Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Australia figured it out

"There are many American traits which we Australians could well emulate to our great benefit, but when it comes to guns, we have been right to take a radically different path." John Howard, former Prime Minister of Australia

YES, I'm going to keep harping and writing and calling Congress because the death toll from guns in this country is unacceptable. According to Bloomberg News, gun deaths are on track to exceed auto fatalities by 2015. How can we pretend that we live in civilized country when this is the case?

Below is a post from Washington Post's WonkBlog written by Dylan Matthews August 2, 2012, well before the Newtown shooting. 

Did gun control work in Australia?

John Howard, who served as prime minister of Australia from 1996 to 2007, is no one’s idea of a lefty. He was one of George W. Bush’s closest allies, enthusiastically backing the Iraq intervention, and took a hard line domestically against increased immigration and union organizing.

But one of Howard’s other lasting legacies is Australia’s gun control regime, first passed in 1996 in response to a massacre in Tasmania that left 35 dead. The law banned semiautomatic and automatic rifles and shotguns. It also instituted a mandatory buy-back program for newly banned weapons.

On Wednesday, Howard took to the Melbourne daily the Age to call on the United States, in light of the Aurora, Colo., massacre, to follow in Australia’s footsteps. “There are many American traits which we Australians could well emulate to our great benefit,” he concluded. “But when it comes to guns, we have been right to take a radically different path.”

So what have the Australian laws actually done for homicide and suicide rates? Howard cites a study by Andrew Leigh of Australian National University and Christine Neill of Wilfrid Laurier University finding that the firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent, and the firearm suicide rate fell by 65 percent, in the decade after the law was introduced, without a parallel increase in non-firearm homicides and suicides. That provides strong circumstantial evidence for the law’s effectiveness.

The paper also estimated that buying back 3,500 guns per 100,000 people results in a 35 to 50 percent decline in the homicide rate, but because of the low number of homicides in Australia normally, this finding isn’t statistically significant.

What is significant is the decline the laws caused in the firearm suicide rate, which Leigh and Neill estimate at a 74 percent reduction for a buyback of that size. This is even higher than the overall decline in the suicide rate, because the gun buybacks’ speed varied from state to state. In states with quick buybacks, the fall in the suicide rate far exceeded the fall in states with slower buybacks.

Tasmania did a quicker buyback, and saw a large decline in suicides, while the Australian Capital Territory did a slower buyback, and a slower decline. The study fits with a pattern of research in the United States that finds a strong correlation between gun 

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