Gun Control Works. Australia For Example.

We can do this here, too:

On April 28, 1996, a gunman opened fire on tourists in a seaside resort in Port Arthur, Tasmania. By the time he was finished, he had killed 35 people and wounded 23 more. It was the worst mass murder in Australia’s history.

Twelve days later, Australia’s government did something remarkable. Led by newly elected conservative Prime Minister John Howard, it announced a bipartisan deal with state and local governments to enact sweeping gun-control measures. A decade and a half hence, the results of these policy changes are clear: They worked really, really well.

At the heart of the push was a massive buyback of more than 600,000 semi-automatic shotguns and rifles, or about one-fifth of all firearms in circulation in Australia. The country’s new gun laws prohibited private sales, required that all weapons be individually registered to their owners, and required that gun buyers present a “genuine reason” for needing each weapon at the time of the purchase. (Self-defense did not count.) In the wake of the tragedy, polls showed public support for these measures at upwards of 90 percent.

What happened next has been the subject of several academic studies. Violent crime and gun-related deaths did not come to an end in Australia, of course. But as the Washington Post’s Wonkblog pointed out in August, homicides by firearm plunged 59 percent between 1995 and 2006, with no corresponding increase in non-firearm-related homicides. The drop in suicides by gun was even steeper: 65 percent.

  • BenAu

    I only admired John Howard twice in his 11-year stint as PM – leading gun-control reform after Port Arthur and ordering generous aid and assistance for our Asian neighbours after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.

    The morality on both occasions outweighed the politics.

  • Nick Levy

    I live in Australia and the action of the conservative federal government after the Port Arthur massacre is generally considered one of the best policy decisions in this country’s history by all sides of politics. Yes, we still have gun crime, and a fair bit of it too, but (to my knowledge) there has never been another large scale gun massacre in our country. Most recent gun crime is with hand guns that obviously cannot fire 100 rounds in a minute. We used Port Arthur as a wake-up call to take action, and there was a lot of resistance from gun-owners and in particular rural voters, but it is something I wish other countries in the world would also attempt for their own sake.

  • bphoon

    …required that gun buyers present a “genuine reason” for needing each weapon at the time of the purchase. (Self-defense did not count.)

    Every factor you cite but this one might work here, too, over time. However, this one would never get through the courts due to the 2nd Amendment and its most recent Supreme Court interpretation.

    Australia doesn’t have gun rights embedded in its Constitution.

  • muselet

    Australia doesn’t have a Supreme Court majority seemingly bent on removing all restrictions, reasonable and not, on gun ownership.


  • trgahan

    I remember the 24/7 infomercials that ran on cable TV in the US which the NRA used Australia’s actions as an example of the UN-led “New World Order” taking hold and the only thing that could stop it was US citizens staying armed.

  • Art__VanDalay

    Good luck with that, waaaayyy less gun nuts in Australia.