CLASS President, Peter Whelan, is critical of Tim Fischer's conclusions on "Howard's Legacy" in the Australian Financial Review


The Australian Financial Review  has published a letter from one-time Howard government minister and deputy Prime Minister, Tim Fischer, commenting on John Howard's "Legacy". CLASS President Peter Whelan has refuted Mr. Fischer's conclusions in a letter to the Editor of the Financial Review.

"Mr. Tim Fischer of Boree Creek (AFR letters, Jan 2nd 2008) is correct in one aspect of his comments on the Barry Jones article (AFR Dec. 28 2007); no analysis of the Howard years would be complete without considering John Howard’s 1996 gun laws.

However, Mr. Fischer’s view of the results is totally incorrect, when comparing US and Australian statistics.

In Australia, “gun deaths” had fallen by 50% in the 15 years before the 1996 gun laws, as other methods of murder and suicide increased. There was no change in that trend after the 1996 gun bans. It is clear that such bans have had no effect on criminal activity, but have severely restricted the freedom of law abiding firearms owners to pursue their sport.

Latest data from the Australian Institute of Criminology indicates that murder increased by 14% in 2005/06, with most murders not involving guns, but knives, blunt objects and brute force. The previous record high murder rate was in 2001/02, when it increased by 20%.

With serious assaults occurring at 5 times the population increase, the murder rate in recent years may have been much higher, but many victims were saved by timely medical intervention. If only the money wasted on gun crushing had been invested in the medical system, the whole community would have been a lot better off.

In the case of USA, data released by the FBI (in 2006) showed violent crime rates had fallen dramatically in the period since 1991, with murder dropping by a massive 43%. 

John Howard was ill-advised when he demanded that perfectly good firearms owned by law abiding citizens should be collected and crushed. In no other country had gun bans or firearm registration been shown to reduce crime. If anything it diverts valuable police resources from tackling real criminal activity.

In most western countries (e.g. New Zealand and Canada) licenced gun owners may own and use semi-automatic rifles and shotguns which are banned in Australia. In China and Korea, children can still play with toy guns which in Australia are classed as “prohibited replica handguns”.

The Coalition lost one million votes in the 1998 federal election; coincidentally that was the approximate number of licenced gun owners!

The National party has been in decline ever since. For example in Qld the Nationals after 1996 lost 30% of their members and 60% of their funding. Many Liberal party branches across the country folded after those 1996 gun laws.

It should be noted that as a result of “Howard’s Legacy”, voters in each of the States and Territories which had Coalition Governments in 1996, voted them out at subsequent elections; in NSW the Labor Government increased its majority.

Perhaps Mr. Fischer would like to explain why he refused to stand up for the rights of farmers, hunters, target shooters etc. to go about their activities without such massive amount of government interference.

Peter Whelan
Coalition of Law Abiding Sporting Shooters Inc
CLASS Action.