Australia’s successful gun buyback program
After the tragic murders in Aurora, Colorado last Friday, the debate over gun control in the U.S. has been reignited. Policymakers would do well to study the case of Australia’s gun-control laws, which were put in place following a comparably tragic incident in 1996. After a man killed 35 people and wounded an additional 21 with two semi-automatic rifles in the Tasmanian town of Port Arthur, Australia passed a law that banned all such rifles, along with semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns, and then created a restrictive system of licensing and ownership controls.
The national government also undertook a gun buyback program. This involved each state and territory establishing and operating a system through which gun owners and dealers could surrender the newly prohibited weapons in return for compensation. Arrangements were also made to compensate firearms dealers for loss of business related to these newly prohibited firearms.
Interestingly, the Australian government only set the policy parameters for the program and left it to each state and territory to establish how to enact it. Because of the variance in the territories’ methods, there’s an interesting data set researchers were able to use to analyze the effectiveness of the program:
In the seven years before the NFA [National Firearms Agreement], the average annual firearm homicide rate per 100,000 was .43 (range .27 to .60) while for the seven years post NFA, the average annual firearm homicide rate was .25 (range .16 to .33).
Additional evidence strongly suggests that the buyback causally reduced firearm deaths. First, the drop in firearm deaths was largest among the type of firearms most affected by the buyback. Second, firearm deaths in states with higher buyback rates per capita fell proportionately more than in states with lower buyback rates.
Among G20 nations, the U.S. owns the highest firearm-related death rate. Following this latest mass killing, it’s a good time to look at other nations and their laws. The passive stance of Congress and our political leaders does not serve the people.