Here’s what to tell a liberal who says we should have gun control “like Australia”

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In the wake of the massacre in Las Vegas, you may have noticed a chorus of liberals pointing to Australia as proof that gun control works.

The argument generally goes something like this – Australia suffered a mass public shooting in 1996 (the Port Arthur massacre), then banned and confiscated all guns, and there hasn’t been a mass public shooting since! Some will also claim a decline in overall murders and suicides.

In citing Australia as their gun control model, liberals are revealing how open they are to gun confiscation, because that’s essentially what they did (but not to the extent that the liberals pushing this narrative seem to think they have).

The Foundation for Economic Education’s Corey Iacono has a fantastic summary of what actually happened in Australia, and what it really proves.

In Australia, after a horrific mass shooting in 1996, the national government introduced a mandatory buyback program which forced gun owners to sell certain firearms (mainly semi-automatic rifles and pump action shotguns) to the state, who promptly destroyed them.

This program, which resulted in the stock of civilian firearms in the country being reduced by approximately twenty percent, was effectively large-scale gun confiscation, as gun owners would have become criminals were they to withhold their firearms from the state.

Since the introduction of these measures, Australia’s firearm homicide rates have fallen and it has yet to witness a mass shooting. Because of these “results,” Australia has been constantly cited as a successful example of gun control in action.

But the reality is much less simplistic than the narrative being promoted by gun control advocates. There have been no mass shootings in Australia since it enacted gun control, but that hardly proves anything by itself. A 2011 study published in Justice Policy Journal compared the trends in mass shootings before and after 1996, when gun control was enacted, in Australia and New Zealand.

New Zealand is Australia’s neighbor and is very similar to it socioeconomically, but unlike Australia, it retained the legal availability of guns that were banned and confiscated in Australia in 1996. It thus served as a useful control group to observe whatever effects gun control had on mass shootings.

The authors of the study found that, after taking into account difference in population size, Australia and New Zealand did not have statistically different trends in mass shootings before or after 1996. Indeed, New Zealand has not had a mass shooting since 1997, “despite the availability in that country of firearms that are banned in neighboring Australia.”

And what about for overall firearm homicides and suicides?

As you can glean from the chart above, firearm homicides were trending down prior to gun control – and the trendline doesn’t look much different after. In fact, a 2016 American Medical Association (AMA) study examined trends in firearm homicides and suicides before and after the adoption of gun control in Australia in 1996, and found no evidence of a statically significant effect of gun control on the pre-existing downward trend of the firearm homicide rate.

Any declines in the rate of firearm-related homicides following gun control certainly sound less impressive when it’s pointed out that in the 15 years before gun control, firearm-related deaths had fallen 50 percent.

Oh – and did I mention that Australia has more guns today than they did prior to the 1996 confiscation scheme? According to Associate Professor Alpers and founding director of GunPolicy.org. “By 2015 the arms trade had broken all previous records, and last financial year Australia ported 104,000 firearms.” He said the 1996 firearms laws resulted in a “gun swap” as banned rapid-fire rifles and shotguns were replaced with newly imported single-shot firearms. “The million guns destroyed after Port Arthur have been replaced with 1,026,000 new ones.”

While Australia did impose strict gun control, and the firearms in circulation today are of a much lower capacity than those pre-gun control, the narrative regarding its circumstances and the results is nothing like the way liberals are presenting it.

For a look at another country that implemented strict gun control following a mass public shooting, see the U.K., which had a drastically different outcome than in Australia….

[Note: This post was written by Matt Palumbo. He is a co-author of the new book A Paradoxical Alliance: Islam and the Left, and can be found on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]

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