Gun Control: What The U.S. Could Learn From Australia After They Decided To Change Their Gun Policies 20 Years Ago

The U.S. is not the only nation that has experienced a mass shooting. In fact, Australia already had the same issue 20 years ago, but they were able to eradicate this kind of incident.

The question is, “How were they able to accomplish 20 years free of mass shootings?”

Based on Australia’s history on mass shootings, America could learn a thing or two. The events of these two nations are not that different. The U.S. has had multiple mass shootings over the past 20 years. What’s worse is that the most recent events happened in the period of just five years.

In Australia, when the mass shooting event happened, the government immediately implemented a law to prevent future calamities from happening. In 1997, they banned certain semi-automatic and pump-action guns to the public. Gun owners were even forced to sell their guns back to the government.

Chris Murphy, Dianne Feinstein
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaks with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., behind, during a media availability on Capitol Hill, Monday, June 20, 2016 in Washington. A divided Senate blocked rival election-year plans to curb guns on Monday, eight days after the horror of Orlando's mass shooting intensified pressure on lawmakers to act but knotted them in gridlock anyway — even over restricting firearms for terrorists. (Photo by AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Simon Chapman, professor emeritus at the University of Sydney’s public health and lead researcher on Australia’s gun control history, noted that the implementation of Australia’s gun control policies could have a direct relation to the eradicated mass shooting incidents in Australia.

“Following enactment of gun law reforms in Australia in 1996, there were no mass firearm killings through May 2016.”


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Chapman actually retired two years ago, but he noted that he could not resist doing a paper on the event’s 20th anniversary.

Australia’s devastating mass shooting incident happened in Tasmania in 1996, when Martin Bryant shot and killed 35 people in a coffee shop. Twenty-three civilians were also injured during the shooting.

Back in 1996, Australia already had strict gun laws, but the enraged public pushed for wider reforms. The immediate action on gun control policies resulted in about 660,000 weapons handed back to the government.

“From 1979-1996 (before gun law reforms), 13 fatal mass shootings occurred in Australia, whereas from 1997 through May 2016 (after gun law reforms), no fatal mass shootings occurred,” they wrote.

Nightclub Shooting Florida
A couple spend a quiet moment at a makeshift memorial honoring the victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, Monday, June 20, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Chapman added that since people had fewer resources to kill others or to commit suicide, the rates for homicide and suicide declined as well. Although there is a strong case for the government’s decision to create measures on gun control, Chapman’s team said they cannot guarantee that it was the gun control measures that made it all possible.

Can America Follow Through?

Meanwhile, another Australian study seemed to support the premise that the revised gun control policies may have affected the decreased rate of gun-related homicides. The study shows that there was a 7.5 percent annual decrease of events after the reform was implemented.

Even if America decides to do something about their gun politics, Daniel Webster, a gun violence researcher at John Hopkin’s University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, is skeptical that the U.S. could replicate Australia’s success.

“Political, cultural, and legal challenges make it highly unlikely that the United States would implement comparable policies,” Webster wrote in a commentary in JAMA.

“Yet the experience in Australia over the past 2 decades since enactment of the NFA National Firearms Agreement provides a useful example of how a nation can come together to forge life-saving policies despite political and cultural divides.”

Studies show that the U.S. covers 31 percent of mass shootings in the world. That suggests that there are 300 million firearms at civilians’ disposal.

In the U.S., gun death rates were 11.2 per 100,000 people by 2015. It is considerably higher than the 1.2 per 100,000 people in Australia.

It was also reported in a study that guns kill or hurt about 10,000 children in America annually.

“If U.S. firearm homicide rates were only 10 times as high as firearm homicide rates in Australia, rather than 23 times as high, there would be substantially fewer homicides,” Webster noted.

Right now, the Democrats are pushing for the Republicans to act on a bill for Congress to pass.

[Photo by John Raoux/AP Images]