NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 26, 2006

Half a billion dollars spent buying back hundreds of thousands of guns after the Port Arthur massacre -- a 1996 killing spree that claimed 35 lives and caused 37 serious injuries in Tasmania, Australia -- had no effect on the homicide rate, says a study published in an influential British journal.

The report by two Australian academics, published in the British Journal of Criminology, said statistics gathered in the decade since Port Arthur have showed:

  • Gun deaths had been declining well before 1996.
  • The buyback of more than 600,000 mainly semi-automatic rifles and pump-action shotguns made no difference in the rate of decline.

Politicians had assumed tighter gun laws would cut off the supply of guns to would-be criminals and that homicide rates would fall as a result. But licensed gun-owners argued the opposite, saying the laws would have no impact because criminals would not hand in their guns.  According to the study's authors, the latter opinion was more accurate:

  • More than 90 percent of firearms used to commit homicide were not registered.
  • Those that used the unregistered firearms were not licensed and they had been unaffected by the firearms agreement.

One of the authors, Dr. Jeanine Baker, said many more lives would have been saved had the Government spent the $500 million on mental health or other programs rather than on destroying semi-automatic weapons.

Source: Matthew Moore, "Buyback has no effect on murder rate," Sydney Morning Herald, October 24, 2006.

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