The flailing NY Times wonders whether the US could be more like Australia, which famously banned semiautomatic rifles in 1996:
An Australian Model on Guns? Trump and Turnbull Reject Comparisons
The Australian PM gave the safe answer:
“It’s a completely different context, historically, legally and so forth,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said when asked about his country’s example during a news conference. “We are very satisfied with our laws,” he added. “But we certainly don’t presume to provide policy or political advice on that matter here. You have an amendment to your Constitution that deals with gun ownership. You have a very, very different history.”
The Times then provided a bit of context:
Australia embarked on one of the world’s most expansive efforts to rid a society of gun violence after a mass shooting in the Tasmanian town of Port Arthur on April 28, 1996, left 35 dead and many other injured. At that time, it was Australia’s 13th mass shooting in less than two decades and the deadliest such incident to date in the Western world. Even in the United States since then, only two episodes have eclipsed that death toll, the massacres in an Orlando gay nightclub in 2016 and at a Las Vegas concert last year.
In response to the 1996 shooting, John Howard, then Australia’s conservative prime minister, moved quickly, introducing a federal law to officially make guns a privilege, not a right. Gun owners were forced to provide a valid reason for owning a weapon, such as farming or hunting. Licensing rules were tightened, a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases was imposed and a national gun registry was established.
Semiautomatic rifles, like the one used at Port Arthur in 1996 and in Parkland last week, were severely restricted, and Australia engaged in a buyback program that took more than 650,000 firearms off the streets and generated attention around the world.
Gun control advocates in the United States regularly point to Australia when the other side says that new laws would not make a difference. President Barack Obama cited Australia as a model after a shooting in Oregon in 2015 and Hillary Clinton, running to succeed him against Mr. Trump, said the Australian approach was “worth considering.”
13 mass shootings in less than two decades and none afterwards. OK, impressive. But left unasked and unanswered is this: in the US we have had plenty of mass shootings with handguns (e.g., Giffords, VA Tech). How did the Australian ban on rifles end those, or why do we think a ban on rifles would end mass shooting here?
The answer is that unlike the US, Australia had very strict handgun controls for years prior to the 1996 semiautomatic rifle ban. I haven't run down all 13 mass shootings mentioned above but per Wikipeda, four infamous ones - Milperra, Hoddle Street, Queen Street, and Strathfield - involved shotguns or rifles, not handguns. So sure, banning semiautomatic rifles would be expected to make a major impact.
Gun crime in the UK and Australia was already low because of strict gun control. Emphasis on strict gun control, not banning. Key.
I probably shouldn't single out the NY Times. This sort of omission helps bolster their narrative but even John Lott failed to make that obvious point in a recent Fox News column titled:
US gun control advocates exaggerate benefits of Australia's gun restrictions
Well. Plenty of people on one side of the debate grasp that "assault weapons", semiautomatic rifles and pistols are all deadly and that often one could substitute for another. For example, many people believe that if Nikolas Cruz had been obliged to carry a semiautomatic rifle with a wooden stock and no mount for a bayonet or grenade launcher it would not have been a fearsome "assault rifle" but seventeen people would still be dead. On the other side of the debate are folks like the NY Times editors fulminating that since he used an "assault weapon" we need to ban those.
Now, the Las Vegas shooter was firing at long range and needed a semiautomatic rifle. Cruz, at Parkland, probably could have killed a lot of people with handguns, which also seems to be the case for most of the recent shootings. Per the Mother Jones mass shooting data base going back to 1982, of 97 incidents involving 143 weapons, over half were handguns.
Banning semiautomatic rifles, if the Times wants to back that, may well reduce the number of mass shootings and reduce the casualties. Just for example, the four shameful cops at Parkland might have entered the school with pistols drawn if they heard handgun, rather than rifle fire. However, a reduction on the number of mas shootings similar to that in Australia seems utterly implausible.
PILING ON: Slicks Versus Hicks: As an illustration of the rural/urban divide The Times says that the rifle ban "took more than 650,000 firearms off the streets", although most of those mean street were in rural areas where people were hunting.
And do note the absence of terrifying 'assault weapon' among the stacks of semiautomatic rifles turned in.
Finally, a companion piece contrasting Australia and the US also fails to note the pre-1996 handgun rules.