Western Australia Shows That Gun Control Has Its Limits

Jose Nino Comments

Gun control advocates frequently laud Australia for its gun control laws and use it as a gun control example for the U.S. to follow. According to a report from Bearing Arms, however, Australia’s gun control laws might not be the cure-all that many are marketing them to be.

Western Australia is now experiencing some problems concerning its ability to track certain weapons. State Auditor General Caroline Spencer claims in a new audit analyzing the effectiveness of Western Australia’s gun control policies that the Western Australia Police “has significant weaknesses in its regulatory controls and information systems.”


The auditor contended that the assessment and decision-making “lack demonstrated rigor and transparency.”

Further, the audit also found there is limited monitoring of compliance with license conditions, and when police does inspect, it is not informed by a documented risk assessment. Police is also slow to follow up when licenses have expired or for deceased estate firearms.

Even the basic compliance information is hard to obtain according to the executive summary:

Risk-based and timely compliance activities are essential to effective regulation of firearms. Police’s key firearm licensing information system does not effectively support the entity to carry out its licensing and compliance activities. Basic licence and compliance information is unreliable and hard to get.

What we see here is the difficulty of administering even the most draconian of gun laws. Even a country with supposedly “stellar” gun control laws like Australia will have trouble enforcing those laws. No matter where you go, law enforcement resources are tight. Adding more administrative work through gun control legislation will make it harder for law enforcement to pursue real crimes.

Despite being marketed as the answer to gun violence, Australia’s gun laws have not been a cure-all for shootings and other forms of violence. In fact, a mass shooting took place on June 4, 2019 in Darwin, Australia where four people were killed by a gunman who used an illegal gun.

On top of that, after Australia’s passage of the National Firearms Agreement in 1996, there have been numerous troubling trends regarding other forms of crimes such as rapes and sexual assaults. In 400 Years of Gun Control, Howard Nemerov demonstrated that Australia experienced a 21.4 percent increase in the rate of rapes and sexual assaults during 1995 to 2006. In contrast, America witnessed sexual assaults fall by 16.8 percent. One theory behind why this trend occurred is that increased gun ownership benefits weaker segments of society— elderly people and women — when confronting criminals who generally overpower theme with brute strength.

When dealing with the issue of crime, there are numerous factors at play, and they usually don’t involve gun control. One thing to note is that in the West there has seen an over-arching trend of decreasing violence over the last 50 years. In fact, the U.S. has experienced decreasing crime rates while liberalizing various state laws during this period.

Nevertheless, policy experts should probably reconsider gun control laws’ impact on crime rates.

There are very likely much larger factors such as cultural cohesion and social trust that explain why certain countries have higher crime rates than others. Australia is a peaceful country, but it’s likely not because of its gun laws, which appear to be harder to enforce these days.

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