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A systematic review of quantitative evidence about the impacts of Australian legislative reform on firearm homicide

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Abstract

Developing legislative interventions to address firearm misuse is an issue of considerable public policy interest across many countries. However, systematic reviews of evidence about the efficacy of legislative change in reducing lethal firearm violence have only considered research examining the United States of America, a country that is unique among developed nations in its approach to firearm ownership. To inform international policy development, there is a need to consider other countries' experiences with gun law amendments. The current study used systematic literature search methods to identify evaluation-focused studies examining the impacts of legislative reform on firearm homicide in Australia, a country that made significant changes to its gun laws in the mid-1990s. Five studies met the inclusion criteria. These examined various different time periods, and used a range of different statistical analysis methods. No study found statistical evidence of any significant impact of the legislative changes on firearm homicide rates. The strengths and limitations of each study are discussed. Findings from this review provide insights into strategies and policies that may, and may not, be effective for reducing lethal firearm violence.

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Police officials across the United States often claimed credit for crime reductions during the 1990s. In this article, we examine homicide trends in three cities that mounted widely publicized policing interventions during the 1990s: Boston's Operation Ceasefire, New York's Compstat, and Richmond, Virginia's Project Exile. Applying growth-curve analysis to data from the 95 largest U.S. cities and controlling for conditions known to be associated with violent crime rates, we find that New York's homicide trend during the 1990s did not differ significantly from those of other large cities. We find some indication of a sharper homicide drop in Boston than elsewhere, but the small number of incidents precludes strong conclusions. By contrast, Richmond's homicide reduction was significantly greater than the decline in other large cities after the implementation of Project Exile, which is consistent with claims of an intervention effect, although the effect may have been small. Criminologists gave police and other public officials something of a free ride as they claimed credit for the 1990s crime drop. We propose that researchers employ comparable data and methods to evaluate such claims-making, with the current analysis intended as a departure point for ongoing research. The use of common evaluation criteria is especially urgent for assessing the effects of the multiple interventions to reduce violent crime launched under the nation's primary domestic crime-control initiative, Project Safe Neighborhoods.
Article
Canada has implemented legislation covering all firearms since 1977 and presents a model to examine incremental firearms control. The effect of legislation on homicide by firearm and the subcategory, spousal homicide, is controversial and has not been well studied to date. Legislative effects on homicide and spousal homicide were analyzed using data obtained from Statistics Canada from 1974 to 2008. Three statistical methods were applied to search for any associated effects of firearms legislation. Interrupted time series regression, ARIMA, and Joinpoint analysis were performed. Neither were any significant beneficial associations between firearms legislation and homicide or spousal homicide rates found after the passage of three Acts by the Canadian Parliament--Bill C-51 (1977), C-17 (1991), and C-68 (1995)--nor were effects found after the implementation of licensing in 2001 and the registration of rifles and shotguns in 2003. After the passage of C-68, a decrease in the rate of the decline of homicide by firearm was found by interrupted regression. Joinpoint analysis also found an increasing trend in homicide by firearm rate post the enactment of the licensing portion of C-68. Other factors found to be associated with homicide rates were median age, unemployment, immigration rates, percentage of population in low-income bracket, Gini index of income equality, population per police officer, and incarceration rate. This study failed to demonstrate a beneficial association between legislation and firearm homicide rates between 1974 and 2008.
Article
The problem of testing statistical hypotheses is an old one. Its origins are usually connected with the name of Thomas Bayes, who gave the well-known theorem on the probabilities a posteriori of the possible “causes” of a given event.* Since then it has been discussed by many writers of whom we shall here mention two only, Bertrand† and Borel,‡ whose differing views serve well to illustrate the point from which we shall approach the subject.
Article
In 1997, Australia implemented a gun buyback program that reduced the stock of firearms by around one-fifth (and nearly halved the number of gun-owning households). Using differences across states, we test whether the reduction in firearms availability affected homicide and suicide rates. We find that the buyback led to a drop in the firearm suicide rates of almost 80%, with no significant effect on non-firearm death rates. The effect on firearm homicides is of similar magnitude but is less precise. The results are robust to a variety of specification checks and to instrumenting the state-level buyback rate.
Article
The study tested the hypotheses that (i) the rate of suicide by firearms among youth (aged 10-19 years) is increasing at a greater rate than rates of suicide by other methods; (ii) the rate of youth suicide in rural New South Wales is significantly higher than those in urban areas; and (iii) the increase in youth suicide by means of firearms is occurring at a greater rate in rural males aged 15-19 years than in other groups. Data were obtained from the NSW Office of the Australian Bureau of Statistics concerning 735 youth suicides in NSW between 1964 and 1988. These were reviewed for information concerning residential area and method of death. Five five-year periods were used, and rates were calculated with population figures obtained in the census years for the same age and sex group. From 1964 to 1988, suicide by firearms has risen most substantially, from 3.4 to 5.6 per 100,000 per year in 15-19-year-old males. There has also been a substantial increase in 15-19-year-old male suicides by hanging (0.7 to 3.4 per 100,000 per year). Poisoning suicides have declined among females and males in the past 15 years. Suicide rates in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong have remained stable. In rural cities, they have increased from 1.5 to 4.7 per 100,000 per year (F = 4.9, P less than 0.02) while in rural municipalities and shires they have increased from 1.3 to 6.4 (F = 14.6, P less than 0.0001). The suicide rate of 15-19-year-old males has shown a modest increase in Sydney and no change in Newcastle or Wollongong, but the rate for 15-19-year-old males in rural cities has more than doubled, from 5.1 to 12.5 (F = 7.7, P less than 0.003), while in rural municipalities and shires, the rate has increased more than fivefold, from 3.9 to 20.7 (F = 9.3, P less than 0.001). There has been no significant change in the suicide rates of 15-19-year-old females, or in 10-14-year-olds. The rate of suicide by firearms among 15-19-year-old males has not risen significantly in rural cities, but in rural municipalities and shires the rates have risen fivefold from 2.8 to 14.8 (F = 5.6, P less than 0.01). Each hypothesis was confirmed. An increase of this magnitude is not an artefact of coroners' verdicts. The findings are believed to be due to ready access to firearms, the use of alcohol and drugs (particularly in firearms suicides) and increasing socioeconomic, health, and identity problems for rural youth, especially males.
Article
Firearms cause more than three deaths daily in Canada. The rate of mortality from gunshot wounds varies among provinces and territories, ranging from 5.7 to 21.2 per 100,000 people. Most deaths from gunshot wounds occur in the home, with more occurring in rural areas than in cities, and are inflicted with legally acquired hunting guns. The cost of the consequences of the improper use of firearms in Canada has been estimated at $6.6 billion per year. There is a correlation between access to guns and risk of death. The mere presence of a firearm in a home increases the risk of suicide, homicide and "accidental" death. It is estimated that, in one third of all households in Quebec that have a firearm, it is not safely, or even legally, stored. To prevent deaths and injuries from firearms, education is not enough. Environmental, technological and legislative measures are also needed. In this spirit, the Quebec Public Health Network has taken a position supporting better controls on access to firearms, including the licensing and registration of all firearms and their ownership, to prevent deaths and injuries. The network believes that licensing and registration will reduce the problems related to firearms by making owners accountable for the use of their firearms, improving public safety, helping to control the import and circulation of firearms, reinforcing research and education, and reducing access to firearms in homes. Licensing and registration do not interfere with legitimate firearm use, their cost is acceptable in light of the advantages they provide, and they are desired by most Canadians.
Article
There are more than seven million firearms in Canada and approximately 1400 firearm-related deaths per year, These figures are far greater than those for most European countries, but far less than those for the United States. This article will discuss the different classes of firearm deaths and the associated costs. Public health issues will he explored, especially as they relate to the involvement of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, as well as injury control recommendations. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Inc.
Article
In February 1994, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act established a nationwide requirement that licensed firearms dealers observe a waiting period and initiate a background check for handgun sales. The effects of this act have not been analyzed. To determine whether implementation of the Brady Act was associated with reductions in homicide and suicide rates. Analysis of vital statistics data in the United States for 1985 through 1997 from the National Center for Health Statistics. Total and firearm homicide and suicide rates per 100,000 adults (>/=21 years and >/=55 years) and proportion of homicides and suicides resulting from firearms were calculated by state and year. Controlling for population age, race, poverty and income levels, urban residence, and alcohol consumption, the 32 "treatment" states directly affected by the Brady Act requirements were compared with the 18 "control" states and the District of Columbia, which had equivalent legislation already in place. Changes in rates of homicide and suicide for treatment and control states were not significantly different, except for firearm suicides among persons aged 55 years or older (-0.92 per 100,000; 95% confidence interval [CI], -1.43 to -0.42). This reduction in suicides for persons aged 55 years or older was much stronger in states that had instituted both waiting periods and background checks (-1.03 per 100,000; 95% CI, -1.58 to -0.47) than in states that only changed background check requirements (-0.17 per 100,000; 95% CI, -1.09 to 0.75). Based on the assumption that the greatest reductions in fatal violence would be within states that were required to institute waiting periods and background checks, implementation of the Brady Act appears to have been associated with reductions in the firearm suicide rate for persons aged 55 years or older but not with reductions in homicide rates or overall suicide rates. However, the pattern of implementation of the Brady Act does not permit a reliable analysis of a potential effect of reductions in the flow of guns from treatment-state gun dealers into secondary markets. JAMA. 2000;284:585-591
Article
The 1996-97 National Firearms Agreement (NFA) in Australia introduced strict gun laws, primarily as a reaction to the mass shooting in Port Arthur, Tasmania in 1996, where 35 people were killed. Despite the fact that several researchers using the same data have examined the impact of the NFA on firearm deaths, a consensus does not appear to have been reached. In this paper, we re-analyze the same data on firearm deaths used in previous research, using tests for unknown structural breaks as a means to identifying impacts of the NFA. The results of these tests suggest that the NFA did not have any large effects on reducing firearm homicide or suicide rates.
Can Australia teach the US about gun control? Al Jazeera: The Stream
  • K Beazley
Beazley, K. (2013). Can Australia teach the US about gun control? Al Jazeera: The Stream (Aired 13 January 2013) http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201301300132-0022514
Homicide in Australia: 2006-07 National Homicide Monitoring Program annual report
  • J Dearden
  • W Jones
Dearden, J., & Jones, W. (2008). Homicide in Australia: 2006-07 National Homicide Monitoring Program annual report. Australian Institute of Criminology: Canberra.
Finding what works in health care: Standards for systematic reviews
  • J Eden
  • L Levit
  • A Bird
Eden, J., Levit, L., & Bird, A. (2011). Finding what works in health care: Standards for systematic reviews. Washington, D.C: National Academies Press.
Firearms and violent crime in New South Wales. Contemporary Issues in Crime and Justice
  • J Fitzgerald
  • S Briscoe
  • D Weatherburn
Fitzgerald, J., Briscoe, S., & Weatherburn, D. (2001). Firearms and violent crime in New South Wales. Contemporary Issues in Crime and Justice, 57, 1-8.
Funding of gun buyback scheme. Press release
  • J Howard
Howard, J. (1996). Funding of gun buyback scheme. Press release, May 14, 1996 Canberra: Australia: Office of the Prime Minister.