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3 facts about gun laws in Australia

9 October 2017
Australian gun laws before and after 1996

Before the introduction of the National Firearms Agreement in 1996, gun laws in Australia looked very different. Injury prevention expert Associate Professor Philip Alpers details three evidence-based facts about gun reform.

With gun control back on the agenda, discerning facts from fiction when it comes to gun laws and statistics is more important than ever.

Associate Professor Phillip Alpers from the University’s School of Public Health has researched the regulation of firearms and firearm injury prevention for over ten years.

The Founding Director of GunPolicy.org, his research compares armed violence and gun laws across 350 jurisdictions across the world. Here, we revisit three critical pieces of his research:

1. No one state complies fully with the National Firearms Agreement

The National Firearms Agreement (NFA) was established after the 1996 Port Arthur mass shooting in which a man used two semi-automatic rifles to kill 35 people and wound 19 others.

“While the most important provisions of the NFA remain substantially intact, no jurisdiction fully complies,” said Philip Alpers.

Bullets.

According to the report commissioned by Gun Control Australia and released in October this year, “non-compliance from day one, and two decades of political pressure, have steadily reduced restrictions and undermined the NFA’s original intent.”

Associate Professor Alpers says one standout example of current non-complicance with the NFA is the licencing age. Despite NFA requirements that all applicants for a firearm licence be at least 18 years of age, every state and territory allows minors to possess and use firearms, ranging from 10 to 16 years across jurisdictions. 

2. Firearm deaths rapidly decline since 1996 gun reforms

Since gun law reforms in 1996, Australia has seen an accelerating decline in intentional firearm deaths.

The research findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and co-authored by Associate Professor Alpers.

Lead author of the report, Emeritus Professor Simon Chapman, said “The absence of mass shootings in Australia in the past two decades compares to 13 fatal mass shootings in the 18 years prior to these sweeping reforms.”

Following the mandatory National Firearms Buyback in 1997 and despite a surge of post-law gun buying, the proportion of Australian households reporting private gun ownership declined by 75 per cent between 1988 and 2005.

3. More than a million firearms surrendered or seized since 1996

Person holding firearm.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Association between gun law reforms and intentional firearms deaths in Australia’, also looked at the efficacy of gun buyback programs in Australia.

Since the 1997 mandatory National Firearms Buyback by federal and all state governments and the subsequent handgun buyback in 2003, more than a million privately owned firearms are known to have been surrendered or seized.

“Opponents of public health measures to reduce the availability of firearms often claim that ‘killers just find another way.’ Our findings show the opposite: there is no evidence of murderers moving to other methods,” said co-author Associate Professor Philip Alpers.

Dan Gaffney

Media & PR Adviser (Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy)