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Nov 7, 2016
Presented by
Nicholas Johnson

Would stricter gun laws reduce gun violence? Could gun control measures in places like Australia work in America? Nicholas Johnson, professor of Law at Fordham University, explains.

Did this video change your opinion on the issue?  Let us know. 

 

Australia’s firearms laws cannot be applied to the U.S. for a very simple reason: there are too many guns in America.

  • Many pro-gun control politicians in America have praised Australia’s gun laws, which involved a “buyback” program in 1996 that resulted in the confiscation of 700,000 firearms.View Source
  • Gun confiscation would not work in the U.S. because it is simply impossible to effectively implement. The main reason: there are too many guns, over 350 million. An attempt at gun confiscation in the U.S. would inevitably lead to a flood of guns on the black market.View Source
  • Related reading: Hands Off My Guns - Dana LoeschView Source

Massachusetts’ 1976 handgun ban was rejected 69% to 31%. California tried something similar in 1982—it was also widely rejected.

  • Even in the most liberal of states, when gun bans were put up for vote, they failed by wide margins. A referendum to ban the possession, sale, or ownership of handguns failed in Massachusetts in 1976 by an overwhelming 38-point margin, 69% to 31%.View Source
  • A referendum on severe handgun restrictions failed in California in 1982 by a 26-point margin, 63% to 37%.View Source
  • Related reading: The War on Guns - John LottView Source

From 1993 to 2011, gun sales increased nationally. During that same period, gun deaths decreased 39% and firearm crimes dropped 69%.

  • According to Department of Justice statistics, from 1993 to 2011, firearm-related homicides decreased 39% while nonfatal firearm crimes declined 69%.View Source
  • During that same period, gun sales increased nationally.View Source
  • Related reading: The Truth About Gun Control - David KopelView Source

Gun deaths have decreased as gun sales have increased.

  • According to Department of Justice statistics, from 1993 to 2011, firearm-related homicides decreased 39% while nonfatal firearm crimes declined 69%.View Source
  • During that same period, gun sales increased nationally.View Source
  • Related reading: The Truth About Gun Control - David KopelView Source

After Washington D.C. imposed strict gun control laws in 1976, the city’s homicide rate nearly doubled in just over a decade.

  • In 1976, Washington D.C. enacted strict gun control, prohibiting a citizen from using a gun even in self-defense.View Source
  • By 1988, homicides in the district nearly doubled, climbing from 188 per year to 369 per year.View Source
  • Related reading: The War on Guns - John LottView Source

Why can’t America have a gun “buyback” program like Australia? Because it would end up flooding the black market with illegal guns.

  • Many pro-gun control politicians in America have praised Australia’s gun laws, which involved a “buyback” program in 1996 that resulted in the confiscation of 700,000 firearms.View Source
  • Gun confiscation would not work in the U.S. because it is simply impossible to effectively implement. The main reason: there are too many guns, over 350 million. An attempt at gun confiscation in the U.S. would inevitably lead to a flood of guns on the black market.View Source
  • Related reading: The War on Guns - John LottView Source

Americans have repeatedly rejected gun bans. Even in states like Massachusetts and California, gun ban referendums failed.

  • Americans have repeatedly rejected gun bans. Even in states like Massachusetts and California, gun ban referendums failed.View Source
  • Even in the most left-wing states, when gun bans were put up for vote, they failed by wide margins. A referendum to ban the possession, sale, or ownership of handguns failed in Massachusetts in 1976 by an overwhelming 38-point margin, 69% to 31%.View Source
  • Related reading: Firearms and the Second Amendment - Nicholas J. Johnson, et alView Source
  • Related reading: More Guns, Less Crime - John LottView Source

Progressives should be honest about gun control, and just admit they want widespread gun confiscation.

  • Many pro-gun control politicians in America have praised Australia’s gun laws, which involved a “buyback” program in 1996 that resulted in the confiscation of 700,000 firearms.View Source
  • Gun confiscation would not work in the U.S. because it is simply impossible to effectively implement. The main reason: there are too many guns, over 350 million.View Source
  • An attempt at gun confiscation in the U.S. would inevitably lead to a flood of guns on the black market.View Source
  • Related reading: Hands Off My GunsView Source

Worldwide, only 1/3 of gun owners comply with gun confiscation laws. In the US, that would mean 230 million guns flooding the black market.

  • Many pro-gun control politicians in America have praised Australia’s gun laws, which involved a “buyback” program in 1996 that resulted in the confiscation of 700,000 firearms.View Source
  • Gun confiscation would not work in the U.S. because it is simply impossible to effectively implement. The main reason: there are too many guns, over 350 million.View Source
  • An attempt at gun confiscation in the U.S. would inevitably lead to a flood of guns on the black market.View Source
  • Related reading: Hands Off My Guns - Dana LoeschView Source

The next time you hear a politician call for “common sense gun control,” listen for the details.

You are likely to be treated to a torrent of platitudes about assault weapons, gun show sales and other half-measures.

These sorts of proposals are rooted in a theory of gun control that has been around since the 1960s.  The basic idea is that fewer guns equal less gun crime. 

But for this theory to have even a chance of working, drastic reductions in the supply of guns will be necessary. Everything else amounts to security theatre.

The late Senator Howard Metzenbaum, a strong gun control advocate, explained it this way: “If you don’t ban all guns you might as well ban none of them.”

But few, if any, politicians who call for “common sense gun control” have the courage to propose this.

Even putting aside the issue of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which affirms the right to keep and bear arms, a gun ban has no broad popular support. Never mind the conservative states, handgun ban referendums failed in two of our most liberal states—Massachusetts in 1976 and California in 1982—by large margins. No serious attempts have been made since then.  

 Recently Australia’s gun control efforts have gained new prominence as a possible model for the United States to follow.

Let’s take a closer look at Australia. 

In 1996, after a lunatic used a semiautomatic rifle to murder 34 people in Tasmania, the Australian government banned all semi-automatic rifles and repeating shotguns.

Owners of roughly 700,000 registered firearms – about a quarter of the country’s three million total guns – were required to turn them in for destruction. The government called this a “buyback,” but in fact no one had a choice.

As my research shows, this model will not work in the United States for the simple reason that the U.S. has roughly 325 million guns. This is orders of magnitude more than any other country. Even if the Australian plan were tried in the U.S. and worked to perfection, we’d still be left with over 200 million guns, including handguns, which account for nearly 80 percent of gun crime.

But gun confiscation has never worked to perfection, and sometimes threatens to make the problem worse.

The 2007 International Small Arms Survey studied 72 countries that attempted to enforce gun confiscation or registration on their citizens. They found massive defiance of these laws, with only about a third of owners complying.

If Americans defy gun bans at just the average rate that has occurred internationally, then we should expect tens of millions of guns to flood into the black market. 

Not surprisingly, politicians advocating for gun control prefer to avoid the thorny issues that confiscation raises. Instead, they seek to have it both ways.

They pursue the votes of gun owners by paying lip service to the Second Amendment and offering assurances that they only want to ban “the bad guns” like rifles with pistol grips.        

And at the same time, they pander to their core constituents with broad gun ban rhetoric, and supply control proposals that will have a marginal effect at best. And when these meager efforts fail to pass or to work? Blame the gun lobby.          

So, to the glib critics of America’s gun culture, we should make this demand: If supply controls are the answer, describe precisely the full program of supply-side policies you propose to stop the gun crimes that we all abhor. And then tell us how those policies will also allow lawful gun owners to keep and protect themselves with firearms.         

If you cannot square these two things, then you must convince Americans that they are better off under policies that would disarm good people, in a fruitless attempt to keep bad men from getting guns. 

I’m Nicholas Johnson, Professor of Law at Fordham University for Prager University.

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