Matthew Moore
October 24, 2006

Two researchers in Australia just published a study they did on murder and suicide in the ten years since Australia banned all semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns and rifles in 1996.

The verdict?

According to the Australian Bureau of statistics and the Australian Institute of Criminology, murder rates in the country weren't affected by the gun ban at all. And gun-related suicide rates weren't affected by the gun ban, either.

They stayed the same, with or without the gun ban.

And you don't need to be a criminologist to predict what else the researchers found in their study:

More than 90 percent of the firearms used to commit homicide were not registered... and their owners were not licensed.

In other words, the criminals didn't obey Australia's laws!

How much do you think it cost them to figure that one out?

I bet you're not surprised.

Who would be?Well, Simon Chapman, a university professor who says the research can't be taken seriously because it doesn't analyze the incidence of mass murder in Australia, which is what prompted the gun ban in the first place.

But the fact is, a 2002 study already looked at that question. Just like other crime rates, they were the same before the gun ban as after the gun ban: about once per year.

So, what does it all mean?

It means Australia spent a half-billion dollars to confiscate and destroy 640,000 rifles and shotguns ... and didn't accomplish a thing.

Here are the results of the study 

HALF a billion dollars spent buying back hundreds of thousands of guns after the Port Arthur massacre had no effect on the homicide rate, says a study published in an influential British journal.

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.

The only area where the package of Commonwealth and State laws, known as the National Firearms Agreement (NFA) may have had some impact was on the rate of suicide, but the study said the evidence was not clear and any reductions attributable to the new gun rules were slight.

"Homicide patterns (firearm and non-firearm) were not influenced by the NFA, the conclusion being that the gun buyback and restrictive legislative changes had no influence on firearm homicide in Australia," the study says.

In his first year in office, the Prime Minister, John Howard, forced through some of the world's toughest gun laws, including the national buyback scheme, after Martin Bryant used semi-automatic rifles to shoot dead 35 people at Port Arthur.

Although furious licensed gun-owners said the laws would have no impact because criminals would not hand in their guns, Mr Howard and others predicted the removal of so many guns from the community, and new laws making it harder to buy and keep guns, would lead to a reduction in all types of gun-related deaths.

One of the authors of the study, Jeanine Baker, said she knew in 1996 it would be impossible for years to know whether the Prime Minister or the shooters were right.

"I have been collecting data since 1996 … The decision was we would wait for a decade and then evaluate," she said.

The findings were clear, she said: "The policy has made no difference. There was a trend of declining deaths that has continued."

Dr Baker and her co-author, Samara McPhedran, declared their membership of gun groups in the article, something Dr Baker said they had done deliberately to make clear "who we are" and head off any possible criticism that they had hidden relevant details.

The significance of the article was not who had written it but the fact it had been published in a respected journal after the regular rigorous process of being peer reviewed, she said.

Politicians had assumed tighter gun laws would cut off the supply of guns to would-be criminals and that homicide rates would fall as a result, the study said. But more than 90 per cent of firearms used to commit homicide were not registered, their users were not licensed and they had been unaffected by the firearms agreement.

Dr Baker said many more lives would have been saved had the Government spent the $500 million on mental health or other programs rather than on destroying semi-automatic weapons.

She believed semi-automatic rifles should be available to shooters, although with tight restrictions such as those in place in New Zealand.

The director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics, Dr Don Weatherburn, said he was not surprised by the study. He said it showed "politicians would be well advised to claim success of their policies after they were evaluated, not before".