In early 2011, the NSW [New South Wales, Australia] Coroner issued a recommendation to [former] NSW Police Minister Michael Daley [above]: new applicants should have a psychiatric test before the state granted then a license. They issued the advice during the inquiry into the death of an unidentified 22-year-old man who exchanged fire with police—before turning his Glock on himself. NSW Deputy Coroner Paul MacMahon asked that “applicants undergo a mental health assessment by a general medical practitioner, or other appropriate professional, so as to ensure that they are not suffering from any previously undiagnosed mental health condition that would render the applicant unsuitable for the holding of such a licence” . . .
While this hurdle appears to make sense, Mr MacMahon doesn’t appear to understand that psychological tests are merely a ‘point in time’ indicator. Experts recognise that these tests are not a reliable predictor of future behaviour. In fact, the best predictor of someone’s future behaviour is their past behaviour – which is why police already perform background checks on firearms license applicants. As shown by the data for firearms homicides from the Australian Institute of Criminology.
Whilst I’m aware that there are other firearms death such as suicide and accidents, let’s focus on the one that gets the most attention from the media. Homicides involving firearms account for around 11% (varying slightly by year) of the total homicides. 4% of firearm homicides are committed by people with a mental disorder. Of those 11% of firearm homicides only 7% of firearm homicides were committed by a licensed person using a registered gun.
The data shows that less than 1 percent of homicides in 2006/2007 were committed by a licensed gun owner or registered firearm. Which to me is too insignificant to even bother examining—when there are relatively large amounts of Australians murdered by knives, blunt objects and no weapons at all. In fact, all of those weapons account for no more than 2% of homicides individually.
More than 93 percent of firearms used in homicides in 2006–07 were unlicensed and unregistered. Not surprisingly given the low level of legal ownership of firearms amongst those involved in homicide, 48 percent of firearm homicide offenders had a prior criminal history.
Assuming that 4% of firearm homicides were committed by a person with a mental disorder. Psych testing of license holders would be pointless, It’s unlikely it would “save” even one life over the course of a year.
Interesting fact; there were only 29 firearms homicides in 06-07 out of 266 total homicides. 7% of those 29 firearm homicides were committed by licensed firearm owners. So only two people died at the hands of a licensed firearm owner using a registered firearm.
The most recent Australian Institute of Criminology data (07/08) (which likely wasn’t available at the time of Coroner MacMahon’s report which is why we used the 06/07 data for most of this article) shows that there were no firearm homicides known to involve a firearm registered to the offender or where the offender was licensed to own a firearm.
If we go forward in the future to look at weapon type involved in homicides it’s easy to see that the NSW government shouldn’t be concerned with firearms laws as they stand, not when so many more people are beaten and stabbed to death.
The evidence is incontrovertible: Australian gun owners don’t need psych tests or any further restrictions.
Australian firearm licensees already jump through more hoops than a can of SpaghettiOs (yes, we have them too). The vast majority—99.99%—do the right thing. So why target us with fundamentally flawed testing and restrictions not based on science, when we are clearly not where the problem lies? Do you really want to know?
[I gathered my data using the following links:
Please visit Keith Drain’s most excellent website huntandshoot.com.au