Australian Institute of Criminology

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Lax firearm laws mean more deaths

Media Release

04 November 1996

A new report released by the Australian Institute of Criminology today shows that Australian states in which guns have been more easily available have significantly higher death rates than the national average.

The AIC analysis also shows that the highest rates of firearm suicides in Australia are in the men over 60 category.

Firearms deaths, rate per 100,000 population 1994

New South Wales2.45
Western Australia2.70
South Australia3.27
Northern Territory8.18
  • Over the past decade the rate of firearms deaths per 100,000 population has fallen, as legislation of the late 1980s in some states has made firearms somewhat more difficult to obtain.
  • Those states in which firearms regulation and licensing have been less stringent have had significantly higher death rates than the national average (eg. Queensland's death rate is 38.9% above, and Tasmania's is 144% above). These figures are pre- Port Arthur.
  • There have been 24 known mass firearms killings since 1987 - resulting in 128 deaths - an average of 13 per year.
  • Of all the firearms deaths in Australia last year 81 % were suicides. A firearm was used in I in 4 homicides and I in 5 suicides. There is at least one suicide death by firearm each day, and every fourth day one person is killed by another, with the use of a firearm.
  • The majority of homicides occur in the home (55%). Not only is the home more dangerous than the street from a homicide risk perspective, the chances of a firearm being used in the home are much higher than on the street.
  • The Australian Institute of Criminology's National Homicide Monitoring Program has found that males comprise 61 % of homicide victims and females 39%; but males make up 89% of persons accused of a firearms homicide whilst females make up 11%. One third of all homicides take place within the family and another one third take place among friends and acquaintances. 11 % take place among strangers and of the stranger homicides less than 10% involve a firearm.
  • Firearm suicides in non-metropolitan areas are much higher than in metropolitan areas. Suicide by firearm is rare for females but high among males. The highest rate of firearm suicide in Australia is among men over the age of 60.
  • Australia's rate of firearm-related homicide is 0.4 per 100,000 population compared to 0.7 in Canada and 6.3 in the United States of America. In the United Kingdom, however, the firearm homicide rate is 0.1 per 100,000. The culture of firearms is less pervasive in the UK.