Hillary Clinton has said Australia’s 1996 gun ban—and subsequent confiscation and destruction of over 650,000 guns from pump shotguns to rimfire .22 rifles from lawful people like you—is an idea “worth considering on the national level.”
Australians beg to differ.
Today, 20 years after Australia’s gun ban, gun crime is skyrocketing in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city. And now politicians are talking about passing new gun-control laws to further disarm law-abiding Australians.
America’s 1st Freedom talked with Filip Despotoski, a state director for Australia’s Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, which he described first and foremost as a “gun rights group.” Despotoski said that after Australia’s Port Arthur mass shooting, Prime Minister John Howard pushed through a national gun ban with the help of “politicians who wanted people to think ‘we confiscated all these firearms and now everyone is safe.’”
Now, however, gun crime is skyrocketing in Melbourne. Since 2011, according to the Australian newspaper The Age, gun-related crime has doubled there:
“Crimes associated with firearm possession have also more than doubled, driven by the easy availability of handguns, [banned] semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and, increasingly, machine guns, that are smuggled into the country or stolen from licensed owners.”
Last week, Breitbart News reported that since January 2015, Melbourne has seen more than one shooting per week. And in 2015 alone, The Age reported, “more than 750 people with serious criminal convictions were caught carrying guns”—a five-fold increase over 2011. “There is almost no self-defense in Australia.”
— Filip Despotoski of Australia’s Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party
That might be a far cry from the violence witnessed in Chicago or other cities where the Obama Justice Department refuses to enforce federal gun laws against armed, violent, repeat gun offenders. But it represents a big change in Australia, and for the same reasons: Criminals don’t obey gun laws. And politicians can’t be bothered to enforce them against criminals, even as they push for more restrictive laws.
As Despotoski explained, in his state of New South Wales, over 97 percent of the gun crimes committed are committed with unregistered guns—and in Australia, owning an unregistered gun is itself a crime.
Indeed, politicians have passed law after law in Australia to make gun crimes doubleplus and tripleplus illegal over the years. As County Court Judge Lance Pilgrim told The Age, “When I first worked in the courts 54 years ago, 55 years ago … the maximum for possession of a handgun, first offense, was 12 months. Now ... it has gone, if I am remembering correctly, from 12 months to seven years. That is a 700-percent increase.”
Yet for all of Australia’s harsher laws and supposedly stiffer sentences, prosecutors and courts too often don’t enforce them when it counts. As The Age points out, according to Australia’s Sentencing Advisory Council, “less than half of criminals are ultimately sent to prison after being found guilty of possessing an unregistered firearm.”
That sounds a lot like Chicago, where in 2014, 99 percent of the illegal gun seizures from criminals were not prosecuted under laws that make it a federal felony for convicted criminals, drug dealers, gang members and violent offenders to even possess firearms. Out of more than 6,000 “illegal guns” seized from Chicago criminals, less than one out of every 100 was prosecuted.
Yet despite increasing gun crime in Australia, almost no one is talking about letting lawful citizens protect themselves.
As Despotoski said, “There is almost no self-defense in Australia.” You cannot own a firearm for self-defense in Australia. In fact, self-defense isn’t among the officially sanctioned “genuine reasons” you need to lawfully own a firearm in Australia, and carrying a weapon for self-defense is verboten.
“We believe that women, older people and the infirm especially should be allowed to carry non-lethal means to defend themselves,” Despotoski said of his Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party members, as if this were some radical, pie-in-the-sky policy objective that would never be approved. But for now, even carrying pepper spray or mace for self-defense is banned in Australia, except in Western Australia under strict regulations.
The result, as Australia Sen. David Leyonjhelm told NRA’s Ginny Simone, is that “We're a nation of victims.”
Meanwhile, as violent, armed crime explodes in Melbourne, politicians push ever more laws that put honest, good people in fear of the law. “We're a nation of victims.”
— Australia Sen. David Leyonjhelm
For example, the Australian state of New South Wales, Despotoski said, has laws that can be overzealously applied to seize firearms from people who present no threat to society. “I just have to get caught jaywalking and they can take my guns away,” he said. “Our party members have been falsely accused and acquitted in court—only to spend two years trying to get their guns back.”
Part of the problem, Despotoski explained, is that the people who seize firearms from citizens for minor offenses are the same people you have to petition to get your firearms back.
Right now, Despotoski said, he and others don’t know what, exactly, the government will push by way of new anti-gun laws.
In Victoria, there’s talk of another “amnesty” to get citizens to hand over firearms that were banned in 1996 but not yet confiscated. There’s also talk of new powers for police, including warrantless searches for prohibited persons and new “prohibition orders.”
Might Australia seek to ban handguns, as the United Kingdom did? “It very well could happen,” Despotoski said. “If they think they can get away with something, they will.”
So when Democratic presidential nominee Clinton says the Australian gun ban would be “worth considering on the national level,” remember what that means—and on Nov. 8, vote to save your right to defend yourself and your family.