By Jeff Knox
USA – -(Ammoland.com)- Hillary Clinton recently suggested that, while the Second Amendment is important and should be “respected,” there’s no reason we can’t implement “reasonable, commonsense gun safety measures.”
But both she and Barack Obama have offered the suggestion that what we need are “reasonable” gun laws like our friends in Australia adopted two decades ago.
Since it’s looking very likely that Hillary Clinton will avoid going to prison for her illegal handling of classified emails, trading influence as Secretary of State for contributions to the Clinton Foundation, and her other shady dealings related to the foundation, we need to consider what a Rodham-Clinton presidency would really mean to gun owners, and what exactly “Australian-style” gun control looks like.
First, remember that Australia is an island nation which, while not much smaller in area than the U.S., has a total population of less than 25 million, with 65% living in large cities and 85% living within 30 miles of the coast. It is among the most urbanized nations in the world. It is also one the only countries in the “free world” that does not have a formal Bill of Rights – and certainly no recognized right to bear arms. Restrictive firearm laws have long been a staple in Australia, which began as a penal colony where Great Britain sent its criminals and indigents.
Over the decades Australia’s states instituted various of gun laws, sometimes in the form of restrictions, and sometimes relaxing existing laws. By the 1950s, most states had instituted some form of licensing and registration rules, but it wasn’t until the 1980s, as Australia was becoming much more urbanized, that gun control began to be a national political issue. The calls for more gun control were initially fueled by debates over gun laws in the U.S. rather than any serious crime issues in Australia. But a series of high-profile shooting incidents between 1984 and 1995 raised the temperature of the debate, and the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre, following close on the heels of the Dunblane Massacre in Scotland, caused the pot to boil over.
Newly elected Prime Minister John Howard, lacking the authority to regulate guns on a national level, brokered agreements among the states to ban sales and possession of semi-auto and pump-action shotguns and rifles, and tighten up licensing and storage regulations for all guns and gun owners. To implement the proposals, Howard and the national government instituted a national program of compensated confiscation funded through a special tax.
The government set “reasonable” compensation amounts and required citizens to sell their guns or face prosecution. All of the collected guns were destroyed, regardless of value or historical significance.
In the end, somewhere between 700,000 and 1 million guns were confiscated, comprising twenty to twenty-five percent of all of the guns known to be in the country. Some researchers estimate that the confiscation reduced the total number of gun-owning households by about 50%. The cost, for compensation payments alone topped $500 million, but actual costs were much higher, and annual administrative and enforcement costs are staggering.
Those costs took another leap up in 2002 after a double-homicide by a mentally deranged young man using legally possessed pistols resulted in the banning of a variety of handguns and another round of tightening of rules regarding licensing, possession, and storage of firearms.
A similar program in the US, assuming it could get through Congress and survive Supreme Court challenges, would be astronomically expensive. It would require confiscatory purchase of between 60 million and 80 million guns at a cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 billion dollars. Licensing and registration costs would be somewhere between $5 billion and $10 billion, depending on who was reporting the numbers, and ongoing costs would add another billion dollars or so, every year. Enforcement costs are incalculable, and the cost in human lives inestimable. How much would they have to pay you to go into the homes of American gun owners to confiscate their contraband “assault weapons,” and how peacefully do you think those confiscations would go?
And what would be the benefit of all of this expense and political upheaval?
Supporters of Australia’s gun laws are fond of touting statistics about reductions in “gun deaths” and “gun injuries” since the implementation of the new laws, and you will often see them brag that there has not been a mass murder with a firearm since the Port Arthur Massacre. But the numbers are doctored by the tactic of citing only “gun-related” statistics. The fact is that total homicides – which were trending downward prior to 1997 – have fluctuated up and down only slightly in the years since, but peaked with a 10% increase in 1999, two years after the bans and restrictions went into effect. Compare that to the U.S. which saw a 20% decline in homicides during the same period.
Australia’s homicide rate has slowly crept downward, but the rate of decline pales in comparison to the declines achieved in the U.S., and our declines occurred while gun laws were being liberalized and gun ownership was going up exponentially. And even though Australia has not experienced a serious mass murder with a firearm since Port Arthur, listings of mass murders – by any means – show that there were as many mass murder deaths in Australia in the 10 years after Port Arthur as there were in the 10 years prior to that atrocity. I guess if people are killed by fire, bludgeon, knife, or explosion their deaths are less relevant.
Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to “take away your guns.” She just wants to take away some of your guns, tightly restrict the rest, and treat you like a criminal for having or wanting them. Her commitment to the Second Amendment runs about as deep as her commitment to women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. Don’t buy Hillary’s Australia snake oil.