What is it about Simon Chapman that makes him think he knows what’s best for the rest of us?
First, he hates smoking. However, it’s not sufficient not to smoke himself. He wants to ban smoking (directly or indirectly) so that nobody else has a choice. He wants to make the choice for us.
He also hates guns and has now co-authored a paper with another notorious anti-gun obsessive (Philip Alpers) that argues the Howard gun bans resulted in fewer firearms deaths. His aim, as with smoking, is to get rid of guns entirely (or at least those legally owned by anyone except the state).
Even if his arguments were valid (and they are faulty, as summarised below), his conclusions are based on the assumption that he knows what’s best. That is, people cannot be permitted to make their own choices and run their own lives, accepting the consequences if they make poor decisions. He prefers the nanny state in which big brother is watching.
As for the paper itself:
1. The paper argues there have been no mass murders involving firearms since 1996, indicating the success of the Howard gun laws. However, the authors do not acknowledge that there have nonetheless been mass murders. These include the Childers backpackers’ fire, the Snow Town murders and several cases where parents killed their children and themselves by car exhaust.
The fact that those mass murders were not carried out with a firearm makes them no less tragic. Australia’s second worst mass murder, and the worst prior to Port Arthur, was the Whisky-A-Go-Go fire in Brisbane where the weapon was a container of flammable liquid.
2. The paper assumes 700,000 firearms were “removed” from the community, impliedly leading to the claimed reduction in firearms deaths. There was no such reduction. As is well known, a large percentage of the funds received from the government for purchasing the confiscated firearms were used to buy replacements.
3. The paper shows that, with mass shootings removed, the firearm homicide death rate maintained its downward trend completely unchanged after 1996.
Criminologists point out that the rarity of mass murders in general, let along mass shootings, makes them an extremely difficult occurrence to predict.
4. The paper shows that the non-firearm death rate began to fall after 1996. Did Howard’s gun laws do that too?
5. The paper shows the unintentional firearm death rate actually rose after 1996. How can that be explained if the fall in mass shootings was a result of reduced firearm availability? Does Chapman know the difference between correlation and causation?
6. The paper shows the firearm suicide rate fell after 1996, as did the non-firearm suicide rate. This contradicts other data (AIC) pointing to method substitution. Nonetheless, it is ridiculous to suggest that fewer semi-automatic firearms means fewer firearm suicides. How many people need (or are capable of taking) a second shot to kill themselves?
Addressing the problems of suicide and severe mental health issues is not an opportunitiy to perpetuate personal biases. It is about accepting the need for both mental health practitioners and the community to identify and treat the mental disorders, particularly severe depression, that are associated with suicide and other violent acts.
7. The authors give no consideration to socio-economic factors that also influence suicide and murder.
Total sudden violent death across all categories, not just firearm deaths, has been steadily decreasing since 1997. This has been a result of community awareness about the factors causing suicide and the provision of more accessible services.
A decline in the homicide rate since 1996 could also be explained by the decline in young male adults as a proportion of the population. One of the lowest levels of homicide rates in Australian history occured during WWII when a lot of young males were absent from the country. This is in spite of the fact that guns were much more prevalent during that era.
Australia is not a safer or healthier place, despite the billion dollars or so spent on buying back legally owned firearms