Friday, 27 August 2010

Crime In Oz

As a member of the SSAA (Sporting Shooters Association of Australia) I've been bombarded with a lot of propaganda from them about the Green's stance on firearms ownership. I thought it worth looking into the reality of the situation, to see just how much of our crime is carried out with firearms. The SSAA offer the statistics covering illegal vs legal firearms involved in crime, so I looked up the more general information on the rate of crimes involving firearms compared to other types of weapons or no weapon at all.

The ABS only offers statistics from 2001 onward, that I could find in a quick search. The figures used are drawn from the document available here titled "VICTIMS, Australia - Publication tables 2.1-2.8" These figures are for victims of crime, and I feel they'd better represent levels of crime rather than using the figures for offenders. Victims report the crimes even if an offender isn't caught to provide statistics.

Starting with crime in general, it's divided up into a few categories, and as can be seen in the graph below, murder and attempted murder are almost invisible in the mass of other types of crime.

We're seeing rates of 260 odd murders per annum, and about the same of attempted murder.

Considering all types of crime, the following graph shows the rates of crimes that involve firearms compared to those that don't.

Out of the mass of crime, those involving firearms are a minuscule proportion. Only around 3.5% of crimes involve the use of firearms. From the SSAA:

The AIC’s ‘Homicide in Australia: 2006-07 National Homicide Monitoring Program annual report’ stated that 93 per cent of firearms involved in homicides had never been registered and were used by unlicensed individuals.

Similarly, the AIC has most recently reported that a miniscule number of only 0.06 per cent of registered firearms are stolen and that handguns are the least likely type of firearm to be stolen.

Only 0.06% of registered firearms are stolen... Handguns are the least likely to be stolen...

In 2009 there were 35,111 crimes (or victims) and of those, 3.5% involved the use of firearms, so that's 1,228 incidents involving firearms. 93% of those involved the use of illegal firearms (the ones that wont be affected by any changes to our current gun laws.) Put the other way, only 7% of those crimes will be potentially impacted by proposed changes, or about 86 crimes per year, or 0.25% of crime.

So what is the basis for the Green's stance? They want to:
28. progress gun law reform, including prohibition of the possession and use of automatic hand guns in the community

Yet time and again it's been pointed out that undertaking gun law reform doesn't impact crime, it only impacts the rights of those who already do the right thing.Criminals will still be criminals, and still have access to illegal firearms. Most crimes involving weapons are carried out with knives (2-3 times more common than firearms in all categories of crime). Following a change to laws around 1997-1998 would we expect an ever increasing decline in knife related crime? The percentage of robberies carried out with knives has remained stubbornly around the 20% mark for the period 2001 - 2009, and around 30% for murder and attempted murder.

Now, I like the Greens, most days, and as far as policies go they've got more that I'd support than most any other party around. The trouble is the only policy they'd have a real chance of getting through would be this one, precisely because it makes no sense, yet it plays on people's ignorance of the facts and the fears that have been manipulated so that once again the mass of public opinion is demonising one group whilst at the same time ignoring reality, and ignoring the true sources of problems.

Why is it that NZ can have a more permissive range of rights for citizens with respect to gun ownership yet not descend into an absolute hellish chaos as anticipated by the gun control groups?

Just in finishing, the following graph shows change in amount of crime as a percentage of the baseline crime rate in 2001. The numbers have been generally improving since that time, though there was a marked uptick in crime in 2006. For some reason crime across all categories increased, but there was a 200% increase in murders involving firearms, and a 400% increase in kidnap/abductions involving firearms. I wonder if there was a big influx of black market firearms in that year, or whether a new breed of organised gangs moved into the the market?

As we progress along the road to a civilisation post-peak everything it will be interesting to see how this last graph may change over time.

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