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WND Exclusive
Australia shoots back at NRA
Government says crime
hasn't increased since gun ban

By Jon E. Dougherty
© 2000

Australian government officials have accused the National Rifle Association of using inaccurate statistics in a new television ad about gun crime down under.

The NRA ad, which claims Australia's recent passage of draconian gun control laws has increased gun crime significantly, is presented as a television news story and claims crimes involving guns have increased in Australia since the laws were introduced in 1996.

Specifically, Australian law now bans private ownership of all semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic shotguns and pump-action shotguns.

On Tuesday, Australian Federal Attorney General Daryl Williams accused the NRA of falsifying government statistics and urged the gun-rights organization to "remove any reference to Australia" from its website.
NRA's Wayne LaPierre

"I find it quite offensive that the NRA is using the very successful gun reform laws introduced in 1996 as the basis for promoting ownership of firearms in the United States," Williams said.

The top Australian prosecutor also said he sent a letter to NRA president and actor Charleton Heston asking for an immediate withdrawal of the information.

The Australian ban followed an April 29, 1996, shooting at a Port Arthur tourist spot by lone gunman Martin Bryant, who opened fire with military-style rifles, killing 35 people and injuring 19. He is currently serving a life sentence.

South Australian Attorney General Trevor Griffin also objected to the NRA's commercial because of its alleged inaccuracy, and because Griffin himself was portrayed in the ad making comments about Australia's gun ban that he said were "taken out of context."

The NRA video claims that following the country's ban, assaults involving guns rose 28 percent, gun murders increased 19 percent and home invasions rose 21 percent. Though the gun group's ad does not cite sources, a March 3 WorldNetDaily report gave similar statistics that were provided by an Australian pro-gun organization called the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia. The group's statistics mirror those of the NRA, but characterize the Australian government's crime statistics reports as "dishonest, incomplete and inconclusive" because they "focus upon the method used in a small sample of homicides and suicides or make assumptions about correlations between a piece of legislation and an accompanying drop in figures."

Although Dr. Adam Graycar, director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, calls the NRA's figures misleading, he admitted in an interview with the Associated Press Tuesday that assaults in his country had indeed climbed since 1998 -- the most recent year statistics are available -- but added that "most attacks did not involve guns." Graycar also said homicides had decreased and rarely involved firearms.

It is "enormously difficult" to gather accurate statistics on crime and weapons, said Graycar, because there are so many other factors involved. Factors such as population change have made it arduous to gauge what sort of effect the country's new gun ban has had on crime, he said.

"It is a very long bow to draw," to claim the ban led to an increase in crime, he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "What we've got here is an American group with a heavy gun culture -- guns figure very significantly in crime in the United States -- trying to transpose that into Australia. There is no comparison."

But critics of the Australian ban disagree, pointing out that historically gun bans or strict gun control measures often lead to an increase in violent crime.

According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, "Despite some 20,000 gun laws in the United States, mostly at the state and local levels, there is little evidence that any but the most weakly motivated citizens have been discouraged from gun ownership. And there is no evidence that these gun-control laws have made a dent in the crime rate."

The center found, using a variety of sources including leading University of Florida criminologist Gary Kleck and the FBI's own National Crime Statistics reports, that:

  • In 1976, Washington, D.C. enacted one of the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation. Since then, the city's murder rate has risen 134 percent while the national murder rate has dropped 2 percent.

  • After Evanston, Ill., a Chicago suburb of 75,000 residents, became the largest town to ban handgun ownership in September 1982, it experienced no decline in violent crime.

  • Among the 15 states with the highest homicide rates, 10 have restrictive or very restrictive gun laws.

  • Twenty percent of U.S. homicides occur in four cities with just six percent of the population -- New York, Chicago, Detroit and Washington, D.C. -- and each has a virtual prohibition on private handguns.

  • New York has one of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation -- and 20 percent of the armed robberies. Even more troublesome is the fact that the places where gun control laws are toughest tend to be the places where the most crime is committed with illegal weapons.

One Chicago judge told the center, "The most striking experience I can take away from the gun court ... is ... the kinds of people that appear there as defendants. ... This is their very first arrest of any kind. Many of them are old people, many of them are shopkeepers, persons who have been previous victims of violent crime."

And, the center said, other countries have had similar experiences. For instance, "After Canada passed a gun control law in 1977, the murder rate failed to decline, but armed robbery and burglary, crimes frequently deterred by gun ownership, increased."

Jon E. Dougherty is a staff reporter for WorldNetDaily.

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