Costs of the 1996-1997 Buyback 

The amount usually quoted by Government sources is the amount paid in compensation to individuals.

This is not the full economic cost.  Any full accounting would include: 

CLASS welcome additional information to improve these estimates.

Economic Costs



Compensation to individuals


Compensation to dealers


  Est - secret
Government publicity


Total Federal Government Spend 


 $45M remained of levy (Howard 2002)

Federal Government Tax


Hansard - Planned figure, not actual

Unaccounted for:


  Incomplete data, not fraud!
Cost imposed on State Governments    
Time of police – 2hrs/gun owner @ $20/hr


Develop Registry where not operating


Costs Imposed on Ordinary Australians    
Uncompensated Dealer Losses


Loss of trade - est only.         Confidentiality agreement prevents dealers providing data.

Time of gun owners – 8 hrs/owner @$20/hr


  Estimate basis below
Cost to owners - Licence fees


  Estimate basis below
Cost to owners - firearm security measures


  Estimate basis below
Uncompensated surrenders


25% of compensated surrenders

Total Cost to Australians


Apart from the Medicare Levy of $500M.

No of licenced owners


  News reports to be verified
Police time to Process New Licence


Cost of Police time


Owner Time spent in compliance and training courses


Cost of Owner time to economy


Cost of added safe/alarm average


Fee for original licence



Social Costs

·      Taxpayer households paid $500,000,000 in Buyback levy and therefore lost this economic value.  It might be double counting to include it above, but each Australian had a reduced standard of living to pay the above costs.           

·    A large number of firearm dealers were financially destroyed.  Compensation was seriously delayed  and for stock at cost only, not damage to trade.  Dealers were forced to sign confidentiality agreements, and though they feel betrayed, they are honouring their own commitment.

·   Reduced value of recreation as people leave the sport.  Indicated in dealer turnover dropping 50%.   In dollar terms possibly personal spending is redirected to other recreation or housing.

·   40% to 60% of semi-autos not handed in (AIC estimate) suggested 200,000 to 300,000 owners engaged in civil disobedience despite threats of 7-14 years jail – more jail than for committing murder. 

·    A few dealers and shooters discovered loopholes in State laws and actively moved a very large number  of guns onto the black market.   This  civil disobedience may be partly motivated by the destruction of dealer income, but also a response to politicised contempt in the public debate.

·      There has been a substantial increase in black market activity, probably related to the rising illegal drug culture.  High prices are created partly by tough enforcement, and motivate continuing thefts from legitimate owners, dealers, security firms and government bodies.

·      The  shooting community is now heavily politicised but has no clear voting choice.  A policy to ‘put the sitting member last’ has increased uncertainty in elections.  Shooters votes contributed to the initial success of One Nation and the ejection of state Liberal governments. 

Opportunity Cost

If Australia had raised that money for investment in bettering our society, what might we have done with it?  For the economic value destroyed in the buyback, $43,000,000 for every victim of the Port Arthur massacre, Australia could have:

 ·      Spent $100 million or so  on diverse violence prevention programs that benefit-cost analysis has shown return 1.25 to 7 times their cost to the community, thus making a profit for the community in reduced violence. AND

·      Developed effective media guidelines to reduce copycat crimes and suicides. AND

·      Given gun safety, behaviour modelling and anti-violence training to every one of our schoolchildren AND

·      Bought every gun owner in Australia a safe, and given each one a week of commercial-price training and a psychological evaluation.  

In violence prevention, there are many valuable ideas neglected because public money is reactively pushed to ‘more police on the beat’ or ‘less guns’.   Evidence and common sense are defeated by  political forces which act on emotion and self-interest in media players and politicians.