The Australian Firearms Buyback and Its Effect on Gun Deaths report

The Australian Firearms Buyback and Its Effect on Gun Deaths, written by Wang-Sheng Lee of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at The University of Melbourne and Sandy Suardi of the Department of Economics and Finance at La Trobe University, looks at the effects of the 1996-97 National Firearms Agreement (NFA) on firearm-related deaths in Australia.

The 2008 report uses data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on causes of death from the period 1915 to 2004. This comprises death rates (expressed as per 100,000 of total population) classified under firearm suicide rates, firearm homicide rates, non-firearm suicide rates and non-firearm homicide rates. While several other researchers have used this same data to examine the effects of the NFA on firearm deaths, a consensus does not appear to have been reached and authors Lee and Suardi therefore decided to reanalyse the same data using tests known as ‘unknown structural breaks’ as a method to identify impacts of the NFA.

The report finds that there is little evidence to suggest that the buyback had any significant effects on firearm-related homicides and suicides in Australia. Furthermore, there also does not appear to be any substitution effects – that reduced access to firearms may have led those bent on committing homicide or suicide to use alternative methods. The report concludes: “Although gun buybacks appear to be a logical and sensible policy that helps to placate the public’s fears, the evidence so far suggests that in the Australian context, the high expenditure incurred to fund the 1996 gun buyback has not translated into any tangible reductions in terms of firearm deaths.”

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