Authored by: Matt Palumbo
In my last column, I examined the claim that Australia implemented strict gun control (the National Firearms Agreement, or NFA), and never saw a mass public shooting ever again. The latter claim is true – but it’s not a clear-cut case for gun control for a number of reasons:
- Australia did not ban ALL guns like many liberals claim. There are more guns in circulation in Australia today than before gun control.
- Nearly all of Australia’s mass shootings occurred in the 20 years before their gun buyback. It’s thus misleading to claim that mass shootings were common in Australia’s history – until gun control.
- The majority of Australia’s mass public shootings have been committed with firearms that were never banned.
But as most gun rights advocates know, mass public shooting deaths make up the overwhelming minority of gun deaths. So what did Australia do to other forms of gun violence?
And since we know that the majority of gun deaths in America are suicides, did Australia see a decline in their suicide rate following gun control?
Did it reduce gun homicides?
Firearm homicides did fall post 1996 gun control – at exactly the same pace as they were naturally falling before gun control. Over a similar period (1993-2014), gun homicides in America were cut by more than half. Keep in mind that guns per capita increased about 50% in America over this period.
And the overall homicide rate fell faster in the U.S.:
A 2016 American Medical Association study examined trends in firearm homicides and suicides before and after the adoption of gun control in Australia from the 1996 NFA, and found no evidence of a statistically significant effect of gun control on the pre-existing downward trend of the firearm homicide rate.
Did it reduce gun suicides?
As just mentioned, an AMA study didn’t find any statistically significant effect of the NFA on gun suicides, but a visual is still in order to illustrate the point.
While there was a decline in firearm suicides, non-firearm suicides fell at a faster pace.
There’s not much of a reason to have believed that the NFA would reduce firearm suicides anyway, despite claims from gun control advocates that it has. Given that someone committing suicide is only going to take a single shot, a ban on semi-automatic rifles doesn’t make doing so any more difficult.