Despite the horrifyingly consistent reports of shooting deaths in America, David Leyonhjelm was last week proudly declaring in the senate that he had managed to “blackmail” the Abbott government into easing Australia’s gun control laws.
After the Port Arthur massacre, then Prime Minister John Howard made wide-ranging changes to gun control laws and initiated a massive buy back that took around 600,000 guns out of private hands in Australia. Howard’s absolute determination to remove automatic and semi automatic guns from the community was an outstanding example of uncompromising government response to preventable tragedy, and it has undoubtedly saved hundreds of lives.
There were 13 gun massacres in Australia in the 18 years before Howard’s changes, there had not been a single incident in the 18 years afterwards, until the Lindt Cafe tragedy in 2014.
Which makes it even more remarkable Tony Abbott was willing to trade away one of Howard’s finest achievements to secure Leyonhjelm’s vote against a Labor amendment to national security laws that would have required an adult’s presence when Border Force were taking blood, saliva or fingerprints from children or people with disabilities.
Seriously? Trading reduced restriction on the import of automatic weapons so his paramilitary troops have the right to make unsupervised physical incursions on children and the disabled? What is wrong with him?
Apart from being morally reprehensible and unconscionably stupid, winding back gun control by one of the most unpopular Prime Minister’s we’ve ever had is also politically idiotic. A recent Essential Poll found that 40% of Australians think our gun control laws are “about right”, 45% think they are “not strong enough” and only 6% think they are “too strong”.
Like most of the rest of Australia, I find it difficult to see any benefit in having more guns available to private citizens, and it is utterly incomprehensible that any government would relax laws to enable children to have guns, as this government has.
The price of having more guns in the community is too high, and it will be paid by two significant and vulnerable groups: women in abusive relationships and men struggling with suicidal ideation.
America, which has the highest rate of gun deaths in the developed world, demonstrates the dangers private gun ownership poses to women.
From a report released by an anti-gun lobby in the US:
Over the past 25 years, more intimate partner homicides in the U.S. have been committed with guns than with all other weapons combined.
…people with a history of committing domestic violence are five times more likely to subsequently murder an intimate partner when a firearm is in the house.
A survey of women living in California domestic violence shelters found that more than one in three (36.7 percent) had been threatened or harmed with a gun wielded by their abuser. About two-thirds of the women who lived in households with guns reported that their partner had used the gun against them, most often by threatening to shoot or kill the woman.
And guns make it more likely that domestic abuse will turn into murder: When a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, it increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent.
Domestic violence also drives the majority of mass shootings in America.
Everytown for Gun Safety has determined that in 57 percent of mass shootings (61 of 107 incidents), the shooter killed a current or former spouse or intimate partner or other family member.
In 18 percent of the mass shootings, the perpetrator had been previously charged with domestic violence. Whereas women make up only 13 percent of victims of gun homicide nationwide, they made up 51 percent of victims of mass shootings between 2009 and 2014.
Yes, it is an anti-gun lobby group, so they are going to be looking for evidence that gun ownership is harmful, but the point it that they found it. And while crime statistics, like any statistics, can be misinterpreted or misleading, homicide stats are usually the most reliable. There’s not a lot of underreporting, and investigation is usually robustly thorough.
Suicide data can be a little more problematic, primarily because it’s not always possible to definitively prove that a self-inflicted death was deliberate rather than accidental. However, this data from the Medical Journal of Australia, is fairly convincing.
The decline in rates of suicide in most parts of Australia coincides with a reduction in the availability of lethal methods. Consideration should be given to further measures to limit the availability of lethal methods of suicide.
A comparison of 2007 NSMHW data and completed suicide rates suggests that as few as one in 40 suicide attempts results in a fatality. However, a recent Australian study estimated that 12% of patients arriving at a hospital after a suicide attempt died, and there is wide variation in the lethality of methods used. For example, the estimated mortality from self-shooting is 90%, from attempted hanging is 83% and from jumping from a height is 60%, whereas fewer than 3% of suicide attempts by self-poisoning or by sharp implement result in death.
Considered nationally, the falls in male suicide were due to significant reductions in shooting, gassing and poisoning, and occurred despite an increase in suicide by hanging. There were similar changes in the methods of suicide used by females. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that that measures to control the availability of firearms, the requirement for new cars to be fitted with catalytic converters and the decline in the prescription of tricyclic antidepressants have resulted in a decline in total suicide rates.
Of course Australia is not about to leap from some of world’s toughest gun control laws to the madness that sees America having the highest rate of gun death in the developed world. But every little step in that direction puts lives at risk, to no benefit.
Leyonhjelm’s argument is that guns keep people safe. After the Sydney siege he told ABC’s AM program:
What happened in that cafe would have been most unlikely to have occurred in Florida or Texas, or Vermont, or Alaska in America,
Perhaps he would like to tell that to the 13 victims of the 2013 shooting in Florida, or the 13 people massacred at Fort Hood in Texas in 2009, or the 12 people murdered by guns in Alaska or the 5 in Vermont in 2013. Except he can’t, because they are all dead, killed by automatic weapons far too freely available to anyone who wants one.
Australians comprehensively don’t want this, Tony Abbott doesn’t need it and David Leyonhjelm should not be allowed to so gleefully blackmail our Prime Minister into inflicting it upon us.
Anyone who needs help with domestic violence or sexual assault can call 1800 RESPECT or chat online at their website
Mensline provides counselling and support serivces 24 hours a day 1300 78 99 78