Tough gun laws prevent mass shootings, suicides - study

Tough gun laws prevent mass shootings, suicides - study

Australia is proof that gun control works, according to a new study.

There has not been a mass shooting in Australia since 1996, when the Government banned semiautomatic rifles and pump-action shotguns, and implemented a buyback programme to get them out of circulation.

The tough measures followed the Port Arthur massacre, in which 35 people were killed.

Tough gun laws prevent mass shootings, suicides - study

Discarded guns are collected for destruction in 1996 (Reuters)

Researchers at the University of Sydney combed through gun deaths before and after the buyback, and found it has not only prevented mass shootings, but accelerated a long-term trend towards fewer gun deaths.

Defining a mass shooting as five or more victims, not including the shooter, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings between 1979 and 1996. There have been none since then.

Between 1979 and 1996, gun deaths dropped on average 3 percent a year. After Port Arthur, that accelerated to 5 percent.

"The acceleration of the decline in gun-related deaths means lives saved. We can argue over how many but the data says lives have been saved," says Professor Mike Jones, associate dean of Faculty of Human Sciences at Macquarie University.

Murders and suicides using other means were rising 2.1 percent a year before 1996, and have dropped 1.4 percent a year since then.

"Opponents of public health measures to reduce the availability of firearms often claim that 'killers just find another way'," says study co-author Philip Alpers.

"Our findings show the opposite: there is no evidence of murderers moving to other methods, and the same is true of suicide."

The 1996 buyback programme was followed in 2003 by another focusing on handguns. Together, more than 1 million guns were taken out of circulation.

There have been a number of gun deaths in New Zealand lately, and the Law and Order Select Committee is currently looking into how criminals manage to get weapons and how widespread the problem is.

Tough gun laws prevent mass shootings, suicides - study

Thousands of weapons Australians gave up following the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 (Reuters)

Prime Minister John Key says police regularly find weapons in raids against criminal groups, but Australian-style buyback programme won't work here.

"It's not going to help the ones that people have kept for, or have on their possession for potentially criminal activity. They won't offer them up," he told More FM on Thursday.

"If you put it in the context of a lot of other countries, you'd probably say we don't have the proliferation of guns, certainly like the United States and others."

The Australian research was published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.