This “update” chain email (quoted below) has been circulating the internet for more than 10 years. Recently, tragic news stories about gun-related violence in the United States have become discouragingly common:
- Sandy Hook Elementary School
- Aurora, CO
- Sikh Temple, Oak Creek, WI
- Tuscon, AZ, including the shooting of United States Representative Gabrielle Giffords
- Virginia Tech
- Fort Hood
- even in my hometown, Omaha, NE, Dec 5th, 2007
Unfortunately, the past year has been particularly disturbing
Bearing witness to the worst year of gun rampages in modern US history
In such a climate, it’s not surprising to see this circulating. However, these “facts” should given appropriate weight and respect. Which is to say, in this case, very little.
There are a few notable considerations. Starting with the first bullet-point statement, “homicides are up”. The appropriate figures to look at would be the homicide rate, rather than simply the change number of homicides.
Constant rates of homicide victimisation in Australia
Mouzos, J. 2000, “Homicide in Australia”, Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, no. 187, Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra.
Abstract: … Trends show that the homicide rate for Australia has stayed remarkably constant. …
Reproduced from this report, the following figure shows the trends for the period from 1989-2000 for each Australian territory, and for the country as a whole (far right grouping, labeled “Aus.”)
The year 1997 would be directly in the middle of this period. Clearly there is no significant change in the nationwide homicide rate. Certainly there is no substantial increase that this original email “update” would imply.
The figure is also an excellent indicator of why cherry-picking statistics is a terrible misrepresentation of information. It would technically be true to say “In 1996, the homicide rate in Tasmania increased nearly 500%”. Since 1996 was the year of the Port Arthur massacre, a killing spree in which 35 people were killed, that statement would grossly distort the situation. The majority of statistics in this “update” are use this type of distortion.
Unfortunately, this type of misinformation remains prevalent. It was for this reason specifically that the NRA has in the past been asked to rescind comments related Australian crime statistics by none other than the Attorney General of Australia, as reported by the conservative news organization WorldNewsDaily
For comparison, the homicide rate in the US in 2010 is 4.8 (per 100,000), which is more that 3.5 times (or 350%) higher than Australia at 1.3 (most recent data 2007).
On a positive note, the United States rate as been cut in half in the last 20 year, but still remains at least double the rate in nearly all other major industrialized nations.
Another analysis of the topic is presented in this report. Two selected figures are reproduced below, with the enactment of firearms controls clearly marked.
Firearm related deaths in Australia, 1991-2001
Jenny Mouzos and Catherine Rushforth
Trends and issues in crime and criminal justice, no. 269
ISBN 0 642 53821 2 ; ISSN 0817-8542
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, November 2003
For further research, Wikipedia has a summary of 17 additional academic publications regarding the topic
Of course, Snopes also has a lengthy discussion of this topic, with several more references
(I acknowledge the fact that not everyone “believes” Snopes, often based on the inability to check primary sources Snopes uses and lists, which is why I led with research publication sources above)
Intelligent discourse and policy making depends on information. When statistics and figures are cherry-picked, or even intentionally distorted, to try to support a per-determined position, our democracy suffers. The right to self defense, sportsmanship, and personal responsibility has a deep history in our nation, enshrined in our founding documents. When the time comes, now more than ever, to have a discussion on such a fundamental issue, let us not base it on biased information.
– Scott H Williams
Begin forwarded message:
Subject: Fwd: Australian Gun Law Update
Australian Gun Law Update
The tragedy of Newtown is what it is, but people need to pay attention to what happens when they make a knee jerk reaction to a serious issue.
Australian Gun Law Update
From: Ed Chenel, A police officer in Australia
Hi Yanks, I thought you all would like to see the real
figures from Down Under.
It has now been 12 months since gun owners in Australia were forced by a new
law to surrender 640,381 personal firearms to be destroyed by our own
government, a program costing Australia taxpayers
more than $500 million dollars.
The first year results are now in:
Australia-wide, homicides are up 6.2 percent,
Australia-wide, assaults are up 9.6 percent;
Australia-wide, armed robberies are up 44 percent (yes, 44 percent)!
In the state of Victoria
lone, homicides with firearms are now up 300 percent.(Note that
while the law-abiding citizens turned them in, the criminals did not
and criminals still possess their guns!)
While figures over the previous 25 years showed a steady
decrease in armed robbery with firearms, this has changed drastically
upward in the past 12 months, since the criminals now are guaranteed
that their prey is unarmed.
There has also been a dramatic increase in break-ins and
assaults of the elderly, while the resident is at home.
Australian politicians are at a loss to explain how public
safety has decreased, after such monumental effort and expense was
expended in ‘successfully ridding Australian society of guns….’ You
won’t see this on the American evening news or hear your governor or
members of the State Assembly disseminating this information.
The Australian experience speaks for itself. Guns in the
hands of honest citizens save lives and property and, yes, gun-control
laws affect only the law-abiding citizens.
Take note Americans, before it’s too late!
Will you be one of the sheep to turn yours in?
WHY? You will need it.
FORWARD TO EVERYONE ON YOUR EMAIL LIST. [I DID]
DON’T BE A MEMBER OF THE SILENT MAJORITY.
BE ONE OF THE VOCAL MINORITY WHO WON ‘T STAND FOR NONSENSE