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Disarming the good guys will not prevent massacres

By David Leyonhjelm - posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012

It seems almost everyone "knows" America has a problem with guns. Each mass shooting in America is followed by a wave of commentary insisting that America's "gun culture" is a problem that Australia has done well to avoid. John Howard's 1996 gun laws are offered up as proof of our wisdom, and Howard himself describes them as one of his proudest achievements.

Underlying all this is the belief that the availability of guns results in more crime, therefore removing guns from private hands makes the community safer. America's problem, it is said, is simply too many guns.

The problem with that is it is totally false. Australia has never shown any inclination to emulate America with respect to gun ownership. Howard's gun laws achieved nothing in terms of public safety. Neither strict gun laws nor the level of gun ownership bear any relationship to crime, in Australia or elsewhere. And America's problem with guns, to the extent that it is a problem, is its policy of leaving the vulnerable undefended.


The massacre at Sandy Hook in the US in which 20 children and seven adults were murdered occurred in a Gun Free Zone. Guns are banned from all schools in Connecticut, as well as most other states.

There was nobody in the school with any practical means of countering the demented gunman who committed that atrocity. The little children and their teachers were utterly defenceless.

The two people murdered a couple of days earlier in the shopping centre in Oregon were also in a Gun Free Zone. In fact all the mass murders in the last 20 years in America, including Columbine and Virginia Tech, have occurred in Gun Free Zones.

One measure of insanity is to repeat the same failure time after time hoping that the next time the failure will turn out to be a success. Gun Free Zones are a lethal insanity. What this latest tragedy ought to prompt is a rising chorus of Americans demanding the elimination of what are effectively Criminal Safe Zones. What it is prompting instead is a crescendo of demands for greater gun control.

Yet gun control laws have never had any impact on crime rates anywhere in the world.

Malaysia has one of the strictest gun control laws in the world including the death penalty for illegal possession of a firearm. That has not stopped criminals from obtaining or using firearms in crime, or of engaging in shoot-outs with police.


Britain banned pistols in 1997 following the Dunblane tragedy. In the following two years the use of pistols in crime rose by 40 percent. In the four years from 1997 to 2001 the rate of violent crime more than doubled. The chances of being mugged in London are six times greater than in New York.

In 1974 in Jamaica, legislation was introduced banning the private ownership of firearms and ammunition. The Prime Minister Michael Manley told the country, "There is no place in this society for the gun, now or ever." The sentence for almost any firearms crime was life imprisonment. There was no bail for those charged.

The murder rate in 1973 was 11 per 100,000. It soon rose to 30 and peaked at 40 per 100,000 in 1980. In May 2007 the World Bank issued a report saying, "Murder rates in the Caribbean (it was referring to Jamaica) – at 30 per 100,000 population annually – are higher than for any other region of the world and assault rates, at least based on assaults reported to police, are also significantly above the world average."

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About the Author

David Leyonhjelm is a former Senator for the Liberal Democrats.

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