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In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary spree killing, America’s gun control industry is in high gear. They’re trotting out the usual tropes, blending emotion with misleading information, hoping to lead the public to conclude that “something must be done!” Unsurprisingly, the New York Times is suffused with anti-gun agitprop. Yesterday, Op-Ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristof asked Do We Have the Courage to Stop This? Like many gun control advocates, Kristof would have his readers think “other countries have controlled guns effectively, why not us?” Here’s his “logic” . . .

Other countries offer a road map. In Australia in 1996, a mass killing of 35 people galvanized the nation’s conservative prime minister to ban certain rapid-fire long guns. The “national firearms agreement,” as it was known, led to the buyback of 650,000 guns and to tighter rules for licensing and safe storage of those remaining in public hands.

The law did not end gun ownership in Australia. It reduced the number of firearms in private hands by one-fifth, and they were the kinds most likely to be used in mass shootings.

In the 18 years before the law, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings — but not one in the 14 years after the law took full effect. The murder rate with firearms has dropped by more than 40 percent, according to data compiled by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center [HICRC], and the suicide rate with firearms has dropped by more than half.

If you take Kristof’s “evidence” as writ, it sounds like America is just being pig-headed (a theme not unpopular amongst America’s self-professed intellectuals). If you look closely at the actual data, though, a different picture emerges.

The HICRC report Kristof quotes says that “In the seven years before the NFA (1989-1995), the average annual firearm suicide death rate per 100,000 was 2.6 (with a yearly range of 2.2 to 2.9); in the seven years after the buyback was fully implemented (1998-2004), the average annual firearm suicide rate was 1.1 (yearly range 0.8 to 1.4).”

Be that as it may, Australia’s overall suicide rate has remained essentially unchanged. According to the study data, the rate of suicide (any method) per 100,000 people was as follows:

2008: 10.2229
2007: 8.93
2006: 8.70
2005: 10.30
2004: 10.44
2003: 11.1424
2002: 11.81
2001: 12.64
2000: 12.34
1999: 13.17
1998: 14.34
1997: 14.69
1996: 13.07
1995: 13.10
1994: 12.65
1993: 11.78
1992: 13.11
1991: 13.65
1990: 12.66
1989: 12.47
1988: 13.29

So, not much of a change, then.

As for homicide rates, the HICRC report says “The NFA also seems to have reduced firearm homicide outside of mass shootings, as well as firearm suicide. … In the seven years before the NFA, the average annual firearm homicide rate per 100,000 was .43 (range .27 to .60) while for the seven years post NFA, the average annual firearm homicide rate was .25 (range .16 to .33).”

And again, if you look at the overall numbers, there’s hardly a blip. The Australian homicide rate (any method) per 100,000 people is:

2009: 1.218
2007/08: 1.221
2006/07: 1.221
2005/06: 1.421
2004/05: 1.2
2003/04: 1.421
2002/03: 1.5
2001/02: 1.8
2000/01: 1.6
1999/00: 1.6
1998/99: 1.7
1997/98: 1.6
1996/97: 1.6
1995/96: 1.6
1994/95: 1.8
1993/94: 1.821
1992/93: 1.9
1991/92: 1.8
1990/91: 1.9
1989/90: 1.8

As our Bruce Krafft points out (after providing the analysis), “what no one mentions: the US non-firearm-related homicide rate is almost four times Australia’s. If guns are the cause then why aren’t our non-firearm homicide rates the same?”

What interests me: why these gun control advocates can’t seem to use Google. A simple search turns up Australia’s Gun Laws: Little Effect from . . . wait for it . . . Time Magazine. As always, the truth will out. At least in these parts.

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  1. Well, just from a glance without running a proper regression – but overall suicide rates do show the drop of about 1 per 10000 with some lag after 98, no? Which matches up with claimed drop of about 1 per in the firearm suicides? I’m not even trying to go into correlation/causation area, but at least the numbers seem to match? Same for the homicides – they did go down some.

    • I noticed the same trend.

      There is another fact that I think is very significant: violent crime rates have been declining at a much faster rate in the U.S. over most of the same time period (1993 through present) and yet many aspects of “gun control” have been eliminated.

      Thus the incredibly important statement: correlation (a trend that coincides with some action) does not mean causation (that some particular action actually caused the trend).

  2. The same thing is going to happen here. They will ban certain types of guns and also have some major buy back program. A year later you will have idiots like Piers Morgan reporting that GUM homicides are down 25% and declare the ban a complete victory. All the while completely ignoring that the total number of homicides has not changed one bit. The truth will never be heard because the liberal media will not allow it. As I stated in another post, the media is the real enemy of America. Too bad this nut jobs don’t target them instead of innocent children.

  3. Some of the antis are claiming the 2A was a mistake by the Framers’. They claim they never anticipated semi-auto rifles, handguns, etc. Well if they’re truly unbiased, the would claim the same for Media’s 1A protection. The framers’ intended that protecting Media’s 1A that they would be watchdogs against the gov’t. Now they’re biased lap dogs, lying incessantly to promote their agenda against America. Ban 2A and ban media’s 1A. Then watch the Constituion fall. Bunch of hypocrite antis…

  4. Let’s look at the numbers. I’m leaving out anything involving 1996, since that seems to be the year the law was passed.

    The median suicide rate from 1988-1995 is 12.88/100,000.
    The median suicide rate from 1997-2008 is 11.4762/100,000
    That’s a difference of 1.4038 (Which, squared, is 1.97065444)

    The median homicide rate from 1989/90 to 1994/95 is 1.8105/100,000
    The median homocide rate from 1997/98 to 2009 is 1.4605/100,000
    That’s a difference of 0.35 (Which, squared, is 0.1225)

    I believe that we can do a chi squared analysis to see if the difference is actually significant, and that there’s only one degree of freedom (one type of comparison) for this type of problem.

    If X²=0.1225 and d=1, then Q should be 0.7263 (i.e. no significant difference for homicide rates)
    If X²=1.97065444 and d=1, then Q should be 0.1603 (i.e. no significant difference for suicide rates.)

    I am NOT a math person, so I freely admit that I may be applying the wrong test, or my methodology could be wrong. Please feel free to correct this.

    • Yes, you methodology is wrong. Your sample rate is not a number of years. It’s not exactly an actual number of homicides/suicides, it’s more complex than that – but that number works as an approximation reasonably well. So it’s a sample of thousands. Hence 10% difference is statistically huge, and over 99% significant. Now, again – I’m NOT AT ALL talking about where is this difference coming from, and what’s responsible for it, etc – just the fact that it’s definitely there from the math perspective. (Disclaimer – I AM a math person. I am MS in applied math and I do statistics for a living. It’s very easy to get the wrong kind of statistics applied, very educated people including a ton of economists do it all the time). Second disclaimer – I own a small arsenal, so don’t confuse me with anti’s 😉

      • I am by no stretch of the imagination in favor of gun control laws; quite the opposite. But, while I applaud the article’s focus on overall homicide instead of gun homicide, there’s simply no basis for saying “there’s hardly a blip.” The change in the mean of these numbers, pre to post, represents a 21% decrease (and over 19% based on the median).

  5. Does it really matter what the homicide rate is if the gun-related homicides decrease with decreasing % of gun ownership?

    I would think not.

    • Your only concern about homicide is whether it is committed with a gun? I would phrase you a math story problem but it would not be politically correct. Please simply consider; total number killed and whether how matters.

      • This. It amazes me that anti-gun people are OK with murder or assault as long as there isn’t a gun involved. I pointed out the UK’s insanely high violent crime rate to a Brit during a debate and he came back with (I swear to God, I’m not kidding) “That’s OK, because at least no one gets shot”.

    • Ok… just … *OUCH*.
      I think this statement actually burst a section in my brain.

      Did you really just say you do not care if people die, as long as they don’t die by gunfire?


      Murder is just fine as long as YOU can prance around proclaiming your superiority because you got guns banned?

      And gun rights advocates are supposed to be the whackos….

      • To “psmcd”, “Totenglocke”, and “Char”: I’m pretty sure that what Alex was addressing is the matter that was raised earlier, namely: if the statistics indicate that a change happened, *one* question worth trying to answer is: “Was this change caused by thing-X?” (Where “thing-X might be something specific, like the 1996 ‘National Firearms Agreement’ law, or something more general like gun ownership rate.)

        Meaningful dialog is easier if you don’t look for the worst possible interpretation of someone else’s statement, eh?


  6. Here’s a great link I found while debating an Australian about gun laws the other night:

    It shows that despite the gun ban, both the US and AU saw homicides decline by about 39%, but that AU saw every other crime (theft, assault, and rape) increase while the US saw theft, rape, and assault decrease significantly.

    If you look at the last 90’s through now, almost all developed countries (at least the English speaking ones) have seen a roughly 40% decrease in homicide rates regardless of laws….I’m curious as to what caused that.

  7. He asks “Do we have the courage to stop this?”

    Well the facts show that this massacre was not caused by guns or not enough gun control. It was caused by a crazy person and a failure to properly control him. Since the media seems to be focusing on an issue that is not the cause of the problem, I must conclude that “No, we do NOT have the courage to stop this, because we can’t even bring ourselves to looking at the true cause of the problem.”

  8. Gents
    This hurts me deeply. It is as it is planned by someone. History always repeats itself. NO matter what the political party is our government has to take our guns. No politician will do what is needed to fix the problem because it will hurt their pockets and the pockets of the people that make them money. Our economy is a house of Cards. The Life blood of the country is oil a finite resource we get from a group of people that wants us all dead. Out economy is a house of cards. When it finally collapses during our children’s life time. The Government does not want the people to have guns. It would make the people too hard to control. During the last election I have talked to more and more people that are realizing our hole political system, all our politicians belong to the same “Rich Boy Clubs” literally. They will take our Guns that those that do not give them up will eventually be killed of by the American Military. Remember the Patriot Act, Eventually being a patriot will be “Those That Do What the Government Tells Them To do with Out Question.” Sorry, for the Gloom and Doom, I am a realist.

  9. The claim is made, “the US non-firearm-related homicide rate is almost four times Australia’s”, but according to the UN the US non-firearm rate is 1.58/100,000 and Australia’s is 1.26/100,000.

  10. What charts was the author looking at to conclude that there was hardly a blip? Even at first glance you can see a clear and steady downward trend after 1997. By my most conservative estimates using averages, I show a 9% before and after drop in one stat and 16% in the other. Those are actually very big, significant, drops. I’m not even Saying what that drop means. The data in itself certainly doesn’t prove anything about the success of the gun laws. But I am saying think before you blog.


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