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The Gun Safe

Could the U.S. Ban Guns? Australia Tried Something Pretty Close.

Australia Gun Laws
Image: Creative Commons.

American supporters of gun control point to Australia as a fine “solution” to stop mass shootings, gang violence, and even suicides.

Firearms are strictly regulated in the “Land Down Under” and all firearms license applicants are required to take a safety course, while they must also show a “genuine reason” for owning a firearm.

Self-defense isn’t a valid reason either.

Why Australia Changed Its Approach on Firearms

Australia instituted these strict laws following the April 1996 mass shooting at Port Arthur, in which gunman Martin Bryant took the lives of thirty-five people using an AR-10 semi-automatic rifle. Bryant’s motivation was reportedly based on the failure to buy a bed and breakfast property but also to become “notorious.”

The shooting outraged the nation, and soon Australia introduced comprehensive gun control. It was led by then Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who had only taken office six weeks earlier at the head of a center-right coalition. Howard came to the decision that firearms were simply too easy to obtain and there were just too many of them.

“We have an opportunity in this country not to go down the American path,” Howard announced, and he radically changed Australia’s gun laws. According to supporters of gun control, those efforts rid the country of gun violence on a large scale.

What Australia Did

It was less than two weeks after the massacre that all six Australian states agreed to enact the same sweeping gun legislation that made it far harder for prospective gun owners to obtain a firearm, including a twenty-eight-day waiting period. The law also banned all semi-automatic rifles and semi-automatic shotguns, while Australia instituted a nationwide mandatory buyback of all the guns that were banned. A market value benchmark was determined to compensate gun owners for the loss of their loss of property.

It was so radical that even Howard wasn’t certain the buyback would be accepted. During an address to gun rights supporters, he reportedly wore a bulletproof vest and feared the event could turn violent. However, the meeting went off peacefully and in the first buyback, about 650,000 legally owned guns were handed in and subsequently destroyed.

According to an academic estimate, the buyback took in and destroyed some twenty percent of all privately owned guns in Australia. Additionally, in the years since that buyback, Australians did not purchase new – and legal – firearms to make up for what was banned, but it is likely that many feared that they’d face a similar ban.

Since the passage of that legislation, gun control advocates have pointed to Australia and called for similar measures.

Why Australia’s Gun Laws Won’t Work in the U.S.

So, could such a system work in the United States? The answer is likely no.

There are several reasons; as The New York Times reported, “Australians, on the whole, were happy to give up their guns and accept the new restrictions.” Americans, who, unlike their Australian cousins, have a Second Amendment that provided the right to keep and bear arms and that has been in place for nearly 240 years.

Moreover, Australia may have had its own history of hunting and sport, but it has always been far smaller and less significant than that of the United States. Another factor is that Prime Minster Howard was able to get all six Australian states to agree to and pass uniform and sweeping gun control legislation in just twelve days. The United States would have to get all fifty states on the same page and that would likely never happen and it certainly wouldn’t be quick.

Then there is the issue that Australia bought back some 650,000 guns. The United States government would likely have to buy back hundreds of millions of firearms. Additionally, the United States would also have to address the fact that it would put dozens of small to mid-sized companies that make the firearms out of business, while even larger manufacturers could find themselves in dire straits if the civilian market were to suddenly disappear.

Another consideration is whether gun violence would diminish were the United States to institute such strict gun control. The vast majority of shooting deaths aren’t from the handful of tragic and high-profile mass shootings. Most gun violence in the United States involves criminals using illegal guns, which wouldn’t be impacted by a ban.

What About Criminals? 

The biggest hurdle would be whether a ban would actually get guns off the streets as supporters of gun control claim, or just create a huge black market. It isn’t hard to believe that many Americans would ignore the ban and risk becoming criminals by hiding away their firearms, while many might simply sell their guns “no questions asked” on a future black market at a profit. That could keep gangs and other criminals well-armed for years, even decades to come.

It is true that the number of mass shootings did all but cease in Australia following the ban, and there has been just a single mass shooting event since Australia banned the weapons, that is a point worth considering too. How could any mass shootings occur? Australia saw 650,000 guns handed in, but in subsequent amnesties more firearms have been handed in, highlighting that many ignored the ban.

As noted the United States has hundreds of millions of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, so mass shootings and gang violence would remain a thing as long as anyone refuses to hand in his/her firearm(s).

This doesn’t mean we should ignore the problem in America, but a gun confiscation and buyback that worked in Australia is simply unlikely to work here. Of course, that hasn’t stopped American politicians from pushing their agenda.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Written By

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. LibertyToad

    March 17, 2021 at 11:42 am

    I’ve noticed that everyone who promotes gun control never compares the number of criminal gun uses against the number of defensive gun uses (as listed in government statistics). The number of DGU’s is far, far higher than the number of criminal deaths from guns.

    This is like trying to balance an equation by only looking at one side of it. The result will never be correct. People who are serious about the subject and want an actual solution consider both sides of the coin instead of ignoring the entire story.

    Unfortunately none of our “leaders” are smart enough or unbiased enough to look at the issue in a logical manner.

  2. ADM64

    March 17, 2021 at 1:47 pm

    The vast majority of gun crimes in the US are committed by criminals who by-passed the legal restrictions. Mass shootings are comparatively rare despite the hype – the equivalent of one occurs cumulatively every couple of weeks in Chicago, by the way – and many people use guns to defend themselves or stop crime. The data is overwhelming on the ineffectiveness of gun control laws and on the demographics and context in which gun crime occurs.

    The unstated reason for gun control efforts here is that many in power – especially on the left – just don’t think the citizenry should be armed. They view an armed citizenry as a threat because they won’t just roll over when ordered to do so. And it was precisely for that reason that the Founders recognized – not granted – the right to bear arms.

  3. Jay Dee

    March 17, 2021 at 4:08 pm

    Our media needs to do their homework. Australian violent crime was dropping prior to Port Arthur and the new gun control laws. The new gun control laws had no measurable effect on violent crime. In fact the number of scofflaws borders on 90%. The Australian governmnet declared the law a success and simply doesn’t look too closely at what is really happening in Australian communities.

  4. DweebyEE

    March 17, 2021 at 4:20 pm

    The answer is an exasperated “NO!” The authoritarian leftist level of ignorance and aversion to reality is simply astonishing. They’ll never get weapons out of the hands of the average criminal. But MORE than that, there are over 70 million gun owners in the US. I think that number is closer to 100, but lets just stick with 70. Now, lets say 10% of the gun owners tell the government to go pack sand over ANY gun ban. I’m betting that 10% is way lower than the number we’d see, but again, lets stick with 10%. That means that 7 million …. 7 MILLION …. gun owners WILL NOT COMPLY with any unconstitutional bans. That’s a bunch of gun owners people. There are 700,000 total US sworn police officers. Look it up. 700k. I’m sure the LEO’s are well aware they are outgunned and outnumbered by at least 10:1. And that is with the assumption that ALL LEO’s will enforce the bans. We have already been informed that some will not. I personally know my local sheriff and city police will not, because I personally asked. I would imagine that way less than 50% of sworn LEO’s will enforce these proposed bans, but lets just say that half will. So that means that each LEO will be asked to ring doorbells and demand from 20 gun owners that they turn over their weapons.

    Does that even seem remotely possible to anyone? Do you really think that LEO’s are THAT stupid? I think not.

    This is not going to happen.

  5. Xabre

    March 17, 2021 at 4:48 pm

    The Aussies were more or less coerced into selling back their guns. They either accept the pittance for guns or risk arrest and heavy fines. Plus they don’t have the 2nd Amendment.
    What they, the gun Grabbers avoid like the plague and will never mention is the true facts about gun crime, and who is using what to kill who. and the stats are very, very revealing.

    2019 FBI Crime Statistics

    In all, 10,258 murders took place using a firearm in 2019. Predictably, handguns led the way, accounting for 6,368 murders. But murderers used rifles only 364 times. Meanwhile, shotguns accounted for just 200 wrongful deaths.

    Those numbers stand out when compared to other categories, ones not regulated or facing the mob of gun control zealots. Knives (cutting instruments), for example, counted for 1,476 murders in 2019. Blunt objects wracked up another 397. Personal weapons, clarified as hands, fists, feet, etc., accounted for 600 murders.
    Im sure 2020 will be different but the Stats to remain Solid

  6. Phreedom Phil

    March 17, 2021 at 6:02 pm

    Pretty simple – SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED. The Constitution also gives us the RIGHT to fight back (literally using violence) against a tyrannical government. Part of me and millions more out there believe this may be their wish, they are warped and wicked people ruling (not governing( this nation now… tyrants and usurpers who rigged an election and continually lie about almost everything.

  7. AussieHub

    March 17, 2021 at 9:36 pm

    Comparing Australia to America is a little redundant. Australia has a population smaller than California, with the same land mass.
    It’s also worth noting that the Port Arthur shooting stinks to high heaven. The so called gunman was a mentally challenged sloth, yet had the marksmanship of one of the worlds elite shooters. Typical stunt to feed the agenda.
    America should never give up their guns. How the people haven’t already used them on the crooks in Washington already is dumbfounding.

  8. Wesley Bruce

    March 17, 2021 at 10:21 pm

    Good analysis but a lot of people get the situation here in Australia wrong. Firstly Bryant killed a gun repairer and his wife to get the guns. Several of the guns he took did not work. If he had done it the month before the guns he would have ended up using would have been police guns. Bryant is intellectually handicapped so no motivation can be discerned in Australia. US media avoid that point.
    Secondly the majority of guns handed in were farm guns (or WW1 & WW2 guns) from urban properties and generally not working firearms. Some were Steyr AUG assault rifles sold by the army to its officer corps just months before. This resulted in the chief of the army and others suing the government for extra compensation when the buy back price was less than the sale price in the same year. One entrepreneur made 20 “guns” from scrap and sold them to the buy back for a very good profit.
    The northern tropical states also issued blanket gun authorizations to everyone in crocodile country, often disguised by declaring everyone in an area park rangers.
    While replacement gun purchases were not immediate they did occur and we now own more guns today than we owned before the buy back. Glock did very well.
    Also the guns handed in were single shot weapons. The guns bought to replace them are semiautomatic handguns and hunting rifles, all capable of multiple shots. So today we have more shots down range per person than ever.
    John Howard now opposes the gun buy back saying experts lied to him and now his party supports a lifting of restrictions. However the restrictions in Australia now match Texas and most progun US states. There is a long list of reasons to own a gun available out side the basic self defense need.
    Lastly while there was no significant change in fatal gun violence after the gun buy back there have been major gun battles between islamist biker gangs and others all done with illegally imported guns from Asia. These are never counted as mass shooting because both gangs generally are armed and most survive. One trucker was hit and killed driving past “biker” battle over drug territories. The police and government generally refuses to acknowledge that we have rival Islamic crime gangs fighting it out down here. One Sunni and one Shia.
    So it did not work down here either and its slowly reversing.

  9. Rene Noel

    March 18, 2021 at 7:36 am

    Australia’s population is 25,000,000 not as much as a number of our states. This would seem to be a significant fact not addressed by author as well as our population is spread out not concentrated in cities around the rim of our country. Combine 5hose two with a history of self reliance and individual liberty and author largely missed he was comparing apples and oranges.

  10. AJP1960

    March 18, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    If the US always looks at the negatives of gun control, as this article does, there will never be a solution. The 2nd ammendement, surely, is about the right to bear arms agaiunst a rogue goovernemnt, not against your fellow citizens.

    Gun control could start at lookingf at it from this pewrspective, and perhaps encourage local, properly policed, armouries that the citizens can access in the event of a government issue.

    It won’t be easy because gun ownership is so entrenched, but as Kennedy said when setting the goal to send a man to the moon by the end of the decade, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard;”

    “We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon…We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”

  11. Peter Harris

    March 28, 2021 at 2:49 am

    As an Australian, I find this article complete pile of rubbish.

    Australia and United States are very similar, culturally, societally and economically… and as such, I believe a ban on dangerous guns would also work in America’s favour, and needless to say, the United States needs to reduce its extreme community violence.
    Since the ban on dangerous guns in Australia, we have had no mass shootings, and a huge reduction in gun violence more generally.
    However, it’s been a reduction in mass shootings which has been so noticeable in my country.
    In the 15 years prior to the first gun buyback in 1996, there had been 13 mass shootings in Australia. In the 25 years since, there has not been a single mass shooting in my country.

  12. burro

    March 28, 2021 at 6:42 pm

    How about those occupied home invasions? before and after?

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