With gun control back in the spotlight following the Oregon college shooting, President Barack Obama suggested he may consider executive action similar to Australia's gun confiscation program, which Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said Friday she thinks is worthy of consideration. However, according to a recently resurfaced 2007 study published by the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, such actions would be counter-productive, with the study concluding, "The more guns a nation has, the less criminal activity."
The study, titled "Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide?", was conducted by Don Kates, a criminologist and constitutional lawyer, and Gary Mauser, a criminologist and professor at Simon Fraser University, and cites the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the United Nations International Study on Firearms Regulation.
"While American gun ownership is quite high, many other developed nations (e.g., Norway, Finland, Germany, France, Denmark) have high rates of gun ownership," said the report. "These countries, however, have murder rates as low or lower than many developed nations in which gun ownership is much rarer. For example, Luxembourg, where handguns are totally banned and ownership of any kind of gun is minimal, had a murder rate nine times higher than Germany in 2002."
Further, the authors noted that the same patterns emerge when comparing gun ownership to violence within a country, which often shows a "negative correlation."
"Where firearms are most dense, violent crime crates are lowest, and where guns are least dense violent crime rates are highest," said the report.
As the Daily Caller noted, this explains why many shootings take place in "gun free zones" like schools and movie theaters rather than in police stations or gun clubs.
The study pointed out that there are 40 states that allow citizens to carry concealed handguns, which the authors said reduced murder and violent crime.
"Adoption of state laws permitting millions of qualified citizens to carry guns has not resulted in more murder or violent crime in these states. Rather, adoption of these statutes has been followed by very significant reductions in murder and violence in these states," wrote the researchers.
Chicago, a state with some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, has experienced a sharp increase in homicides and shootings this year.
Massachusetts also tried to curb gun violence with a comprehensive package of gun laws in 1998, but murders with firearms increased significantly, as did aggravated assaults and robberies involving guns and gunshot injuries, according to the Boston Globe.
Following the Oct. 1 shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon that left nine people dead, Obama suggested the U.S. should pass stringent laws restricting the right to own guns, similar to the ones that were passed in Australia and Great Britain in the 1990s, despite promising to never restrict the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens during his 2008 presidential campaign, as HNGN previously reported.
The 1996 Australian gun confiscation program was a mandatory gun buyback program that involved the government purchasing over 650,000 guns from citizens.
Friday, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said a similar program "would be worth considering" at the national level in the U.S.
However, researchers from the University of Melbourne concluded in 2008 that there is little evidence to suggest that the buyback program in Australia "had any significant effects on firearm homicides and suicides."
"In addition, there also does not appear to be any substitution effects — that reduced access to firearms may have led those bent on committing homicide or suicide to use alternative methods.... Although gun buybacks appear to be a logical and sensible policy that helps to placate the public's fears, the evidence so far suggests that in the Australian context, the high expenditure incurred to fund the 1996 gun buyback has not translated into any tangible reductions in terms of firearm deaths."
In Britain, which banned virtually all handguns in 1997, the total number of firearm offenses began to go up, increasing by 89 percent from 1998 to 2008, as the Daily Mail noted.
The Harvard study agreed: "Armed crime, never a problem in England, has now become one. Handguns are banned but the Kingdom has millions of illegal firearms. Criminals have no trouble finding them and exhibit a new willingness to use them."
"In the late 1990s, England moved from stringent controls to a complete ban of all handguns and many types of long guns. Hundreds of thousands of guns were confiscated from those owners law‐abiding enough to turn them in to authorities. Without suggesting this caused violence, the ban's ineffectiveness was such that by the year 2000 violent crime had so increased that England and Wales had Europe's highest violent crime rate, far surpassing even the United States."
As for the idea that more guns are related to increased suicide rates, the researchers said there is "simply no relationship evident between the extent of suicide and the extent of gun ownership. People do not commit suicide because they have guns available. In the absence of firearms, people who are inclined to commit suicide kill themselves some other way."
The Harvard study concluded with the following warning to lawmakers who want to further regulate gun ownership in the U.S.: "The burden of proof rests on the proponents of the more guns equal more death and fewer guns equal less death mantra, especially since they argue public policy ought to be based on that mantra. To bear that burden would at the very least require showing that a large number of nations with more guns have more death and that nations that have imposed stringent gun controls have achieved substantial reductions in criminal violence (or suicide). But those correlations are not observed when a large number of nations are compared across the world."