After the latest killing spree in California I was reading questioning about gun laws’ abilities to stop mass shootings. Then I remembered the Australian experience, when assault rifles and large magazine clips were banned in 1996 (after massacres of increasing frequency and intensity there).

    I decided to graph the last forty years of statistics, to see possible relationships between gun laws and attacks. Did gun mass killings go up? (“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” we’re told.) Or did they go down?

    The results were striking:


    Shooting sprees have killed only two Australians in nearly two decades since the gun restrictions, and none in the 12 years after they were further tightened. (Compare this to the 73 deaths in the 12 years when modern, large magazine guns were freely available.)

    Some good aspects to the Australian laws:

    – They were bipartisan. Instigated by a Conservative leader, and backed by a large number of quality researchers, they had broad initial support.

    – They were responsive, meaning they targeted one type of event (mass shootings), and the specific purchasing methods, and type of guns, that that particular shooter employed.

    – They were nation-wide.

    – Legitimate interests of farmers, sports shooters, and hunters were respected.

    – They did not require perfect borders to be effective (drugs and other prohibited items enter Australia as easily as the US.)

    – They were open to testing and further improvement. After a second mass shooting in 2002, the details of how the killer obtained those types of weapons were investigated, and that particular avenue was also closed down.

    Other gun homicides also dramatically decreased immediately after the 1996 and 2003 changes, as this chart shows:

    gun laws in australia graph

    You could argue it merely amplified a pre-exisiting decline. Even so, there were no upwards spikes due to “only criminals having guns” that proponents try to scare us with.

    Farm suicides also dropped dramatically after the laws. Whilst preventing general gun homicides and suicides were not the aim of the Australian laws, any increasing drop were seen as icing on the cake.

    Clearly mass shootings are one phenomena that can be reduced through a sensible approach to gun laws.

    Source: Australian mass murders – Wikipedia.

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