Blog of the Day
posted by Samara McPhedran, Dec 05, 2013
US-president Obama has praised Australia for tightening its gun laws. Dr Samara McPhedran argues that the United States should be sceptical of Australia’s approach to gun control.
The United States continues its struggle to develop meaningful ways to reduce firearm-related deaths. Some argue that – despite differences in society, history, and culture – the United States can learn from Australia’s experience with gun control. But these suggestions are typically made without genuine consideration of scientific evidence.
Various different research groups have studied Australia’s gun laws. None has found a significant impact of the legislative changes on the pre-existing downward trend in firearm homicide (e.g., (1) - (5)). The decline in firearm homicides in Australia is not unique, with other Commonwealth countries experiencing similar or greater declines over time, despite less restrictive legislative approaches to firearms control (3).
Like the United States, most firearm-related deaths in Australia are suicides. Whether or not Australia’s gun laws affected suicides is uncertain. Some studies find an impact (1) (4) (5), others find little or no evidence of an impact and/or substitution to other suicide methods (2) (6) (7). Adding to this complexity, suicides across the board (irrespective of method) declined after 1997. This coincided with national implementation of a wide range of suicide prevention strategies.
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