6 days ago
Australians now own more guns than before the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, according to new research that shows firearm imports hit a record high in 2014-15.
The surge in gun-buying over the past 16 years, which has seen 1.02 million guns brought into the country, has been largely a “gun swap”, according to Philip Alpers, a University of Sydney public health researcher, gun control expert and founding director of GunPolicy.org.
“The proud claim of some Australians that their country has ‘solved the gun problem’ might only be a temporary illusion,” Associate Professor Alpers will write in The Conversation on Thursday, the 20th anniversary of the massacre.
“The million guns destroyed after Port Arthur have been replaced with 1,026,000 new ones. And the surge only shows upward momentum.”
The chart above tracks the steady rise in legal private gun sales since 1999. (New firearms must be imported since firearms are not manufactured in Australia.)
The spike in 1996-97 represents the buying spree triggered by the firearm laws, as banned rapid-fire firearms were replaced with freshly-imported single-shot firearms.
Gun sales in 2014-15 were the highest on record, swelling six-fold compared with 1999, the GunPolicy.org research shows.
With 104,000 guns added last year, the national arsenal is, for the first time in 20 years, bigger than before the 1996 national buyback.
Population growth over the past 20 years means the rate of private gun ownership remains about 23 per cent lower than before the massacre.
Researchers struggle to explain who is buying all these guns and why.
Associate Professor Alpers believes the surge is most likely driven by gun owners increasing their collections, rather than more Australians buying guns.
He points to figures that show the proportion of Australian households with a gun fell by 75 per cent between 1988 and 2005.
“That suggests the people who are buying the guns are people who already have guns. And that fits into the global pattern … [of] a steady and substantial downward trend over the past 30-40 years,” Associate Professor Alpers said.
Psychologist and self-described gun control critic Samara McPhedran, from Griffith University’s Violence Research and Prevention Program, attributes the boom in firearm sales to the rising popularity of shooting sports among a younger demographic.
“I think what the figures show fundamentally is that people are interested in target shooting and hunting, and that interest seems to be growing over time,” she said.
However, others argue the evidence for this is questionable.
One unintended consequence of the post-Port Arthur gun laws was to boost the wealth and widen the influence of shooting clubs, according to Associate Professor Alpers.
The 1996 laws require gun owners to show they have a genuine reason to own a firearm. The easiest way for people in urban areas to do this is through membership in a gun club, Associate Professor Alpers said.
And not just membership but active participation. In NSW, for example, the firearm licensing regulations require members of target shooting clubs to participate at least four times a year. In Victoria, a licensed handgun owner is required to participate in at least 10 shoots a year. The requirements vary by jurisdiction.
“People who never normally went to gun clubs were now going to gun clubs and shooting ranges because the law obliged them to,” Associate Professor Alpers said.
“So the gun lobby has grown in size, political clout and, certainly, in money … as a side-effect of the post-Port Arthur gun laws.”
Such clubs also play a vital role in politicising gun owners and nurturing future ones, Associate Professor Alpers said.
For example, shooters clubs have called for age restrictions on minors firearm licences to be lifted, so children of all ages will be allowed to use weapons while supervised.
“They do that because they’re convinced … that the next generation should love guns as much as they do. It is one of their highest concerns,” Associate Professor Alpers said.
And it’s a strategy aimed at survival. “The single most reliable indicator of gun ownership is whether your father had a gun,” he said.
On the other hand, the link between Australia’s gun-buying surge and gun violence isn’t clear.
After all, rising gun sales are nothing new. “This isn’t a sudden increase. It’s a consistent pattern that we’ve seen over a number of years,” Dr McPhedran said.
“And despite those increases we’ve seen steady declines in firearm misuse.”
It doesn’t fit the narrative, does it? In Australia, they tried ever so hard to stamp out gun ownership, crime fell, they falsely attributed it to lack of gun ownership, and we know that it is a false attribution because just as soon as they tried to stamp out guns, gun ownership began to rise again while crime fell. It’s just a nightmare all around for the progressives.
But another very important note should be taken from this report. In their efforts to stamp out guns, they accidentally aided gun owners in evangelizing and proselytizing non-gun owners. This is the second – and perhaps most important – progressive failure.
Reader and commenter Fred is fond of saying this.
1. Find young, first time and new shooters. Make sure they have a good time at the range. Explain how hitler/mao/stalin/etc took the guns and killed millions. Offer to help them learn more about shooting and self defense. Rinse, repeat.
2. Make sure reps at all levels know that control/confiscation will not be
tolerated. I’m not afraid to engage my sheriff, local, state and fed reps. I
tell them exactly where I stand. Rinse, repeat.
3. Track, forward and reply to important legislative activities. (see step 2)
4. I personally do not engage the enemy directly. They are illegitimate. I stay on offense, always.
Just so. Don’t back down one inch. Work the people, and do it better than the progressives do. The true gun confiscators are few and far between. Few people want to enact meaningless bans of magazines, bans they know will bring massive non-compliance, and those monkeys who did the grabbing also don’t want to have to “watch their six” at night when they take their dog out to piss before bed. They know we might be there in the dark. But it may not come to this. The great middle will ultimately decide whether we have to go to fisticuffs over the progressive wet dream of full-orbed statism. They are leaning our direction.
This is fertile ground. Plow it, seed it, fertilize it, water it, reap it.