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July 19, 2016

Lessons From Australia’s National Firearms Agreement

Author Affiliations
  • 1Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Gun Policy and Research, Baltimore, Maryland

Copyright 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA. 2016;316(3):279-281. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.8819

Australia’s political and policy response to a mass shooting in Tasmania in 1996 when an assailant used an assault rifle to murder 35 people and wound 19 others1 stands in stark contrast to the experience in the United States with such events. The mass shooting in Tasmania led to public outcry, and Australia’s political parties came together to pass and implement a comprehensive set of gun regulations appropriately titled the National Firearms Agreement (NFA). In the United States—where the firearm homicide rate in 2013 was nearly 23 times higher2 than the firearm homicide rate Chapman et al3 report in this issue of JAMA for Australia (3.54 vs 0.15 per 100 000 population)2,3—mass shootings occur on an all too regular basis with no definitive response from Congress. Australia’s political parties, led by conservative-leaning Prime Minister John Howard, forged compromise to address a critical public safety problem. The US Congress did not advance laws to address important weaknesses in federal gun policies following horrific tragedies, including the murder of 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. Following the recent attack in June 2016 that killed 49 people at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub, Congress is expected to vote on gun safety measures (as of June 20, 2016), although whether any new laws will be advanced remains unknown.

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