The whole world watched as a radicalized Muslim terrorist held 17 people hostage for over 16 hours in a Lindt Cafe in Sydney, Australia. Australia has very restrictive gun control laws, following reforms in 1996 in the wake of the Port Arthur Massacre – some of the toughest in the world. Semi-automatic rifles and shotguns and pump-action shotguns are banned and Australian citizens must prove they need a gun in order to obtain a gun license. The terrorist gunman possessed a sawed-off shotgun. Since the siege began, major news networks and social media have been abuzz about Australia’s gun control laws and what factor they may or may not have played in leading up to the siege. Are Australia’s gun control laws, which prevented ordinary, law-abiding citizens the ability to carry guns for their own self-defense, responsible for the siege?
In 1996 Australia adopted strigent gun reforms, greatly restricting legal gun ownership, and spending $500 million AUD to ‘buyback’ guns in an effort to get them “off the street”. However, in the years since, Australian criminologists have found that the gun reforms and buyback did not reduce crime. Dr. Don Weatherburn, head of the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, who was originally in favor of the reforms, stated that the 1996 legislation had had little to no effect on violence, noting that though the homicide rate have fallen, the rate of decline has been steady, and began before the 1996 reforms. Dr. Weatherburn stated “I would need to see more convincing evidence than there is to be able to say that gun laws have had any effect.” New South Wales is the province where the siege took place.
Dr. Weatherburn is not alone in his conclusion that Australia’s gun reforms have had no effect in reducing crime. Several studies by Australian researchers also concluded the reforms had no effect; Reuter and Mouzos in 2003 , McPhedran and Baker in 2006, and Lee and Suardi in 2009 found no evidence the gun reforms caused a decline in rates for gun crimes or homicides.
In fact, just the opposite of reducing crime, violent crime has risen in several categories. By 2008, there had been an increase of over 40% in assaults and 20% in sexual assaults. The Australia Institute of Criminology (AIC) data shows that Australia has more violent crime per 100,000 people than the U.S. or Canada. Australia’s violent crime rate is only outpaced by the UK, whose violent crime rate has skyrocketed since their late-90′s gun ban. Professor Mason of George Washington University states: “What to conclude? Strict gun laws in [Great Britain and] Australia haven’t made their people noticeably safer.”
Australia’s strict gun control laws did not prevent the radicalized Muslim terrorist who initiated the siege from illegally obtaining a firearm, despite the fact that he had a “mile long” rap sheet. Australian authorities report guns are illegally smuggled into the country and sold on the black market. In the New South Wales province alone, where the siege took place, police seized nearly 7,000 illegal firearms in 2011. Police broke up a crime ring that was shipping guns to a Sydney post office. Officials said they had “broken a major supply route of guns into Australia”. Illegal arms dealers have also supplied criminals with Uzi’s, M16′s and M25 sniper rifles. Most guns stolen from licensed lawful gun owners are rifles, but most crimes are committed with handguns, “which leads police to conclude they’re coming from overseas”.
While it may be overly simplistic to state Australia’s gun control laws caused the siege, they didn’t do anything to prevent it. Further, they did prevent the victims from legally possessing the means to defend themselves. Two people died in the siege, including Tori Johnson, who died trying to wrestle the gun away from the terrorist.
Contrast this to the United States, where the CDC says there are a minimum of 500,000 (as many as 3 million) lawful defensive gun uses annually by ordinary, law-abiding citizens. World’s away from the Lindt Cafe in Sydney, Australia is the Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado, where the restaurant staff and many customers openly carry guns as a matter of everyday routine. It’s difficult to imagine someone picking a place like Shooters Grill as their location of choice to attempt taking hostages. Experts note that gunmen often choose “soft targets” like the shopping area where the Lindt Cafe was located over targets that have more security.
According to the CDC, lawful gun carrying is a deterrent to crime, reduces injury in potential victims, and saves lives. Perhaps not coincidentally this is why over 90% law enforcement in the U.S. supports lawful gun carrying by ordinary citizens; they know bad people are less likely to attempt crime, when ordinary people can shoot back. This is the crux of the gun debate (such that it exists): one side wants us to believe that if we just pass one more new gun law – regardless of whether law enforcement supports it or not – that we will all be safer. However, research shows quite the opposite; far from making people safer (which Australia’s gun laws did not), the CDC research shows it has the consequence of making people far less safe.
This article was originally published on TavernKeepers. Original publish date Dec 19, 2014. Original author, Matt MacBradaigh.