In the weeks following the Orlando massacre in which 49 people were killed, more than 500 Americans have been shot. At least 200 of them are now dead.
This year alone, 150 Americans have been killed in mass shootings in the US and these only make up a tiny portion of the county’s gun-related death toll.
Do you know how many Australians have died in mass shootings in the past two decades?
In 1996, John Howard reformed our gun laws following the Port Arthur massacre and it’s something we thank him for every time the news comes on to tell us another group of US school kids or, say, a group of LGBTI+ people has been murdered while going about their business.
Admittedly, curbing gun violence in America is a much larger challenge than it was here. For starters, our gun lobby isn’t nearly as powerful or well-financed. We also have no Bill of Rights to contend with when creating legislation nor do we have a constitutional right to bear arms.
John Howard goes on American TV and perfectly schools them on their gun problem:
The thing is when Howard introduced the ban and subsequent buy-back of rapid-fire long guns things improved. In 2003, when a handgun buy-back program happened, they improved some more. A new study has found they are still improving.
A group of researchers from University of Sydney and Macquarie University analysed the data on intentional suicide and homicide rates in Australia before and after 1996. The study was published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a globally respected journal in the US which reports on groundbreaking research from around the world.
The researchers also found nothing to indicate that not letting people own guns meant they went looking for other ways to kill themselves and others.
In the 18 years leading up to 1996, Australia had 13 fatal mass shootings, in which 104 people were killed and 52 wounded.
There have been no fatal mass shootings since.
Overall though, researchers found the 1996 law change curbed other forms of gun violence.
“I’ve calculated that for every person in Australia shot in a massacre, 139 [people] are shot through firearm-related suicide or homicides, so they are much more common,” lead author of the study Professor Simon Chapman told the Guardian.
“We found that homicide and suicide firearms deaths had been falling before the reforms, but the rate of the fall accelerated for both of them after the reforms. We’ve shown that a major policy intervention designed to stop mass shootings has had an effect on other gun-related deaths as well.”
Despite the clarity of their findings, he and his co-authors are realistic about their chances of influencing US policy-makers, with Associate Professor Philip Alpers worrying “things will get worse before they get better”.
“When [Australia’s] laws came in the hope was they would curb mass shooting, but what we didn’t realise was the laws would be followed by huge changes in other types of shootings, particularly in suicide,” he said.
“In Australia we had a government that was prepared to act … You just can’t imagine the US ever seeing that as feasible.”