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Australia’s gun ownership levels return

Australia’s leading gun control expert is in Baltimore, Maryland, to contribute recommendations on how the US can control gun violence in the wake of the Newtown school massacre.


Speaking from the Summit on Reducing Gun Violence in America, Professor Philip Alpers, from Sydney University’s School of Public Health, says the US is interested in Australia’s success story on gun control, but he remains realistic about what will follow.

“Nobody is mad enough to say that what we did in Australia can be done in the United States,” Professor Alpers told SBS.

“Their [mistaken] belief [is] that the more guns you have, the safer you are. If that was the case then America would be the safest nation on earth.”

The conference will feed in to US vice president Joe Biden’s panel for gun control, which will deliver its recommendations tomorrow.

New research suggests that Australians have steadily restocked the firearms destroyed in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre, with the number of firearms in the community now estimated at 3.2 million.

After Port Arthur, Prime Minister John Howard pushed through tough national controls, banning semi-automatic rifles and pump-action shotguns and introducing more stringent licensing.

At that time, more than a million guns were sent to the smelter.

“People talk about the 650,000 guns that were destroyed in the Port Arthur federal long gun buyback, that’s only half the story,” Professor Alpers said.

“In fact, our research shows that a huge number of Australia gun owners gave up their guns for no compensation at all – remember there were 38 [state-based] gun amnesties since these mass shooting began.

“Over the last 10 years, the importation of fire arms has built up again, and now I know from customs figures that we have already replaced a million guns in Australia.”

Professor Alpers said that nearly 90 per cent of Australia’s gun deaths had nothing to do with mass shootings, but rather involved domestic homicides and suicides.

An Australian Institute of Criminology homicide study shows gun murders have steadily declined from the late 1980s and are now far outnumbered by murders with knives.

Watch the interview with Professor Philip Alpers

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