University of Sydney academic Professor Simon Chapman is the lead author of a study that has examined the impact of the late 1990’s tightening of Australian gun laws. The Liberal government of the time (for ‘liberal’ read ‘conservative’) enacted tougher gun laws in response to the Port Arthur mass shooting in Tasmania. Australia’s gun laws did not become as strict as the UK’s and the emphasis was on guns that could be used in mass shootings and a general reduction in gun availability.
So what happened? The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association here: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2530362 [abstract is directly avaialble but I think it is possible to get the full article by a free sign-up]
There is also an editorial in the same edition of the journal here: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2530361
What is most clear from the current study is that Australia’s NFA coincided with an elimination of mass killings with firearms. It is difficult to pinpoint precisely which aspect of the policy contributed to this success, but the substantial reduction in the population’s exposure to semiautomatic long guns capable of accepting large-capacity magazines (LCMs) for ammunition is likely to have been key. Examinations of fatal mass shootings in the United States have found that when assault weapons or pistols with LCMs are used in these shootings, the number of victims shot is about 2.5 times higher than in mass shootings with other firearms.7,8
The study is particularly interesting because it aims to disentangle the effect of the gun law changes from other brother shifts – for example the trend in many developing nations of declines in homicide that occurred anyway. It also shows that the laws had an impact on suicide and importantly, shows that banning some kinds of weapons does not just lead to shift to still-legal weapons with no resulting decline in mass-killings or suicides. Instead a selective ban and gun buy-back schemes does seem to have resulted in a net reduction in deaths.
From a Guardian news article on the study:
The lead author of the study, Professor Simon Chapman, said a similar study had been conducted 10 years ago, and that the researchers had repeated it to see if gun-related deaths were continuing to decline, finding that they had.
“I’ve calculated that for every person in Australia shot in a massacre, 139 [people] are shot through firearm-related suicide or homicides, so they are much more common,” Chapman said.
“We found that homicide and suicide firearms deaths had been falling before the reforms, but the rate of the fall accelerated for both of them after the reforms. We’ve shown that a major policy intervention designed to stop mass shootings has had an effect on other gun-related deaths as well.”
He said the researchers had chosen to publish the results in an American medical journal not just because the title was a prestigious one, but also because the findings would have a greater impact.
However, he does not believe the findings will have an impact on gun ownership laws in the US.
“The US is a good example of where evidence is going to take longer to prevail over fear and ideology,” he said.
“When people like [Republican candidate] Donald Trump talk about gun violence, he’s essentially not talking about the facts or the evidence, he’s talking about ideology and saying people want the right to protect themselves and their homes.
“The irony is the person you have to protect yourself most from in a home is the person who owns the gun.”
Chapman said more than half of those who had conducted mass shootings in Australia and New Zealand had been licensed gun holders.