When I began reconsidering my position on gun control, I needed to proceed in a structured manner. Being a medical researcher by profession, I knew how to construct reasonable testing guidelines in order to arrive at a supportable conclusion. Having determined that confiscation of civilian firearms in the United Kingdom and Australia had created no clear benefit, and that crime rates climbed significantly since the bans went into effect, I concluded that gun control was not working as advertised.
I concluded that the claims of pro-gun-rights organizations were easily and consistently verifiable using neutral or even slightly anti-gun sources. But there was another side to the research, and that was to check the veracity of the claims of gun-control organizations. Were they telling the truth when they promoted the benefits of civilian disarmament? Were their claims based on statistically valid and verifiable sources? If they were not telling the truth about the benefits of gun control, could I trust their stated goals, or had they something more sinister in mind?
The "Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence" is considered to be one of the preeminent gun control organizations in our country. It has a page addressing Australia since the 1997 gun ban called "The Truth About Australia." 1 So members have already set themselves up as the arbiters of truth, putting their reputation on the line. We will examine four of their main points:
(1) Since the new laws went into effect, there has not been a single massacre.
(2) Homicides committed with firearms have been declining.
(3) Australia has seen a decline in the use of firearms in armed robberies.
(4) Suicide rates using a firearm show a sharp drop after 1996.
Since the new laws went into effect, there has not been a single massacre.
The complete Brady quote: "Between 1987 and 1996, 100 Australians were killed in mass killings of four or more people. Since the new laws went into effect, there has not been a single massacre."
One of the sources they cite found that "Between 1996–97 and 2000–01 there were four mass homicide incidents: two incidents involved four victims (knife and carbon monoxide gas), one incident had five victims (carbon monoxide gas), and another incident fifteen victims (arson/fire)." 2
What They Neglect to Say
In his book The Bias Against Guns, John Lott examines the relationship between gun availability and multiple murders. He concludes: "If right-to-carry laws allow citizens to limit the amount of attacks that still take place, the number of persons harmed should fall relative to the number of shootings... And indeed, that is what we find. The average number of people dying or becoming injured per attack declines by around 50 percent...." 3 Dr. Lott also finds that both the total number and rate of multiple murders in right-to-carry states are 1/3 that of restrictive states. 4 In an e-mail interview, Dr. Lott clarified by stating "the simplest numbers showed a 67 percent drop in the number of attacks and about a 79 percent drop in the number of people killed or injured from such attacks. The number of people harmed fell by more than the number of attacks because some attacks that weren't deterred were stopped in progress by people with guns." One could conclude that the best way to limit multiple murders is not to disarm, but to arm responsible, law-abiding citizens.
Brady gets no point on this one. While there have been no mass murders using guns since the ban, there have been "massacres," and dead is dead.
Homicides committed with firearms have been declining.
True, as far as they take it. Unfortunately, Brady editorialized by adding that firearm homicide declined "slowly before the Port Arthur Massacre, more sharply since [the ban]" and "While the 1996 gun laws did not initiate the decline in firearm homicides, they appear to have accelerated it."
What They Neglect to Say
The complete quote from their reference is "The percentage of homicides committed with a firearm continued its declining trend since 1969. In 2001, 16% of homicides involved firearms. The figure was 18% in 2000." 5 Nowhere does the AIC make any claims about the gun ban affecting homicide rates, and they acknowledge that the decline in firearm homicides is part of a longer-term trend preceding the gun ban by over 25 years.
Another Brady reference states "The Total homicide rate has been slowly declining throughout the 1990s. In the five years post-NFA [National Firearms Agreement/gun ban] there has been no pronounced acceleration of that decline." 6
Also, keep in mind that since the ban, the Australian murder rate (per 100,000 population) has dropped 11%, while the U.S. murder rate has dropped 32% 7 even though we bought 70 million more guns in the 1990s.
In America, the use of guns in homicide also dropped, from 69.9% of all homicides in 1994 8 to 63.4% in 2001. 9 More telling is the drop in total U.S. homicides, from 21,606 in 1995 to 16,307 in 2001. 10 In Australia, there were 356 homicides in 1995 and 340 in 2001. 11
We'll give the Brady Campaign a half-point for a partial truth: if there are fewer firearms, they cannot be used to commit murder. But claiming that banning guns has had any effect on the actual murder rate is simply molding the facts to fit their agenda.
Australia has seen a decline in the use of firearms in armed robberies.
Brady derives their numbers from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as does the Australian Institute of Criminology. It is true that in 2001, only 6% of all robberies involved a firearm. 12
What They Neglect to Say
Robbery rates in Australia have risen 70% since the gun ban. The AIC states: "In 2001 the rate for robbery peaked at 136 per 100,000 people -- the highest recorded since 1995." 13 The International Crime Victimization Surveys of 1992 and 2000 concur, showing that while having had lower crime rates than the USA in 1992, by 1999 Australia’s combined rate of robbery, sexual assault, and assault with force was more than double that of the USA. 14
Suicide rates using a firearm show a sharp drop after 1996
It is true that their source shows a decline in the number of suicides by firearm. 15
What They Neglect to Say
Here are some quotes from the same source.
"Suicide rates did not fall, though there was a shift toward less use of guns, continuing a very long-term decline." 16 (Referencing the Australian gun buyback and a long-term decline in gun suicide.)
"The firearm-related suicide rates had been declining for ten years before the Port Arthur incident.... 17
The total suicide rate in Australia is over 25% higher than the USA. 18
"It has become a common trick in gun-banning countries to bring all deaths by shooting, including suicide, into a subset of their own and then to claim that 'gun deaths' are declining after the passage of legislation. The Australian murder rate has not dropped, and neither has the suicide rate. People continue to kill themselves and one another, but the fact that fewer guns are involved in these deaths is supposedly a great triumph of public policy." 19
The first line in the Brady piece states: "The National Rifle Association likes to tell tall tales about Australia. The best one is that gun control Down Under is a failure." Since they opened the door by demeaning another organization, it is fair to apply the same standard to them.
The Brady Campaign believes that as long as civilians don't own guns, it is an acceptable price to have more people raped, robbed, and assaulted. This hearkens back to the feudal period, when everybody's life was cheap, except, of course, those in power who had private standing armies to protect them and enable them to prey upon those who were banned from owning weapons. Enter Sarah Brady, member of the Washington elite by virtue of her husband, who was press secretary to President Reagan.
The Brady article concludes: "The next time a credulous friend tells you that Australia actually experienced more crime when it got tougher on crime, offer your friend a Fosters and a helping of truth." Here we have the bald truth, and the true agenda of the Brady Campaign: gun ownership is a crime. And if anybody disagrees, get them drunk enough to be beyond reason; the opiate of the masses to benumb them to the pain resulting from the reality of civilian disarmament, which we, the morally superior, and militarily armed, will inflict on you.
So I ask you: Does the Brady Campaign represent American ideals? Does it support our Constitutional and civil rights? Does it offer us the whole truth and trust us, as reasoning individuals, to make decisions that are best for our families?
No, no, and no!
1 "The Truth About Australia," Brady Campaign.
2 Australia: A Massive Buyback of Low-Risk Guns, Reuter and Mouzos, 2002, page 14.
3 The Bias Against Guns, John R. Lott, Jr., 2003, page 123.
4 Ibid, page 107.
5 Australian Crime Facts and Figures 2002, Australian Institute of Criminology, November, 2002, page 16.
6 Australia: A Massive Buyback of Low-Risk Guns, Reuter and Mouzos, 2002, page 14.
7 See last article for statistical references. "Gun Control, The Australian Experiment."
8 Weapons Used in Violent Crime, 1995, FBI.
9 Murder Circumstances by Weapon, 2001, FBI.
10 FBI Index of Crime, 1983-2002.
11 Australian Crime Facts and Figures 2002, Australian Institute of Criminology, November, 2002, page 5.
12 Ibid, page 24.
13 Ibid, page 7.
14 Crime Victimisation in the Industrialised World: Key Findings of the 1989 and 1992 International Crime Surveys, van Dijk and Mayhew, The Hague: Ministry of Justice, Department of Crime Prevention, 1993. Criminal Victimisation in Seventeen Industrialised Countries: Key-findings from the 2000 international Crime Victims Survey, Van Kesteren, Mayhew and Nieuwbeerta, The Hague: Ministry of Justice, Department of Crime Prevention, 2000, page 11.
Both available at http://www.unicri.it/icvs/publications/index_pub.htm
15 Australia: A Massive Buyback of Low-Risk Guns, Reuter and Mouzos, 2002, page 17.
16 Ibid, page 1.
17 Ibid, page 8.
18 Ibid, page 9.
19 "Who Needs Guns? Lessons from Down Under," David Kopel, Copyright 2003, Chronicles magazine. http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/Chronicles/October2003/1003Kopel.html
A special thank you to John Lott for helping me organize the firearm homicide statistics.