At the New York Times, Nick Kristof has written a column in favor gun control in the wake of Wednesday's terrible shooting of a local news personality and camera man near Roanoke, Virginia. It's a drearily predictable column in that it reiterates a number of pat talking points about gun control that are easily refuted. Kristof writes:
The lesson from the ongoing carnage is not that we need a modern prohibition (that would raise constitutional issues and be impossible politically), but that we should address gun deaths as a public health crisis.
Ok, fair enough. I don't think Second Amendment advocates are against measures to reduce gun deaths that don't compromise their rights. But seven paragraphs later, Kristof writes this:
Australia is a model. In 1996, after a mass shooting there, the country united behind tougher firearm restrictions. The Journal of Public Health Policy notes that the firearm suicide rate dropped by half in Australia over the next seven years, and the firearm homicide rate was almost halved.
Australia is the model? Really? When Kristof writes the "the country united behind tougher firearm restrictions" he's eliding over the fact those tougher firearm restrictions included the banning of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns. (Handguns can be owned in Australia, but licensing requirements are onerous, and large caliber handguns are illegal, as are handguns that hold more than 10 rounds.)
Further, the Australian government confiscated somewhere between 650,000 and 1 million guns. The government reimbursed gun owners using the proceeds from a special tax, and called the program a "buy-back." President Obama also cited Australia's gun laws as an example for the U.S. to follow earlier this year, and yet the reporting on Australia by the U.S. media often fails to mention that this buy-back program was compulsory.
Finally, if Kristof wants to tout that "firearm homicide rate was almost halved" since Australia banned and/or confiscated the lion's share of commonly owned rifles., surely he's aware that, according to a Congressional Research Service report, the firearm homicide rate in the U.S. was more than halved between 1993 and 2013? And this decline in the homicide rate happened (mostly) during a period of expanding gun rights:
From 1993 to 2013, the estimated firearms-related homicide victim rate per one hundred thousand of the population decreased from 6.62 to 3.10.
Kristof's use of Australia is certainly revealing. If Kristof wants to ban and confiscate guns, he should say so plainly and directly because there's no way to praise Australia's gun laws without acknowledging that following their lead would involve banning and confiscating guns. To simultaneously say "the lesson from the ongoing carnage is not that we need a modern prohibition" and "Australia is the model" reveals either Kristof has no idea what he's talking or he's harboring a dishonest hidden agenda.