The researchers found that the odds that a 22-year absence of mass shootings in Australia since 1996 gun reforms being due to chance were one in 200,000.
“It’s very tricky because we know absolutely nothing about the shooter or shooters and what sort of guns they were using, and whether they were legally obtained or illegally obtained guns. But New Zealand does have different gun laws to Australia, and New Zealand does have provisions for citizens owning semi-automatic weapons,” said Simon Chapman, one of the researchers and an emeritus professor in the School Public Health at the University of Sydney.
“Some news reports are saying that the gunman was using a machine gun, and that would normally mean a fully automatic weapon, which are not legal in New Zealand,” he said. “But for a long, long time, the gun lobby has played the card of ‘well, New Zealand still allows semi-automatic weapons, and they haven’t had a mass shooting, so therefore gun control doesn’t make a country safer’. Well, now it has.”
The National Firearms Agreement, enacted by former Prime Minster John Howard after the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania in which 35 people died and another 23 were seriously injured, saw the destruction of more than 1 million firearms, about a third of the Australia’s privately owned guns.
The agreement included uniform gun registration, repudiation of self-defence as a legitimate reason to hold a firearm licence, mandatory locked storage, a ban on mail-order sales and standardised penalties, and the banning of semi-automatic rifles and pump action shot guns from civilian ownership. Its provisions were subsequently enacted in national, state and territory legislation across Australia.
In the 18 years up to and including the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, there were 13 gun homicides in which five or more people died, not including the perpetrator. There have been no such incidents since.