Hillary Clinton Is Wrong About Gun Laws In Australia And The UK

John Lott President, Crime Prevention Research Center
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Democrats keeping telling people that they don’t want to confiscate their guns, but at the same time they are praising the gun control laws in countries that have confiscated people’s guns. But Hillary Clinton’s claims that confiscation made them safer are completely wrong.

Speaking at Keene State College in New Hampshire, Clinton was asked if the U.S. should try to take away everyone’s handguns, as Australia once did. Clinton responded by praising Australia’s gun buyback in 1996 and 1997, when the government outlawed guns and then used registration lists to identify who owned these newly prohibited weapons. Clinton also praised Canada and the UK, which used similar registration laws to confiscate guns. President Obama has been praising those laws.

On Friday, Clinton made fun of those worried about confiscation. She said people get scared into thinking that “a black helicopter is going to land in the front yard and somebody is going to take your guns.”

But why should gun owners trust her when she praises other country’s confiscation efforts? She thinks that Canada, Australia, and the UK are safer because of their strict gun laws, even when the evidence shows the opposite.

After the UK’s handgun ban was enacted in January 1997, the country’s overall homicide rate rose by 50 percent over the next 8 years. The firearms homicide rate almost doubled during that time. The trend only reversed after a large, 18 percent increase in the size of the country’s police force.  Today the homicide rate is where it was just before the ban.

Australia’s crime rates also haven’t changed the way that gun control advocates would have predicted. The buyback in 1996 and 1997 resulted in more than 1 million firearms being turned in and destroyed. This reduced the number of guns in the country from 3.2 million to about 2.2 million guns. Since then, however, there has been a steady increase in the number of privately owned guns. In 2010, private gun ownership was back to 1996 levels.

Their firearms homicide rate had been falling for a decade prior to the buyback. It continued falling at the same rate after the buyback.  There was no sudden drop, just a fairly constant decline that continued even as gun ownership rose back up to previous levels. The armed robbery rate rose in the first five years after the buyback. After another ten years, the rate had fallen to pre-buyback levels.

Firearm suicides fell after the buyback, but they had already been falling for more than a decade. There was absolutely no change in the rate of decline. Moreover, the non-firearm suicide rate also fell after the buyback — just as fast, in fact, as the firearm suicide rate. Clearly, the fall in firearm suicides was driven by other social factors.

No more convincing are Clinton’s claims that these three countries averted mass public shootings. Many European countries have experienced mass public shootings despite strict gun control laws, even higher rates than the U.S. Australia has seen a drop in mass public shootings since the buyback. But New Zealand saw a bigger drop without changing its gun laws.

Democrats keep pushing universal background checks as a solution to mass public shootings, a system that can result in law-abiding gun owners’ names to be put in a central registry. But such laws wouldn’t have stopped a single attack that President Obama has pointed to. The gun control laws in other countries have been no more successful. The National Academy of Sciences report on firearms wasn’t able to identify a single study that found that background checks or these universal type checks reduce any type of crime.

Despite all this, Clinton expresses bewilderment that people fear confiscation. Yet, one wonders whether she really wants to get universal background checks passed. Saying she wants to model our gun laws after countries that have used registration to take guns from those who registered them makes passage very difficult.

John Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of “More Guns, Less Crime” (University of Chicago Press, 2010, 3rd edition).