The Sydney Morning Herald reports today on some research finding that the tightened gun laws post the Port Arthur massacre have had essentially no effect on reducing murder.
The only area where the package of Commonwealth and State laws, known as the National Firearms Agreement (NFA) may have had some impact was on the rate of suicide, but the study said the evidence was not clear and any reductions attributable to the new gun rules were slight.
“Homicide patterns (firearm and non-firearm) were not influenced by the NFA, the conclusion being that the gun buyback and restrictive legislative changes had no influence on firearm homicide in Australia,” the study says.
Despite quoting Don Weatherburn, the NSW statistician, at the end of the article, they fail to mention that he had come to pretty much the same conclusion in a statement he made almost exactly a year ago, which I referred to in an earlier piece on guns.
I would need to see more convincing evidence than there is to be able to say that gun laws have had any effect,” Dr Weatherburn said. “The best that could be said for the tougher laws is there has been no other mass killing using firearms [since Port Arthur].
“There has been a drop in firearm-related crime, particularly in homicide, but it began long before the new laws and has continued on afterwards. I don’t think anyone really understands why. A lot of people assume that the tougher laws did it, but I would need more specific, convincing evidence …
It seems like lazy journalism not to mention that this is not an exceptionally new finding, and shouldn’t be reported in a way that makes it sounds controversial and new. Not even a mention of this accords with other findings.
While I haven’t followed this extremely closely it appears from US statistics on this that there is at best a very weak link between banning guns and reducing homicide. I suspect because it does nothing, in the first instance at least, to illegal guns.
Update: Andrew Leigh makes some good points regarding the validity of the test. Not withstanding this, I think its still difficult to say the gun laws have made a clear difference.