Ever since Las Vegas, we’ve had anti-gunners prattling on about how we need gun control because of rare instances like mass shootings. When they’re not throwing up Europe up as the perfect example of Utopia, they’re telling us to adopt Australian-style gun control.
However, Karen Kaplan, the science and medicine editor for the L.A. Times wrote a story that argues such gun control would have little to no impact on violence here in the United States.
Australia has not seen a shooting like the Port Arthur massacre since, and the National Firearms Agreement is widely credited for this success. Gun control advocates in the United States — including former President Obama — have spoken admiringly of the law and suggest it should be a model for reducing gun deaths here.
That wouldn’t do any good, according to the authors of a new study.
Mass shootings get the most attention, but they account for a tiny fraction of total gun deaths in the U.S., data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. Among the nation’s 36,252 firearms-related fatalities in 2015, 61% were suicides and most of the rest were ordinary homicides.
Neither of those kinds of deaths actually fell in Australia as a result of the National Firearms Agreement, researchers reported Tuesday in the American Journal of Public Health.
“Many claims have been made about the NFA’s far-reaching effects and its potential benefits if implemented in the United States,” wrote Stuart Gilmour, a statistician at St. Luke’s International University in Tokyo, and his coauthors from the University of Tokyo. “However, more detailed analysis of the law shows that it likely had a negligible effect on firearm suicides and homicides in Australia and may not have as large an effect in the United States as some gun control advocates expect.”
Previous studies have said otherwise. A 2010 report in the American Law and Economics Review concluded that “the buyback led to a drop in the firearm suicide rates of almost 80%” and had a similar effect on gun-related homicides. But that study ignored the fact that gun deaths were already falling when the program went into effect.
A 2016 study in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. acknowledged that a decline in gun-related suicides and homicides was indeed underway but said these mortality rates dropped more sharply in the aftermath of the NFA. However, the JAMA study failed to consider deaths that had nothing to do with guns. That means they might have given the gun control law credit for something that would have happened anyway.
In other words, despite all the rhetoric, the law may not have accomplished anything at all.
For those of us of a certain age, this sounds an awful lot like what we heard when the assault weapon ban was going to sunset. Proponents of the ban pointed to a drop in violent crime but completely ignored that the rate was dropping prior to the assault weapon ban taking effect. History has shown that after the ban sunset, the rate continued its drop. In other words, the ban did nothing.
Now, it appears that the Australian ban did pretty much nothing as well. Shocking, right?
One of the biggest problems with both previous studies may well be confirmation bias. The researchers wanted to find support for Australia’s gun control laws, so they found it.
The truth is, gun control doesn’t work. There’s essentially no evidence supporting the claim that it does, either. Even if it did, though, people need to remember one important thing. The right to keep and bear arms is a right. It doesn’t matter how messy it can get. It’s our right, and gun control deserves to be opposed on those grounds alone.
The fact that it’s also useless makes things easier.