Recently President Obama and Candidate Hillary Clinton have been focusing on the topic of gun control. One thing they have done is praise the Australian model for gun control. What exactly would implementing such a model entail?
The Australian model introduced far-reaching bans on almost all types of pump action shotguns as well as semi-automatic shotguns, rifles, and handguns. Legal firearms were then categorized into seven groups. The most basic firearm license which is a class A permit allows non-semi-automatic rimfire rifles and non-pump action or semi-auto shotguns. In order to get a class A license an applicant must give a “Genuine Reason” to get approval. Class C firearms and beyond are almost exclusively reserved for government agencies and occupational shooters. Most of these firearms would be accessible to a law-abiding U.S. citizen. So it is true that firearm can be owned in Australia, but the licensing procedure is very stringent and restrictive. Another important thing about the Australian model is that holding a firearm for self-defense is not a legal or “Genuine Reason” to obtain a permit. Once the laws were passed, Australia instituted a huge firearm buyback program to retrieve now illegal firearms from citizens.
These programs would not work in the United States. First, how is the government going to buyback 310 million privately owned firearms in the United States? Besides the huge number of firearms, there would be major constitutional questions arising as to whether the firearms would be protected under various clauses of the constitution. Let’s assume a forced buyback of private property was perfectly legal. The US could then institute a buyback program like Australia, and like Australis this would leave anywhere from sixty to eighty percent of privately owned firearms still in circulation. Supposing the Federal Government somehow gets the funding to buy back and dispose of 124 million firearms, the remaining 186 million firearms would still be left in circulation. Now a market for illegal firearms has been created with the added advantage of having 186 million newly outlawed firearms on that market.
So what would the effects look like? According to the University of Melbourne “There is little evidence to suggest that [the Australian mandatory gun buyback program] had any significant effects on firearm homicides.” Any decrease in crime can be attributed to the previous trend of decreased violent crime starting fifteen years before the ban. So in conclusion, “The gun buy-back and restrictive legislative changes had no influence on firearm homicide in Australia”. The likelihood of this program working in the United States is even worse than in Australia. The forced confiscation—besides being unconstitutional—would be extremely coercive. It would inevitably lead to thousands of well-armed Federal agents going door to door and forcefully take firearms from millions of well-armed civilians. So gun violence which is at a historic low would actually skyrocket.
An Australian style gun ban in this country would never work. There are simply too many firearms in circulation. Also, many of the key components of the Australian law would never pass as constitutional in the United States. If anything consider the fact that research has failed to show statistical evidence that the law had any effect on violent crime in Australia.