Gun rights · Libertarian issues

Australia’s top libertarian on gun laws

As I am aware that visitors to this blog often have difficulties accessing links to articles, the following will be a copy and paste of an excellent piece written by Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm, in staunch defence of gun rights. For Australians not aware of the full implications wreaked by John Howard’s 1996 gun reforms, and for Americans who often hear about Australia as some sort of shining light in this area, in particular, the ensuing article makes for compelling reading; fundamentally uprooting many of the status quo approaches.

Title: The Port Arthur Gun ban hasn’t saved lives

AUSTRALIANS may pride themselves on “telling it like it is”, but when it comes to gun laws, straight-shooting all too often takes a back seat to a determined effort at silencing debate.

Twenty years ago a ­deranged individual murdered 35 people at Port Arthur using firearms. In response, Australia passed some of the most ­restrictive gun laws in the western world. These included bans on self-loading rifles and shotguns, and pump-action shotguns, plus a taxpayer- funded gun confiscation program costing over a billion dollars. All legally owned firearms are now registered, costing the states tens of millions of dollars a year to manage.

For that price, any civilised liberal democracy should ­expect to have a decent debate about the efficacy of its policies. Instead, all we hear are anti-gun activists telling the rest of the world that Australia’s model of firearms ­management has been a ­resounding success. “We saved lives!” they claim. “We stopped mass shootings!” they say.

The fact is, serious debate about gun laws has been all but silenced. Not a single inquiry or inquest was ever held into the Port Arthur massacre, ­unlike the two inquiries and one inquest into the Lindt Café siege in which two innocent people died.

Simplistic comparisons are drawn with the US, which has periodic massacres, with more relaxed gun laws blamed. We hear it said repeatedly that there have been no mass shootings in Australia since 1996, which supposedly demonstrates the effectiveness of our gun laws.

The truth is quite different. There have been eight shootings in Australia with three or more victims during that time.

By contrast New Zealand, a country very similar to Australia in history, culture, and economic trends, has experienced no mass shooting events despite the ongoing widespread availability of the types of firearms Australia banned.

Moreover, there is sound research into the impact of Australia’s 1996 gun laws. Some of it comes from anti-gun groups, some from pro-gun groups, and some from groups who have no personal connections to firearms one way or the other.

Using the same ABS data and a range of statistical methods, not a single study has found any change in the rate of firearm homicides as a result of the changed gun laws.

The simple fact is that ­firearm homicides were ­decreasing well before the laws were implemented, and the ­decline simply continued at the same rate after the legislative changes.

Moreover, this decline in firearm homicides in Australia is not unusual.

At least two other Commonwealth countries (Canada and New Zealand) have had similar or greater declines even though these countries have far less restrictive gun laws than Australia.

And without denying it has an  overall much higher level of homicides (non-firearm as well as firearm related), the US  has  had an even larger rate of ­decline in the face of very ­substantial liberalisation of its gun laws, in particular ­allowing carrying firearms for self-­defence.

And yet, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the anti-gun lobby continues to promote untruths. Despite the massive price tag attached to Australia’s gun laws, rational debate remains impossible.

Despite the fact that other policies may be far more effective at saving lives, dissenting views about the gun laws are ridiculed and shrilly shouted down. And despite gun owners being far less likely to commit criminal acts than non-gun-owners, our law-abiding shooters are still treated like pariahs apart from when they win medals at the Olympics.

If Muslims, blacks or Jews were treated like gun-owners, there would be outrage.

Neither collective guilt nor punishment would be tolerated. Firearm owners, on the other hand, face the impact of collective punishment on a daily basis.

Yes, the rest of the world can indeed learn a lesson from Australia’s gun control experiment. But that lesson is really not about gun laws.

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7 thoughts on “Australia’s top libertarian on gun laws

  1. In the US the only conditional constitutional right, as far as the Left is concerned, is the 2nd Amendment: the right to keep and bear arms. All others are unconditional.

  2. I strongly disagree with your statement that Australia’s lesson is not about guns. Experts in the field have stated;
    “Professor Sarre said suggesting Mr Howard’s reforms “caused” the declines is “a very difficult assertion to make”, but “you can make a broad assertion to say we’re better off in terms of gun suicides and gun homicides”.

    “Whether you can say we’re 20 per cent better off, 80 per cent better off, is subject to debate… But the bottom line is, if [the reforms] had the effect of reducing the number of guns that are available to Australians, it is strongly correlated with the gun homicide and suicide deaths on the wane.””


    As mentioned, it is nearly impossible to prove that gun laws have made a difference, however, let us now consider the USA. Your statement that; “Simplistic comparisons are drawn with the US, which has periodic massacres, with more relaxed gun laws blamed.” is naturally flawed in that gun massacres do not happen periodically unless you are describing a daily interval. I strongly recommend a look at this website;

    Some statistics behind the ‘liberal’ gun laws in the USA show that gun sales are increasingly rapidly with a record of 185,345 background checks in a single day. Furthermore 8% percent of gun owners own a stockpile of 10 or more weapons and tens of thousands of stolen guns enter the illegal market, of which less than 10% are recovered.

    Additionally an average of 36 americans we killed daily by guns excluding suicides in 2015. In 2016 so far, 107 mass shootings (4 or more people killed or injured) have taken place to date, 4,956 people have been killed and a further 10,090 injured. Perhaps most shockingly is that during 2015 a toddler accidentally shot someone nearly once a week.

    In comparison, Australia has had ten massacres and a total of 4,793 deaths since the 1996 introduction of gun laws ( Of which the total number of deaths per year related to guns has halved since 1996 and showed progressive downwards trends.

    Therefore it is without doubt that the introduction of strict gun laws has benefited Australia and its residents.

    1. Yes but as gun ownership has gone up in the us since the 80’s, the murder rate has also decreased. There is no proven link between more guns and more violence

    2. Sorry – regarding your last comment my response is awaiting moderation;
      Whilst the death rate has decreased slightly; 33,019 in 1979 versus 31,672 in 2010 (4.25%). This is still a remarkably high ratio of deaths per 100,000; 10.3 in the USA compared to 0.17 in Australia in 2010. These numbers are indefensible with more people being killed in the US by guns since 1968 (1,516,863) than all wars in the recorded history of the USA from 1812 (1,396,733).

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