Prevention, not gun buy-backs, key to suicide reduction

The Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA National) Inc believes better suicide prevention and awareness programs are the main drivers behind a reduction in Australia’s suicide rate, not costly gun buy-backs as suggested by a recent report.

The Do Gun Buybacks Save Lives? report released by Andrew Leigh and Christine Neill this week fails to recognise firearm owners replacing the majority of the 660,000 firearms seized in the gun buy-backs.

A survey of SSAA members indicated that 93% of those who were forced to surrender a firearm during the buy-backs replaced it with one or more firearms almost immediately.

SSAA National Special Project Officer Matthew Godson says that it is naive to assume the buy-backs reduced the overall number of legally-held firearms in the community by the amount seized.

The report states that the buy-backs resulted in a direct reduction to suicide by firearm by 74%. However, it neglects to recognise that substitution of the method used to carry out suicide deaths exists.

Raw data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reveals that while suicide by firearms is continuing to decrease from a high in the 1980s, suicide by hanging steadily increased throughout the 1990s and increased for three consecutive years after the 1996 buy-back.

An independent report released in 2008 by Wang-Sheng Lee and Sandy Suardi from The University of Melbourne, says “there is little evidence to suggest that the buy-back had any significant effects on firearm homicides and suicides”. The pair reviewed almost 90 years of ABS data when making their conclusions, while Leigh and Neill chose to analyse two five-year periods either side of the 1996 buy-back.

SSAA National urges media to sensitively approach the reporting of suicide and homicide issues and provide the details of relevant help lines and support services.

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