PHILADELPHIA — It turns out that gun control does prevent mass shootings, at least according to Australian researchers tasked with determining the cause of the country’s two-decade-long absence of mass shootings.
A new study finds that the odds of Australia’s 22-year reprieve from mass shootings being purely by chance is one in 200,000, the researchers calculated.
In 1996, 35 people were killed and 23 were seriously injured in the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania. That same year, Australia’s government passed the National Firearms Agreement. The Agreement enacted uniform gun registration, repudiated the legal argument of self-defense as justification for holding a gun license, mandatory locked storage of firearms, prohibited mail-order firearm sales, and banned semi-automatic rifles and pump-action shotguns for civilian use.
In the 18 years before the last mass shooting in Australian history, 13 shooting events occurred in which five or more people died, not including the shooter. Since the Port Arthur massacre, there have been none.
“Most people hear these starkly contrasting numbers and conclude that Australia’s gun law reforms effectively stopped firearm massacres here,” says the paper’s lead author Simon Chapman, an Emeritus Professor at the University of Sydney, in a release. “However, some scholars and members of the gun lobby have argued that since mass shootings are relatively rare events, the concentration of incidents in one decade and their absence in another decade is merely a statistical anomaly.”
But the numbers, and the odds, couldn’t be more clear. The researchers used a rare events model to prove the lull in shootings wasn’t just a coincidence.
“This was no accident,” argues co-author Philip Alpers, an associate professor at the University of Sydney. “Australia followed standard public health procedures to reduce the risk of multiple shooting events, and we can see the evidence. It worked. Gun lobby-affiliated and other researchers have been saying for years that mass shootings are such rare events it could have been a matter of luck they dropped off in the wake of Australia’s gun control laws. Instead, we found the odds against this hypothesis are 200,000 to one.”
The study’s findings were published March 13, 2018 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.