A few facts on gun violence in various nations

The following was inspired by recent passionate discussions by many friends around the world. In particular, some friends “Down Under” (in Australia) have been perplexed by recent events in the US, and also question (slightly 🙂 ) my sanity in suggesting that there may still be gun violence in Australia following the famous gun “buyback” programs.

Let me say up front: Australia and other nations are to be highly commended as models of peaceful coexistence! They have far less violence than many other nations. I’m not going to attempt to discuss the details of why this may be — personally, I believe this is an ethical and spiritual issue far more than a legal or political one.

In any case, as is usual for the MrPete.Info web site, my goal here is to present a few solid, well-sourced facts. The implications of those facts are for the reader to decipher.

Comparing Australia and New Zealand (and Canada)

First: here are the key results of an Australian study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence that compared a few nations (Australia, New Zealand and Canada) with similar social contexts but quite different political/legal scenarios.

The data: “Publicly available firearm homicide data and population estimates were obtained from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), New Zealand Police, Statistics New Zealand, and Statistics Canada.” The period of data was 1979-2007 for AU and CA, and 1986-2007 for NZ. Just for reference, the raw data ranged from 1 to 0.1 per 100k population… all MUCH lower than the USA. All three nations saw long-term significant declines in firearm homicide rates (as have other nations as well.)

Results: New Zealand had a statistically significant lower rate of gun homicides, and more rapid decrease, than either Australia or Canada. (About 4% lower than AU, 7% lower than CA, both +/- 2%, with p value .001 which is very good.)

What makes this interesting: New Zealand has far less restrictive gun laws. For example, they allow firearms banned in Australia, and do not require registration of all guns. The paper summarizes a variety of other theories for the actual explanation of such differences and trends.

Impact of gun control in Australia

Another study looked at the long term data on firearm violence in Australia. Again, this was done by a group passionate about reducing violence.

The data: (Table 1 in the study shows the raw data) They had annual data from 1979 to 2004, a wide range of years before and after the big 1997 gun buyback. Two key trends are illustrated on page 8 with graphs reproduced below (click for full-size graphs):

1510 AU Firearm Study

The upper and lower charts illustrate firearm and non-firearm homicide rates over the study period. Clearly, gun homicides had been decreasing for a long time before the gun buyback, while non-gun homicides really haven’t changed much at all. The study discusses other data showing that the buybacks may possibly have influenced suicide by firearm, although even there, suicide rates were dropping long before the buyback and legislative changes.

What makes this data even more interesting is one more data item, shared below…

Australia Violence Decreases Even As Gun Ownership Increases

According to a research report and interview in the Sydney Morning Herald, Australians continue to acquire guns. As of 2013, overall more guns have been acquired privately than have been bought back / destroyed!

Note that this data breaks any perceived correlations or relationships that may be discerned in the data shared above… if gun ownership is the issue, then again having more guns “should” have caused an increase in gun homicides and/or gun suicides. But violence continues to decrease in Australia.

So there you have it.


Some like to argue in terms of “majority opinion” or other evidence that suggests some other formula/correlation about guns and the law. But that’s not how science works, and not how facts work.

This article is not the place to yet again discuss the fact that:

  • Correlation never implies cause and effect. At best, it hints that there may be something interesting to be further studied.
  • Lack of correlation is a clear sign that there is no direct cause-effect relationship. It doesn’t take 100 such examples. One solid example where the suggested connection is missing… is sufficient to demonstrate that the connection is imagined, not real.
  • And much more… such as the fact that people love to discover patterns… formulas… “the way it works.” Yet most of the time the patterns we see are not real: they disappear only to be replaced by a different pattern… because the pattern we see is actually random.

Two final thoughts: here’s a link to a good Bible study on self defense, weapons, etc. And here’s a link to a breakdown of US homicides by race. A clear demonstration that our issue is primarily in one racial community. Other anecdotal evidence strongly suggests it’s limited to the poor, inner-city subgroups of that community… where guns are mostly completely prohibited and certainly prohibited for youth. Yet that’s where the laws are simply ignored. An issue of law… or spirituality?

(A related yet huge topic of its own: how we address the challenge of the mentally ill in the US. That problem also affects this one.)