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Since Australia banned private ownership of most guns in 1996, crime
has risen dramatically on that continent, prompting critics of U.S. gun
control efforts to issue new warnings of what life in America could be
like if Congress ever bans firearms.

After Australian lawmakers passed widespread gun bans, owners were
forced to surrender about 650,000 weapons, which were later slated for
destruction, according to statistics from the Australian Sporting
Shooters Association.

The bans were not limited to so-called “assault” weapons or
military-type firearms, but also to .22 rifles and shotguns. The effort
cost the Australian government about $500 million, said association
representative Keith Tidswell.

Though lawmakers responsible for passing the ban promised a safer
country, the nation’s crime statistics tell a different story:

  • Countrywide, homicides are up 3.2 percent;

  • Assaults are up 8.6 percent;

  • Amazingly, armed robberies have climbed nearly 45 percent;

  • In the Australian state of Victoria, gun homicides have climbed
    300 percent;

  • In the 25 years before the gun bans, crime in Australia had been
    dropping steadily;

  • There has been a reported “dramatic increase” in home burglaries
    and assaults on the elderly.

At the time of the ban, which followed an April 29, 1996
shooting at a Port Arthur tourist spot by lone gunman Martin Bryant, the
continent had an annual murder-by-firearm rate of about 1.8 per 100,000
persons, “a safe society by any standards,” said Tidswell. But such low
rates of crime and rare shootings did not deter then-Prime Minister John
Howard from calling for and supporting the weapons ban.

Since the ban has been in effect, membership in the Australian
Sporting Shooters Association has climbed to about 112,000 — a 200
percent increase.

Australian press accounts report that the half a million-plus figure
of weapons turned in to authorities so far only represents a tiny
fraction of the guns believed to be in the country.

According to one report, in March 1997 the number of privately-held
firearms in Australia numbered around 10 million. “In the State of
Queensland,” for example, the report said only “80,000 guns have been
seized out of a total of approximately 3 million, a tiny fraction.”

And, said the report, 15 percent of the more than half a million guns
collected came from licensed gun dealers.

Moreover, a black market allegedly has developed in the country. The
report said about 1 million Chinese-made semi-automatics, “one type of
gun specifically targeted by the new law,” have been imported and sold
throughout the country.

Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, said the situation in Australia reminds him of
Great Britain, where English lawmakers have passed similar restrictive
gun control laws.

“In fact, when you brought up the subject of this interview, I didn’t
hear you clearly — I thought you were talking about England, not
Australia,” Pratt told WorldNetDaily. “It’s hard to tell the difference
between them.”

Pratt said officials in both countries can “no longer control what
the criminals do,” because an armed society used to serve as a check on
the power and influence of the criminal element.

Worse, Pratt said he was “offended by people who say, basically, that
I don’t have a right to defend myself or my family.” Specifically,
during debates with gun control advocates like members of Handgun
Control, Inc.
or similar
organizations, Pratt said he routinely asks them if they’re “against
self defense.”

Most often, he said, “they don’t say anything — they just don’t
answer me. But occasionally I’ll get one of them to admit it and say
‘yes.’”

Pratt said, based on the examples of democracies that have enacted
near-total bans on private firearm ownership, that the same thing could
happen to Americans. His organization routinely researches and reports
incidents that happen all over the country when private armed citizens
successfully defend themselves against armed robbers or intruders, but
“liberals completely ignore this reality.”

Pratt, who said was scheduled to appear in a televised discussion
later in the day about a shooting incident between two first graders
in Michigan on Tuesday,
said he
was in favor of allowing teachers to carry weapons to protect themselves
and their students on campus.

Pratt pointed to the example of a Pearl, Mississippi teacher who, in
1997, armed with his own handgun, was able to blunt the killing spree of
Luke Woodham.

“By making schools and even entire communities ‘gun free zones,’
you’re basically telling the criminal element that you’re unarmed and
extremely vulnerable,” Pratt said.

Pratt also warned against falling into the gun registration trap.

“Governments will ask you to trust them to allow gun registration,
then use those registration lists to later confiscate the firearms,” he
said. “It’s happened countless times throughout history.”

Sarah Brady, head of Handgun Control, Inc., issued a statement calling on
lawmakers in Michigan and in Washington to pass more restrictive gun
access laws.

“This horrible tragedy should send a clear message to lawmakers in
Michigan and around the country: they should quickly pass child access
prevention or ‘safe storage’ laws that make it a crime to leave a loaded
firearm where it is accessible by children,” Brady said.

Brady also blamed gun makers for the Michigan shooting.

“The responsibility for shootings like these do not stop at the hands
of the gun owner,” Brady said. “Why are … gun makers manufacturing
weapons that a six-year old child can fire? This makes no rational
sense. When will gun makers realize that they bear a responsibility to
make sure that their products do not mete out preventable deaths, and
that they do not warrant nor deserve special protection from the law to
avoid that burden? Instead of safeguarding the gun makers, we should be
childproofing the guns.”

In contrast to near-complete bans in Australia and Great Britain,
many U.S. states have passed liberal concealed carry laws that allow
private citizens to obtain a permit to carry a loaded gun at all times
in most public places. According to Yale University researcher John
R. Lott,
formerly of the University of Chicago and a gun control analyst who has
conducted the most extensive study on the impact of concealed carry laws
in the nation’s history, the more liberal the right to carry, the less
violent crime occurs.

Lott, who examined a mass of crime data spanning decades in all
3,200-plus counties in the United States, concluded that the most
important factor in the deterrence of violent crimes were increased
police presence and longer jail sentences. However, his research also
demonstrated that liberal concealed carry laws were at the top of the
list of reasons violent crime has dropped steadily since those laws
began to be enacted by state legislatures a decade ago.

The Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, a division of Handgun
Control, Inc., disagreed with Lott’s findings, as well as the overall
assumption that a reduction in the availability of guns in society
reduces violent crime.

“Using violent crime data provided by the FBI, the Center to Prevent
Handgun Violence determined that, on average over a five-year period,
violent crime dropped almost 25 percent in states that limit or prohibit
carrying concealed weapons,” the Center said. “This compares with only a
11 percent drop in states with lax concealed carry weapons (CCW) laws.
Moreover, states with some of the strongest laws against concealed
weapons experienced the largest drops.”

Without naming its source, the Center also claimed “a prominent
criminologist from Johns Hopkins University has stated that Lott’s study
was so flawed that ‘nothing can be learned of it,’ and that it should
not be used as the basis for policy-making.”

In his most recent research, Lott noted a few examples of mass
shootings in schools when teachers who were armed, albeit illegally,
were able to prevent further loss of life among students
indiscriminately targeted by other students with guns.

Ironically, both Lott and Handgun Control acknowledge that the reams
of gun control laws on the books in Washington and in all 50 states have
been ineffective in eradicating mass shootings or preventing children
from bringing weapons to school. However, Lott’s research indicates the
criminal element has been successful in obtaining weapons despite
widespread bans and gun control laws, while HCI continues to push for
more laws that further restrict, license or eliminate handguns and long
guns.

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