Update April 2012

No law that restricts access to guns will do anything to stop criminal violence, because,
after all, criminals don't care about laws.   That's what makes them criminals.

The situation in NSW Australia in April 2012 has gone along the path that would generally be predicted in the circumstances.  The circumstances being greater restriction on gun ownership since the 1996 Tasmanian mass murder, more police, longer prison sentences, prosecution of those who defend themselves against criminals.

Back in 2005 I asked what would be expected after those changes?

I expected that gun control advocates would agree that the greater number of police and the locking away of burglar and criminals would produce a decrease in robbery of all types.  Gun control advocates would also predict an even greater drop in gun related violent crimes, because since the control laws were enacted, there would be a diminishing number of guns in the community.  I on the other hand (e.g. see the masthead above) would predict that gun controls enacted together with the publicity given to police prosecution of any citizen who hurts a criminal whilst defended him/her self or property would take the initiative away from law abiding citizens.  Criminals would thus feel safer in employing a gun in committing a crime than would be the case if the control laws had not been enacted.  This is because the control laws would make the criminal feel more secure because there would be less likelihood that a law abiding armed citizen would interrupt the armed robbery with a gun.

So what in fact has happened?  There are weekly drive by shootings in Western Sydney.  We have taken guns away from law abiding citizens and ensured that only criminals have guns.  There are reports of the wholesale importation of illegal handguns.

The USA, which listens to it's eminent scientists (such as John Lott rather than Australian nannys such as Professor Chapman) has liberalized gun ownership laws and, predictably, reduced the incidence of violent crime.  Excepting in schools, where mass gun murders seem to happen with clockwork regularity.  Is there a federal law banning guns in US schools or something?

Surprisingly, most citizens do not need to own a gun for society to gain the social benefit.    The evidence suggests that that 1% - 2% of citizens owning or carrying a concealed weapon produces a marked reduction in street attacks and home invasions.

The mere possibility that the intended victim might be armed serves to deter most criminals.

So what benefits does registration & restriction of guns have for the governed?

In the wake of the Port Arthur Massacre (March 1996), gun laws in Australia were tightened.  The immediate and predictable effect was to cause the growth rate of armed robbery, which had been growing at about the same rate as unarmed robbery, to double that of unarmed robbery:  (The Australian Bureau of Statistics does seem to move it's web pages around a lot.  Previously I supplied links to relevant pages.  Now, to confirm the data below, you will have to search the ABS site.)

OFFENSE 1994 increase 1995 increase 1996 increase 1997 increase 1998 increase 1999 increase
unarmed robbery.
armed robbery.

(The Australian Bureau of Statistics has found) "that a robber today is less likely to use a gun than at any time during the past eight years - however people are almost twice as likely to be robbed.  It is clear that the number of firearms used in robberies and murders is decreasing, but the overall number of murders and robberies has nearly doubled over the same period."
I am sure that information will comfort control advocates.  Whilst nearly twice as many people are likely to be robbed, the probability that the threatening weapon will be a gun has diminished.

An increase in the number of armed citizens coincided with the reduced crime & murder rate in the USA.  An increase in gun control in the UK (from zero control circa 1900 to zero handguns in 2002) is what has coincided with increased crime and violence in the UK.

When will the people of Australia realize that the best way to reduce crime in a democracy is to allow the citizens to bear arms?  We are not irresponsible children.  Let those among us who so desire bear arms.  Or is that significant proportion of people who wish to bear arms to be muzzled by the fearful nannies among us?

Those who believe that a high homicide rate results from greater firearms availability might like to consider the data compiled by the National Injury Surveillance Unit (from Killias 1993, another copy here) comparing firearms ownership and homicide rate in Switzerland with that in England & Wales (reproduced below).

% Households
with Firearms.
Homicides per
100,000 Pop
England & Wales

If availability of firearms caused homicide, then why do the SWISS, who have five times as many guns per head of population when compared to ENGLAND, have fewer murders per head of population?

"Well why", you might ask, "do the Australian authorities not admit that they were wrong, and liberalize gun laws?"

Why indeed.  As my grandfather used to say, "That is the $64,000 question".

Perhaps the $64,000 answer is that there is self interest by those who wield political and media power.  While it is a proven fact that guns reduce violent crime, murder, robbery and aggravated assult against the population at large (see below), it would appear that those with a high media profile are in fact at greater risk when guns are held by ordinary citizens.  For instance, out of 43 past US presidents, 4 were "removed" from office by guns, and another four took sick leave as a result of guns.  (Those odds are much worse than for a soldier in Afghanistan).  And a disproportionate number of governors, senators, representatives and media personalities (e.g. John Lennon) have been murdered by nutcases.

John R. Lott, Jr., School of Law, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois  60637 and David B. Mustard; Department of Economics; University of Chicago; Chicago, Illinois  60637 wrote an academic paper dated July 26, 1996 on their research into "Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns".  Following is the abstract:

Using cross-sectional time-series data for U.S. counties from 1977 to 1992, we find that allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes, without increasing accidental deaths. If those states without right-to-carry concealed gun provisions had adopted them in 1992, county- and state-level data indicate that approximately 1,500 murders would have been avoided yearly. Similarly, we predict that rapes would have declined by over 4,000, robbery by over 11,000, and aggravated assaults by over 60,000. We also find criminals substituting into property crimes involving stealth, where the probability of contact between the criminal and the victim is minimal. Further, higher arrest and conviction rates consistently reduce crime. The estimated annual gain from all remaining states adopting these laws was at least $5.74 billion in 1992. The annual social benefit from an additional concealed handgun permit is as high as $5,000.
The original paper was written for an academic audience and has a lot of jargon in it.  The subject is treated in a more comprehensible & user friendly manner in John Lott's book.

When the Lott-Mustard article originally appeared it provoked an uproar among control advocates.   In 1998 local gun control advocate Associate Professor Chapman admitted defeat when he wrote "With the national armed robbery rate up 47%, . . no downturn in gun suicides or domestic slayings . . was it(i.e. the taxation funded buyback of guns) all for nothing?

In the intervening seventeen years nobody has been able to refute Lott & Mustard's findings.  Many have tried, but read them yourself.  (e.g. google "refutations of Lott Mustard paper").  They mostly aren't worth reading, and one cannot help but  wonder how the authors were ever employed as research assistants. 

In the final analysis the question becomes: do we want a nanny government limiting our liberty (for what in their judgment is) "for our own good", even if it demonstrably results in harm, or do we want a low intervention government that defends our liberty against pedagogue politicians promoting the latest "politically correct" dogma? (which, interestingly enough, demonstrably benefits politicians and high profile people and disadvantages everybody else).


You say in your blog that the USA listens to its eminent scientists such as John Lott and there was no good evidence against him.

I went as far as Wikipedia. (Which I generally find to be a good source) and there is a lot of criticism including.

That he fabricated his 2007 survey.
That his gun research was paid for by the NRA.
That he's used a lot of invalid statistics which don't stand up to peer review.

And that he invented a former student to defend him when he was accused of inventing the survey. (The last one isn't speculation. He actually admitted to that.)

Now, I'm not saying that he invented over 2000 people for his survey, but he is unable to find one person who undertook the survey. And he has a proven reputation for inventing things to support his work. And this is who you trust?

I trust you will place this email on your blog. Or do you edit feedback?

(Name witheld)

Dear Critic.

John Lott's research paper ("Crime, Deterrence and right to carry concealed handguns" a copy included on link above) was written July 26, 1996.  I don't know what survey he did in 2007, and do not think it is relevant.

An Australian gun users site.


This column was started in September 1997.

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