22 April 2004

On the eve of the 8th Anniversary of 35 people being shot with extraordinary skill by a mentally retarded man, it is time to remember those 35, and to ask whether the severe gun laws introduced following their deaths have had any measurable result.

The Gun Prohibition laws were introduced without any research or inquiry, and focused solely on the instrument used. The laws affect only the law abiding. The stated aim was to 'make Australia safer', presumably for ordinary people, not criminals, yet there is no statistical evidence that Australia is any safer, or that any criminal handed in a gun. Not a single life was saved as a result of the huge amount of money and resources spent. Murders continue to make the headlines; the criminals still have their guns, or choose to use knives, broken bottles, or fists. In fact, with armed Hold-ups, Assaults and kidnapping having increased dramatically, a good case can be made that Australians are now less safe. Proof of this is that Australia now has 200,000 Private Security Guards (up three-fold since 1996).

People should demand to know what is the justification for the continued allocation of scarce resources to make life ever more difficult for farmers, hunters, target and sporting shooters; arguably one of the most law abiding groups of people in the country. It is clear that devoting those resources to better roads, more police or hospitals etc. would save lives.

The experiences of the UK and the USA are instructive. UK gun crime has increased dramatically since banning handguns, while USA crime rate has fallen for the last 8 years, perhaps because of 35 states now allowing concealed handguns for self-defence. It will surprise many to learn that it is statistically more dangerous to be in the UK than the US. If there is a positive relationship between legally held firearms and crime, Switzerland should be the crime capital of the world.

Following the shooting at Port Arthur in 1996, many questions were raised about the treatment of the mentally ill and the adverse effect of watching violent videos, but it was the instrument of the crime that received all the attention. Eight years on, the causes of crime in society remain

Banning guns, as a way of preventing crime, makes as much sense as banning cameras to prevent child pornography, or banning matches to stop arson.