In April of 1996, a 28-year old man murdered 35 people in Tasmania primarily utilizing a Colt AR-15 rifle (a lightweight, 5.56×45mm, magazine-fed, air-cooled semi-automatic rifle with a rotating bolt and a direct impingement gas-operation system.)
This event led to public outcry in Australia and bipartisan passage of a comprehensive set of gun regulation laws (the National Firearms Agreement (NFA)).
In the 20 years since the law was put into place (1997-2016), there has not been a single fatal mass shooting in Australia.
In the 17 years prior to the NFA enactment 13 mass fatal shootings (defined as ≥5 victims, not including the perpetrator) occurred in Australia.
An analysis of this process was recently published in JAMA.
Australia’s 1996 NFA mandated:
- the ban and buy-back of semiautomatic long guns.
- licensing of all firearm owners and registration of firearms.
- that persons seeking firearm licenses must document a “genuine need,” have no convictions for violent crimes within the past 5 years, have no restraining orders for violence, demonstrate good moral character, and pass a gun safety test.
- uniform standards for securing firearms to prevent theft or misuse, record-keeping for fire arms transfers, purchase permits, and minimum waiting periods of 28 days.
Research evidence should inform the way forward to advance the most effective policies to reduce violence. However, research alone will not be enough. Australian citizens, professional organizations, and academic researchers all played productive roles in developing and promoting evidence-informed policies and demanding that their lawmakers adopt measures to prevent the loss of life and terror of gun violence. Citizens in the United States should follow their lead.
N.B. Of the 46 mass shooting since 2004, 14 featured assault rifles, including Newtown, Aurora, Orlando and San Bernardino. Apparently there are 10 million AR-15 type rifles in private hands in the USA and as Vox has pointed out
“the AR-15 is caught in a cycle. The more it’s used in high-profile mass shooting cases, the more people want to ban it. The more people want to ban it, the more AR-15s are sold. And the more AR-15s are sold, the harder it becomes to create a ban that would be able to stop the next tragedy.”
For more on assault-style rifles you can view this Washington Post video created after the Orlando shootings.