Analyzing Australia’s NFA: Not so fast, liberals

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Australian NFA

A brief word on the Las Vegas incident as it pertains to firearm regulation.

In the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy, it seems evident that many from the left are using this opportunity to finally cash in on their desire to regulate gun ownership in the United States. Hillary, Bernie, Michael Moore, and even members of the GOP are starting to chime in about their desire for gun control. Before we dive into some statistics and analysis I would like to state what I see to be fairly obvious. The situation that transpired in Las Vegas is in not a gun control issue. Stephen Paddock was a multi-millionaire with ill-intent.

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If he [Paddock] wanted to amass an arsenal of firearms, whether they were legal or not would have had little to do with his ability to do so. Whether the victims of the event were allowed to have guns themselves or not, is also of no consequence here. What would an armed citizen have done? Turned, pointed toward a hotel -/+ 400 yards away filled with innocent civilians and opened fire?

Gun laws or regulation would not have changed the situation in Las Vegas. It was a horrible, evil thing that happened at the hands of a violent person. Unfortunately, situations such as these are situations we will never truly eliminate in society. Sometimes bad just exists, and that’s something people need to come to terms with. The world isn’t always pretty and perfect.

 

Introduction

As I look through social media recently, I’ve seen countless posts, articles, videos, tweets, and whatever else about how Australia has it all figured out when it comes to guns, and gun violence. In 1996, following a tragic mass murder event, Australia responded to the event by placing heavy restrictions on firearm ownership and introducing a firearm buyback program. These measures are now being promoted as an answer to the issues we face in America as it pertains to guns, and gun violence. I couldn’t shake my suspicion that there was more data available that wasn’t being reported, or given proper attention, so I started looking for data surrounding the topic. A quick search on the terms alone will give you this article about how the ‘Buyback’ created a violent firearm black market.

The following are the results of what I had looked into, and the conclusions I’ve personally arrived at as a result.

 

Analyzing the effects of the NFA: Suicide Rates

We’ll start with the firearm suicide rates. This is a big bragging point for the supporters of the abolition of the right to bear arms, or those arguing for regulations. The claim is, after the NFA was instituted in 1996, the number of suicides by firearm decreased. For the average viewer, this information is taken in as: Suicides decreased. Suicides increased, actually, the data left out tells the larger story.

Australian Suicide Methods - Pre and post NFA

In 1997, the year following the NFA there were significant increases is suicides by hanging, strangulation, and suffocation. From 1992 to 2002, suicides where the method of death was a firearm, did indeed decrease. But the level of overall suicides increased, in fact in 2015 and 2016, suicide rates were at a 10-year high.

While the firearm regulations did significantly reduce the firearm suicide rates, if the problem was suicide and the proposed solution to eliminate suicide was to place restrictions on owning firearms, this solution failed at achieving its goal.

Analyzing the effects of the NFA: Homicide Rates

The next claim is that the NFA is responsible for the decline in homicide rates in Australia, and proof that regulating firearms is in direct correlation to a decline in homicide rates. Just like the arguments made for Suicide rates by supporters of the NFA, this claim is often heard as “Homicide rates decreased after the NFA was put into place.” And as is the case with the suicide rates, this is not entirely accurate.

If we inpsect all the available information, we see a different story being told with the data. From 1980 to 1995, the rate of firearm deaths per 100,000 declined from 4.8 deaths per in 1980 to 2.6 in 1995. A decline of 46%. It turns out homicide rates had been in steady decline in Australia well before the NFA was put Into place.

 

Firearms Death Rates in Australia

Let’s look at the next relevant dataset, which would be 1996 to 2013 (was the most recent/complete dataset I was able to find with a limited amount of time to research the topic). In this time-span, the decrease in homicide rate is 20% vs the 15-year decrease from our first dataset claiming a 46% decrease.

Here is the decline spanned from the early 70’s to 2010, in which you can clearly see the trend over time:

Australian Homicide as a fraction of Violent Crime
Graph Source: John Lott (Economics and Cime analyst)

After the NFA, the number of homicides overall increased, in 1997 there was a slight decrease, in 1998 and then again homicides were higher in 1999, 2000, and 2002. If it were a definitive correlation between the institution of the NFA and the decrease in homicide rates, it is not reflected as evident in the data.

Australian Homicide Rates post NFA

As we bring ourselves closer to current day, we can see that while overall the trend continues downward, as it has been for the last 32+ years, it is still a volatile number that can fluctuate year to year based on circumstances that would take far more time to analyze.

Homicides in Australia, 2008-2013

In fact, it wasn’t until 8 years after the NFA was in place that the homicides began to steadily decline again. What is more probable is that the already declining rate of homicides just continued as the trend had already been indicating, as normal – regardless of regulations placed on firearms.

Australian Homicides before and after NFA
Graph Source: John Lott (Economics and Cime analyst)

When you compare homicide to all crimes (not just violent) to figure the rate of homicides as a fraction of all crime, the information becomes even more confusing for the pro-regulation argument.

Homicides as a fraction of all crime - Before and after NFA
Graph Source: John Lott (Economics and Cime analyst)

One can hardly call any of what’s referenced in the data to be an empirical proof that the restrictions placed on firearms have led to a decline in homicides overall.

In addition, just like the suicide rate data, those are not the only statistics available.

While firearm homicide rates in Australia are lower the case is not the same for crimes committed with firearms, but without death as a result of said crimes.

When criminals know that the average citizen is less likely to be able to defend themselves against advanced weapons, instances of criminals using said weapons against average citizens increases. This is evidenced by an obvious spike in armed robberies following the NFA program. These are situations that are not reported by the pro-NFA arguments, where a gun was used as the primary mechanism of coercion toward a crime. These are situations where citizens are at a strategic disadvantage against criminals, a disadvantage created by the NFA.

Armed Robberies in Australia after the NFA
Graph Source: John Lott (Economics and Cime analyst)

 

Analyzing the effects of the NFA: Mass murder

And the last point, of the complete elimination of massacre’s, this is a big one for the pro-regulation argument. While it may be true that events like the one that led to the drafting and implementation of the NFA haven’t occurred again since.

1980 to 1996, the Australian mass murder rate was 0.00042 incidents per 100,000 people. New Zealand’s was 0.0050. From 1997 onward, Australia has had 10 mass-murders, and New Zealand has had 3* – despite the fact that New Zealand is not a part of the NFA. As according to gunpolicy.org: “Australia has the tightest gun control policies in the Pacific and some of the most comprehensive regulations internationally. New Zealand is at the opposite end of the spectrum with some of the most permissive gun policies in the Pacific region.”

And, just like homicides, and suicides, the data is more interesting when you look at the overall violence of a related method. While instances of singular homicides remain as the trend (that existed well before the NFA firearm regulations did) has been indicating for years, the removal of firearms has done very little to change the rate of multiple-victim murder-suicide incidents in Australia. It turns out if someone wants someone dead, they’re going to do it regardless of the method they choose to do it with.

*EDIT: 10-6-17, 9:00am (PST)
A reader had pointed out that there have actually been many mass-murders in Australia since the ban. We thank the reader for this insight, since the Port Arthur massacre, there have been 10 mass-murders. One of which that included a firearm. The others ranging from blunt-instruments, arson, stabbings, and vehicular attacks. 

 

Murder-Suicides in Australia before and after the NFA
Graph Source: John Lott (Economics and Cime analyst)

 

Conclusion

I will leave it to you to figure out where you stand on the issue, but hopefully, this will help us all give a little bit of pause to sensationalistic headlines calling for the removal of liberties. At the very least we should be looking ourselves for information that supports the claims, and seeing what kind of tertiary data-sets exist as a result of the statistics mentioned.

Often, It’s the data that Is left out of the analysis that is the most damning toward the analysis itself. In this case, firearm homicide rates and firearm suicide rates did in fact decrease because of the NFA. However, homicides stayed on par with the trend that existed prior to the NFA. Criminals became more powerful, as crimes against citizens that did not end in a murder where a firearm was used, were significantly higher than they were before the NFA.

Pro-regulation arguments such as those found in articles like this…
https://www.popsugar.com/news/Gun-Control-Australia-vs-America-44102254

will eagerly state “Gun murders have more than halved from 1996 to 2012!” without mentioning that this decline is part of a larger trend that started long before the NFA and conveniently leaves out the information about homicides overall.

It seems that as time goes on, people will continue to do what they are motivated to do regardless of the laws or politics surrounding their motivations. Australia has a total population of 24.3 million, this is less than the total population of California (39.25 million) and much less than the total population of the United States (323 Million.)  The United States already has a heap of different gun laws and codes in place from state to state. Despite the restrictions, regulations (or lack thereof) violence still finds a way. Perhaps you’ve heard the term “what’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander” and I find that to be the case in this situation. What is the answer to gun violence? Is there an answer to gun violence? I’m not sure, but I’m not sure answers like the NFA are as effective as they’re being made out to be.

You can read more from Vinny Marshall on Think Liberty here.

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