Australia’s strict gun laws enacted after the Port Arthur Massacre worked and may have prevented about 16 mass shootings, according to a new study.
Australia has had no mass shootings since the Howard government changed the laws and – despite claims by the American NRA – the two are linked.
The study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Tuesday found that the odds of the absence of shootings being random chance, rather than the result of the reforms, were one in 200,000.
Without the laws, Australia could have expected roughly another 16 mass shootings to date if the pre-1996 rate had continued, it estimated.
“Most people hear these starkly contrasting numbers and conclude that Australia’s gun law reforms effectively stopped firearm massacres here,” lead author, Sydney University’s Simon Chapman, said in a statement.
However, some scholars and members of the gun lobby have argued that since mass shootings are relatively rare events, the concentration of incidents in one decade and their absence in another decade is merely a statistical anomaly.”
Martin Bryant killed 35 people and wounded 23 during the Port Arthur massacre. Laws enacted after the shooting saw the destruction of more than a million firearms, which the study’s authors said could have been a third of Australia’s private gun stock.
The laws included uniform gun registration, repudiation of self-defence as a legitimate reason to hold a firearm licence, mandatory locked storage, a ban on mail order sales, and a ban on semi-automatic rifles and pump action shot guns.
Australia’s apparent success in preventing mass shootings is often touted overseas, especially by proponents of gun reform in the US. But America’s biggest gun lobby, the NRA, refuses to accept this argument, saying the subsequent absence of incidents is mere luck.
“This was no accident,” the study’s co-author, Dr Philip Alpers, said in a statement.
“Australia followed standard public health procedures to reduce the risk of multiple shooting events, and we can see the evidence. It worked.”
Yet another debate is currently raging in the US over gun reform after a mass shooting in a Florida high school.
US President Donald Trump has suggested federal grants to fund firearms training for teachers, but a wave of student protestors are pushing for stricter measures closer to Australia’s laws.
Across the US, at least 1300 children under the age of 17 die from gunshot wounds every year and nearly 5800 are injured, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Firearm-related deaths are the third leading cause of death overall among US children aged one to 17 years, the CDCP has found.
There is also controversy in Australia, after it emerged that the newly-elected Tasmanian Liberals planned to water down the state’s gun laws – a policy not disclosed to voters before polls closed.
The author of the Australian study, Dr Chapman, was a former member of the Australian Coalition for Gun Control.