From the Ottoman Empire to Australia, private citizens have been forced to forfeit their firearms, and the results have been disastrous.
October 23, 2015
Americans are granted the right to own and bear firearms, a right that has been stripped away from citizens in many countries over the last century. But before any new gun control legislation passes, it’s worthwhile to examine how similar laws have affected ours and other nations in the past. Do less guns make us safer? What has happened in the wake of nationwide gun grabs? What can history teach us about firearms ownership that could prove valuable as we move into the future?
First, a few statistics from the NRA-ILA. There are an estimated 300 million firearms in America and approximately 100 million gun owners. Roughly 40 million of those gun owners have handguns, and it is believed that approximately 40-45 percent of homes have at least one gun. Many of these guns are owned by hunters, which account for the sale of 14.5 million hunting licenses annually. Those hunting licenses create billions of dollars and revenue, and the Pittman-Robertson Act has generated millions of dollars for conservation—not to mention the funds generated for wildlife by groups like Ducks Unlimited and other organizations. But there’s another telling statistic that has been largely buried since a 1982 study of violent criminals in 11 states. Of those criminals who were surveyed, 40% said that they had decided not to commit a crime because they believed the intended victim owned or had access to a firearm. 34% of the criminals surveyed said that they had been personally shot at, wounded, captured or scared away from the scene by private firearms owners, and 69% responded that they knew of at least one other criminal who had been stopped or scared away by firearms.
Historically, there are several instances when governments seized firearms from private citizens and then committed atrocities. In 1911, the Ottoman Empire began a gun confiscation program that eventually led to the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians. In 1938, Hitler’s Nazi party implemented gun confiscation programs that preceded the Holocaust, and in 1935 the Chinese government forced citizens to turn over their firearms, and between 1935 and 1952 20 million citizens were murdered. Similar gun control measures, gun seizures, and subsequent acts of violence against citizens have occurred in Cambodia and the Soviet Union, where unarmed populaces were left with little recourse when governments initiated acts of violence.
The Australian gun buyback program of 1996 resulted in the collection of approximately 650,000 guns, but did that serve to reduce homicide rates? Not according to a long-term study that was released in 2007 titled, “Gun Laws and Sudden Death: Did the Australian Firearms legislation of 1996 Make a Difference?” authors Jeanine Baker and Samara McPhedran examined homicide rates in Australia from 1980 until 2004. What is clear from their study is that homicide rates dropped steadily from 1980 until 1996, when a shooting prompted the legislation. According to Baker and McPhedran, the buyback program and stricter legislation had, “no influence on homicide in Australia.”
Such programs, if ever implemented in the United States, would cause major resistance and would cost a tremendous amount of money. History has proven once again that disarming legal citizens and stripping away their gun ownership rights has no positive effect on public safety.