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Australia shoots back at NRA

Posted By Jon Dougherty On 03/24/2000 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

Australian government officials have accused the National Rifle
Association
of using inaccurate statistics in a
new television ad about gun crime down under.

The NRA ad, which claims Australia’s recent passage of draconian gun
control laws has increased gun crime significantly, is presented as a
television news story and claims crimes involving guns have increased
in Australia since the laws were introduced in 1996.

Specifically, Australian law now bans private ownership of all
semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic shotguns and pump-action shotguns.

On Tuesday, Australian Federal Attorney General Daryl Williams
accused the NRA of falsifying government statistics and urged the
gun-rights organization to “remove any reference to Australia” from its
website.

NRA’s Wayne LaPierre

“I find it quite offensive that the NRA is using the very successful
gun reform laws introduced in 1996 as the basis for promoting ownership
of firearms in the United States,” Williams said.

The top Australian prosecutor also said he sent a letter to NRA
president and actor Charleton Heston asking for an immediate withdrawal
of the information.

The Australian ban followed an April 29, 1996, shooting at a Port
Arthur tourist spot by lone gunman Martin Bryant, who opened fire with
military-style rifles, killing 35 people and injuring 19. He is
currently serving a life sentence.

South Australian Attorney General Trevor Griffin also objected to the
NRA’s commercial because of its alleged inaccuracy, and because Griffin
himself was portrayed in the ad making comments about Australia’s gun
ban that he said were “taken out of context.”

The NRA video claims that following the country’s ban, assaults
involving guns rose 28 percent, gun murders increased 19 percent and
home invasions rose 21 percent. Though the gun group’s ad does not cite
sources, a March 3 WorldNetDaily
report gave similar statistics that were provided by an Australian
pro-gun organization called the Sporting Shooters Association of
Australia.
The group’s statistics mirror
those of the NRA, but characterize the Australian government’s crime
statistics reports
as “dishonest,
incomplete and inconclusive” because they “focus upon the method used in
a small sample of homicides and suicides or make assumptions about
correlations between a piece of legislation and an accompanying drop in
figures.”

Although Dr. Adam Graycar, director of the Australian Institute of
Criminology, calls the NRA’s figures misleading, he admitted in an
interview with the Associated Press Tuesday that assaults in his country
had indeed climbed since 1998 — the most recent year statistics are
available — but added that “most attacks did not involve guns.” Graycar
also said homicides had decreased and rarely involved firearms.

It is “enormously difficult” to gather accurate statistics on crime
and weapons, said Graycar, because there are so many other factors
involved. Factors such as population change have made it arduous to
gauge what sort of effect the country’s new gun ban has had on crime, he
said.

“It is a very long bow to draw,” to claim the ban led to an increase
in crime, he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. “What we’ve got
here is an American group with a heavy gun culture — guns figure very
significantly in crime in the United States — trying to transpose that
into Australia. There is no comparison.”

But critics of the Australian ban disagree, pointing out that
historically gun bans or strict gun control measures often lead to an
increase in violent crime.

According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, “Despite some 20,000 gun
laws in the United States, mostly at the state and local levels, there
is little evidence that any but the most weakly motivated citizens have
been discouraged from gun ownership. And there is no evidence that these
gun-control laws have made a dent in the crime rate.”

The center found, using a variety of sources including leading
University of Florida criminologist Gary Kleck and the FBI’s own
National Crime Statistics reports, that:

  • In 1976, Washington, D.C. enacted one of the most restrictive
    gun control laws in the nation. Since then, the city’s murder rate has
    risen 134 percent while the national murder rate has dropped 2 percent.

  • After Evanston, Ill., a Chicago suburb of 75,000 residents,
    became the largest town to ban handgun ownership in September 1982, it
    experienced no decline in violent crime.

  • Among the 15 states with the highest homicide rates, 10 have
    restrictive or very restrictive gun laws.

  • Twenty percent of U.S. homicides occur in four cities with just
    six percent of the population — New York, Chicago, Detroit and
    Washington, D.C. — and each has a virtual prohibition on private
    handguns.

  • New York has one of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation
    – and 20 percent of the armed robberies. Even more troublesome is the
    fact that the places where gun control laws are toughest tend to be the
    places where the most crime is committed with illegal weapons.

One Chicago judge told the center, “The most striking experience
I can take away from the gun court … is … the kinds of people that
appear there as defendants. … This is their very first arrest of any
kind. Many of them are old people, many of them are shopkeepers, persons
who have been previous victims of violent crime.”

And, the center said, other countries have had similar experiences.
For instance, “After Canada passed a gun control law in 1977, the murder
rate failed to decline, but armed robbery and burglary, crimes
frequently deterred by gun ownership, increased.”


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