With gun control in the news, one of the most repeated statements by control advocates is that Australia’s massive gun control effort in 1996 has reaped solid rewards. It worked there; it can work in the U.S.
Here’s one example, from the website Science News in their “Science News For Students” section:
Twenty years ago, Australia passed strict laws to control what types of guns people could own. The country also required people to sell to the government any guns that were made illegal. Since then, Australia has seen zero mass shootings, a new study finds.
Impressive… but the criteria is interesting. From the end of the article (which, as journalism researchers have found, is far less likely to be read than the beginning):
From 1979 to 1996, Australia had 13 fatal mass shootings, Chapman’s team reports. The researchers counted an event as a mass shooting if it involved five or more victims (not including the shooter). From 1997 to May 2016, the country has had none. (Three shootings, though, have killed three or four victims.)
So, the definition is five or more victims. Does that match the U.S. criteria, as the U.S. is concerned right now with mass shootings? Let’s check Politifact, a fact-checking group used by the same media groups reporting on the Australian situation:
One strict definition used in the past by the federal government says at least four victims must be killed. Much broader criteria requires at least four victims be injured, though not necessarily killed. Other definitions land somewhere in the middle.
That means that the strictest definition in the US is less restrictive than the one in Australia. As the Australian report mentions, there were three that killed three or four victims. There were far more that injured at least four people. And there were increases in other types of mass homicide… arson, for example, has jumped into first place, as fires are set to kill groups. Nor has it prevented stabbings, like the Cairns child killings.
So long as the comparisons remain unequal and supportive information is excluded, the conclusions cannot be presented as definitive.