johnrlott.tripod.com/Australia_Gun_Buyback_EI.pdf (Note: slow to load)
ABS: Firearm deaths, Australia, 1980 to 1995
Number of Deaths during the reference period of 15 years, 1980-95, a total of 10,150 deaths were registered as firearm-related. This accounted for half a percent of all deaths reported. However, in terms of premature mortality, firearm deaths are more significant, accounting for about 2.4% of total years of potential life lost before age 76 (see Technical Note). Of total deaths from external causes, which include accidents of all types, and all suicides and homicides, firearm deaths contributed 8.9%. Although the relative magnitude of deaths from the use of firearms as a cause of death is small, such deaths have social significance beyond the actual proportions and numbers. Analysis of ABS mortality data indicates that firearms are involved in approximately one-quarter of all suicides and one-fifth of all homicides.
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, November 2003.
An examination of firearm related deaths in Australia between 1991 and 2001 found a 47 per cent decrease in numbers, with a fall in the number of suicides accounting for the largest part of that decrease. Nine out of 10 firearm related deaths involved males. Compared to firearm related suicides and accidents where less than 10 per cent involved the death of a female, a higher proportion of homicides involved a female victim (33%). Persons under the age of 15 years were least likely to die as a result of a firearm related injury. Males and females who suffered a fatal firearms injury tended to follow a similar age distribution, with persons aged between 24 and 34 years accounting for the largest number of firearm related deaths. There appears to be a shift in age related risk between 1991 and 2001. In 1991, males aged between 15 and 24 years had the highest risk of firearm related fatal injury (rate of 9.5 per 100 000), whereas in 2001 males aged 65 years and older had the highest risk (rate of 4.9 per 100 000). The majority of firearm related deaths were committed with a hunting rifle, although there has been an increase in the use of handguns.
Of the 128 544 deaths registered in Australia in 2001, 7876 deaths were caused by accidents, poisonings and violence (referred to as 'external causes'). The leading external cause of death in 2001 was accidents (transport, falls, and drowning/submersion) accounting for 61 per cent of all incidents. Firearms as a 'cause of death' only represent a small fraction of all external causes of death in Australia (4.2% or 333 deaths in 2001). While firearms account for a small proportion of externally caused deaths, there is much focus on controlling the use of firearms in criminal activities - particularly on whether or not their use has increased or decreased since the introduction of firearms controls in 1997. Briefly, these controls banned self loading rifles and both self loading and pump action shotguns; saw the establishment of nationwide firearms registration; and introduced stringent limitations to the ownership of firearms, primarily minimum age restrictions and satisfactory fitness and reason for ownership of firearms (Mouzos 1999). The main focus of this report is the identification of shifts in trends and patterns over the 11-year period between 1991 and 2001.
SMH, October 2006: The report by two Australian academics, published in the British Journal of Criminology, said statistics gathered in the decade since Port Arthur (showed gun deaths had been declining well before 1996 and the buyback of more than 600,000 mainly semi-automatic rifles and pump-action shotguns had made no (difference in the rate of decline.
However Posted on June 13, 2011 Gun Control Australia:
With thousands of lives saved by reduced rates of gun homicide and gun suicide, we know how wonderfully successful the gun laws introduced after the six, gun (massacres in 1987 and the two gun massacres of 1996 have been. We refer to the combination of these stricter gun laws as the National Firearms Agreement (NFA).
Guns: Lawful gun owners are generally a responsible group. However, fear of strict law, media fed propaganda from gun control groups and (do-gooder social engineers) demands a constant vigilance, if they are to continue their chosen sport.
Never cited by the shrill, anti-gun advocates is the British story where the government in 1997 removed all legitimately owned handguns from society—over 200,000 handguns at a cost of nearly $500 million. (Sound familiar?) Crime figures, from Britain now show dramatic increases in handgun crime. The latest Government figures show that the total number of firearm offences in England and Wales has increased from 5,209 in 1998/99 to 9,865 last year—a rise of 89 per cent.
Logic and Lies: Anything to do with guns is emotive to all parties. With a cool head, however, we must ask, what are we trying to achieve? What is the ultimate goal of gun control? Is it to save lives and prevent untimely death? Is it to abolish firearms ownership? Or is it about the way in which you die? Few of us choose either method or time of our demise, but it usually comes with the comforting: “It was peaceful.” “It was quick.” “He wouldn’t have known what happened,” as in the case of a head-on collision.
Surely, gun control is about preventing death; in which case, is it not reasonable to ask what is the leading cause of “untimely” death? Should we not focus upon what kills us most, or does that remove polarising passion and biased agenda? What part does glorification of violence in movies play, for example?
Attorney General Nicola Roxon legislated a colour change on cigarette packages but more than 25,000 Australians will die this year from smoking. Last year 1,292 died on our roads. The incapacitated and injured are many thousands more. Accidents in the home, murders via knives, screwdrivers, hammers, and electrocution are only a few of non-firearms deaths. Dieting, sex and prescribed medications also cause “untimely” death.
The Australian Medical Association seeks to rid society of all firearms, but the AMA’s members allegedly cause more than 2,000 deaths per year through “Iatrogenic Injury,” and “co-morbidities.” All of the above kill more Australians than the 0.5% to 1% of the population who are killed by firearms. Consider also that police shootings causing death are included.
You can take any firearms statistics pro and con, add as much spin and lies to suit your agenda and guns are far from being a major factor in what kills us—and that’s a fact.
We can legislate against guns but we can’t legislate against insanity.