Article

Australia's 1996 gun law reforms: Faster falls in firearm deaths, firearm suicides, and a decade without mass shootings

School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Injury Prevention (Impact Factor: 1.94). 01/2007; 12(6):365-72. DOI: 10.1136/ip.2006.013714
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT After a 1996 firearm massacre in Tasmania in which 35 people died, Australian governments united to remove semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns and rifles from civilian possession, as a key component of gun law reforms.
To determine whether Australia's 1996 major gun law reforms were associated with changes in rates of mass firearm homicides, total firearm deaths, firearm homicides and firearm suicides, and whether there were any apparent method substitution effects for total homicides and suicides.
Observational study using official statistics. Negative binomial regression analysis of changes in firearm death rates and comparison of trends in pre-post gun law reform firearm-related mass killings.
Australia, 1979-2003.
Changes in trends of total firearm death rates, mass fatal shooting incidents, rates of firearm homicide, suicide and unintentional firearm deaths, and of total homicides and suicides per 100,000 population.
In the 18 years before the gun law reforms, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia, and none in the 10.5 years afterwards. Declines in firearm-related deaths before the law reforms accelerated after the reforms for total firearm deaths (p = 0.04), firearm suicides (p = 0.007) and firearm homicides (p = 0.15), but not for the smallest category of unintentional firearm deaths, which increased. No evidence of substitution effect for suicides or homicides was observed. The rates per 100,000 of total firearm deaths, firearm homicides and firearm suicides all at least doubled their existing rates of decline after the revised gun laws.
Australia's 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides. Total homicide rates followed the same pattern. Removing large numbers of rapid-firing firearms from civilians may be an effective way of reducing mass shootings, firearm homicides and firearm suicides.

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    • "The effect on firearm homicides followed a similar correlation. Also, Chapman et al. (2006) pointed out 18 years before the gun law reforms that there were 13 mass shootings but that none occurred in the next 10.5 years following the enactment of the 1996 gun control law. However, this last result is challenged by McPhedran and Baker (2011), who argues that factors other than the gun control laws must be taken into account to explain a drop in mass shooting since there was also a drop that occurred during the same period in New Zealand where no drastic gun control law was enacted. "
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    • "Confidence intervals in our longitudinal analysis were wide, so while the direction and significance of this relationship appear robust, caution is advised when interpreting its magnitude. However, longitudinal work in Australia has found a significant reduction in firearm homicides and mass shootings in the decade after gun ownership restrictions were introduced in 1996 (Chapman et al., 2006). Our bivariate cross-sectional findings on gun ownership are likely to be confounded as gun ownership was associated with higher income, which itself was associated with lower homicide levels. "
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    • "The figures for 2004 and 2005 seem exceptionally low, and do not align with the justice statistics on homicides in those years. See Chapman et al. (2006). Recently released data from 2006 and 2007, however, do appear to be consistent with the figures from 2004 and 2005. "
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