Firearms are used to kill two out of every three homicide victims in America.. Researchers have found that homicide rates among children, and among women and men of all ages, are higher in states where more households have guns. And in Australia, a big gun “buyback” lowered homicide?and suicide?rates considerably.

Researchers Matthew Miller, David Hemenway and Deborah Azrael did a telephone survey of over 200,000 respondents nationwide, from all 50 states, asking whether any firearms were kept in or around their home. The survey found that approximately one in three American households reported firearm ownership.

They found that states with higher rates of household firearm ownership had significantly higher homicide victimization rates for children, and for women and men. Miller says, “Our findings suggest that in the United States, household firearms may be an important source of guns used to kill children, women and men, both on the street and in their homes.”

Australia is a society that is like ours in many ways, making it a possible social microcosm for changes we’re thinking of making here in the US. Recently, a massive gun buyback doubled the fall in Australian gun deaths and suicides?a fall in crime that began with Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms, which led to fewer firearm deaths, firearm suicides, and a decade without any mass shootings. Could the same thing happen here if we instigated the same policies? Several major US cities have tried this.

The reforms banned the use of semi automatic and pump action shotguns and rifles, destroying more than 700,000 weapons taken from a population of 12 million adults. The Australian legislation was prompted by a firearm massacre in Tasmania in 1996, when 35 people were killed and a further 18 seriously wounded. In the 18 years before the legislation was passed, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia, in which 112 people died and 52 were wounded. There have been no mass shootings since the law came into force.

The number of murders using guns fell from an annual average of 93 to just over 55. In the 18 years prior to the legislation, on average, 491 people took their lives, using a firearm. After the legislation, this fell to an average of 246. There was no evidence that the use of other methods to commit suicide or homicide increased.

Before the introduction of the law, the overall number of homicides not related to guns had increased 1% a year. After the law took effect, this number fell by almost 2.5% a year. The total numbers of suicides fell by 4% after having risen annually by 2% before the introduction of the gun laws.

It?s obvious that having a gun available is a major incentive when it comes to killing yourself?or others.

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