While people in the U.S. grappled with their feelings about the mass murder that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, a few weeks ago, invariably a sizable number of well intentioned but wrong headed people made emotional pleas for gun controls. And invariably attempts are made to compare the U.S. with jurisdictions with stricter gun controls. Australia comes up quite frequently. So let's look at crime in Australia to see whether gun control has controlled crime.
Australia instituted strict gun control laws following a mass murder in the 1990s known as the Port Arthur Massacre which generated a lot of publicity and the typical cry for more gun control laws. The lawmakers acceded to the gun controllers.
The crime rate in Australia has been on a downtrend for the past several years, but a claim can't be made that the gun laws caused the decline as the crime rate has also declined here in the country some call the gun capitol of the world.
Take a look at the two charts below, pulled from the Australian Institute of Criminology's Australian Crimes: Facts and Figures 2011:
Yes, the murder/manslaughter rate has been declining, just as in the U.S. But note one more thing. The percentage of murders by firearm has been falling, too, suggesting that murderers are finding substitute weapons. So it's very difficult to assign a cause and effect to gun control and crime decline.
In that regard, one more chart bears looking at. The one below comes from AIC.gov.au and shows how knife homicides have grown at about the same rate that gun homicides have fallen.
Now the new fear in Australia is home invasions. An unarmed populace must be a tempting target to those who would threaten and steal whether the invaders are armed with a gun or knife.
- A future article at this blog will address the unintended consequence of Australian gun control -- the proliferation of illegal guns.