Originally Published: April 6, 2013 9:59 p.m.
On visiting Australia recently, we were queried (negatively) about our gun laws. What does Australia have that we don't have on this issue? To buy a firearm in Australia, one must have a Permit to Acquire with a mandatory 28-day delay before issue. For issuance, there must be a genuine reason, which includes pest control, hunting, target shooting or collecting. Self-defense is not an accepted reason (with some special exceptions). All guns must be registered by serial number. Semi-automatic rim fire rifles holding 10 or fewer rounds or shotguns holding five or fewer rounds are strongly restricted. Semi-automatic center fire rifles and pump-action or automatic shotguns are restricted to five rounds, and are restricted to government agencies and few occupational shooters. Others may own such weapons if they are deactivated. Handguns, including air pistols, are available to target shooters if they serve a six-month probationary period using club handguns. Target shooters are limited to handguns of 38 or 9 mm caliber, holding a maximum of ten rounds.
There is a category called R/E that includes machine guns, rocket launchers, assault rifles, flame throwers, anti-tank guns, howitzers, and similar weapons. In some Australian states, they may be owned by collectors provided they have been permanently rendered inoperable, otherwise they may not be owned. They have the same storage and licensing requirements as fully operable weapons.
It is clear that Australian gun control is much more restrictive than ours. Has it done any good? Gun deaths for 2011 in the United States were over 32,100 while in Australia the number was 236. But Australia is much smaller than the USA. Using population numbers, about one person in 9,750 was shot in the USA, while one person in over 92,000 was shot in Australia. Based on population, gun deaths in Australia are 10 percent of those in the USA.
Despite the evident success in Australia, it is not likely there will be any improvement in our laws. To paraphrase a famous statement by Mark Twain: We have the best Congress that the NRA can buy.