Q&A FACTCHECK UPDATE

Following SSAA NSW’s participation in the Q&A episode that aired on Monday 16 October, The Conversation FactCheck looked at the question ‘Did Government buybacks reduce the number of gun deaths in Australia?

SSAA NSW had the opportunity to respond and provide further comment to substantiate our assertion that the government funded buy-backs in 1996 and 2003 had no effect in reducing the number of firearms deaths (see Response #1 below).

The FactCheck response can be found here.  Despite this not being a truly balanced response, it does acknowledge that:

  • firearm death rates began falling before the reforms and buybacks took place,
  • it’s hard to tell what effect the gun buyback schemes and tighter restrictions on firearms had on this decline, and
  • some studies found the NFA overall had modest effects on the number of gun related deaths, other studies found that the gun buybacks and stricter regulations led to a decline in these, while other studies were inconclusive.

One of the additional follow-up questions we received was to substantiate our claim that the cost of the buy backs was $700 million dollars, which was sourced from SSAA National's Journalists Guide.  SSAA NSW provided a breakdown totalling $686.6 million (see Response #2 below).  However, FactCheck did not acknowledge this information and instead referenced a ‘parliamentary source’ which showed the cost at just under $628 million.

Nevertheless, the positive out of this whole exercise has been the opportunity to get the message out there and particularly to the non-shooting sectors of the community.
Following Q&A we have received commentary from the non-shooting community on the glaring bias of the media and the reluctance to address the question regarding criminals and illegal firearms.
If we can get the wider community questioning the fairness of media coverage of legal firearms ownership, that is a good outcome.

Our complete responses #1 and #2 to FactCheck are shown below.

SSAA NSW Response #1 to ABC FactCheck

“The NFA did not have any large effects on reducing firearm homicide or suicide rates.”
Direct quote from the University of Melbourne’s independent study by Lee and Suardi, 2008.

Homicides using a firearm were on the decline well before the anomaly of the Port Arthur murders. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Firearm injuries and deaths report 2017 clearly shows that firearm-related deaths began steadily decreasing from 1991, five years before the NFA was introduced (see graph).



Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows that the crude firearm death rate declined from 4.8 deaths per 100,000 in 1980 to 2.6 in 1995 – again, before the NFA.
ABS stats also show that firearm deaths (including suicide) fell by 46% during the 16 year period (1980 to 1995) without any drastic changes to firearm laws.
Refer to the ABS - Firearms Deaths Australia 1980 to 1995.

Public safety is almost always threatened by the unlicensed person with the unregistered firearm in the rare case where firearms are involved, with more than 93% of firearms used in homicides in 2006-07 found to be unlicensed and unregistered.
Source: Dearden, J & Jones, W 2008, ‘Homicide in Australia: 2006-07. National Homicide Monitoring Program annual report’, Australian Institute of Criminology.

By contrast, the New Zealand experience shows similar statistical trends with a very different regulatory environment. This demonstrates the SSAA’s worst fears: that the NFA was a costly failure that saw millions of tax-payers money spent on gun buy-backs with no public safety benefit.
Source: The Library of Congress. 2015. Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy: New Zealand.

Illegal importation of firearms
In excess of 2.2 million Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (TEU, a 20 foot container) are imported into Australia annually (as at July 2011). In 2015, 2.5 million TEU were imported.  

  • Approximately 70% of these are imported into Melbourne and Sydney - the busiest international container ports.
  • Customs and Border Protection currently scan approximately 101,500 TEU and physically examine 14,000 TEU each year.
  • This mean about 0.22% of these containers are inspected, making it very easy for the illegal, unchecked importation of firearms.

Sources:

Information for this response was provided by SSAA National’s SSAA-LA.

SSAA NSW Response #2 to FactCheck

In summary the costs are attributed as follows:

  • 1996 National Firearms Program
    • $398 million compensation for purchase of semi-automatic weapons
      • $304 million to owners
      • $94 million to dealers (and wholesalers)
    • $57 million to states and territories for administration
    • $4 million for national public education program
    • $1.5 million for development of accredited firearms training program
    • $400K for upgrade the National Exchange of Police Information (NEPI) system
    • $24.1 million unaccounted for additional expenditure
    • TOTAL COST $485 million
  • 2003 National Handgun Buyback
    • $96.6 million paid in compensation to owners
    • $70 million reimbursed to the states and territories for administration
    • $35 million paid by states and territories for administration in accordance with the 2/3 to 1/3 agreement with the Commonwealth
    • TOTAL COST $201.6 million

 This is substantiated using the following sources:

The ANAO report on the 1996 buy-back states:

    • The Government budgeted $500 million which was raised through a 0.2% increase in the Medicare levy (para 3.6 pg 21)
    • Total cost of compensation to owners was approximately $304 million (para 3.7 pg 21)
    • Amount of compensation to dealers (and wholesalers) were not certain, but 480 claims had been submitted (para 3.6 pg 21)
    • Approximately $57 million was paid to states and territories to cover establishing, promoting and operating the buy-back (para 3.7 pg 21)
    • $4 million was allocated for a national public education campaign (para 3.8 pg21)
    • $1.5 million was allocated for development of an accredited firearms training program (para 3.8 pg 21)
    • $400K was allocated to upgrade the National Exchange of Police Information (NEPI) system (para 3.8 pg 21)

Under the section headed ‘Budget 2003 2004 The Attorney-General’s Portfolio: Handgun buyback’ reference is made to the cost of funding the 3003 handgun buyback:

    • By the $15 million left over from the 1996 buyback (which indicates the 1996 buyback cost $485 million out of the budgeted $500 million),
    • Then on a 2/3 to 1/3 basis between the Commonwealth and states and territories, with the indicative cost for the Commonwealth being $69 million.

Under the section headed Under ‘Government expenditure’ the costs for both buy-backs are shown as:

    • 1996 National Firearms Program:
      • $398 million compensation for purchase of semi-automatic weapons
      • $63 million for administering the program including
        • $56.6 million for states and territories
    • 2003 National Handgun Buyback:
      • $96.6 million paid in compensation
      • $70 million reimbursed to the states and territories for administration

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