Controlling Gun Violence: Assessing the Impact of Australia’s Gun Buyback Program Using a Synthetic Control Group Experiment
Gun Buyback programs have been implemented in various forms in countries such as the UK, USA, Brazil, Australia, and Argentina. Whether or not these programs are an effective approach for reducing national violent crime and homicides, however, remains unclear. Much of the uncertainty is due to the different ways in which Gun Buyback programs have been implemented. The Australian Gun Buyback program is distinguished from Gun Buyback programs in other countries by its abrupt implementation, its narrow focus on a particular class of firearms, and its broad application across the entire population. We assess the impact of Australia’s 1996 Gun Buyback program on national homicide rates using a synthetic control group quasi-experimental design, comparing the results to suicide and motor vehicle fatality trends to test for plausible alternative hypotheses. Results suggest that the Gun Buyback program significantly reduced Australia’s homicide rate in the decade following the intervention (1997–2007).
KeywordsFirearm policy Gun violence Synthetic control group Homicide Suicide
This research was conducted using publicly available data and did not receive any external support or funding.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
This type of retrospective study does not involve identifiable human subject data and is exempt from IRB review.
The publicly available data used in this study consists of aggregate frequency counts at the nation-level, and contains no individual or group level identifiers. For this type of study formal consent is not required.
- Abadie, A., & Gardeazabal, J. (2003). The economic costs of conflict: A case study of the Basque Country. American Economic Review, 113–132.Google Scholar
- ABC News Staff. (2019). “New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern announces post-Christchurch ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles”. Australian Broadcasting Commision. March 20. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-21/new-zealand-pm-jacinda-ardern-bans-semi-automatic-weapons/10923760.
- Australasian Police Ministers’ Council Special Firearms Meeting, Resolutions, Canberra, 10 May, 1996. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2796929-1996-National-Firearms-Agreement.html (retrieved 26 September 2018).
- Campbell, D. T., & Stanley, J. C. (1966). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for research. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.Google Scholar
- Card, D., & Krueger, A. B. (1994). Minimum wages and employment: A case study of the fast-food industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. American Economic Review, 84, 772–793.Google Scholar
- Durkheim, E. (1951). Suicide. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- LaFree, G. (1999). A summary and review of cross-national comparative studies of homicide. In Smith, M.D. & Zahn, M.A. (eds.), Homicide: A sourcebook of social research. Thousand Oaks, California.Google Scholar
- National Research Council. (2005). Firearms and violence: A critical review. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
- Reuter, P., & Mouzos, J. (2004). Australia: A massive buy back of low-risk guns. Evaluating gun policy: Effects on crime and violence, 121.Google Scholar
- Small Arms Survey. (2007). Small arms survey 2007: Guns and the city. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press.Google Scholar
- Ukert, B., Andreyeva, E., & Branas, C. C. (2017). Time series robustness checks to test the effects of the 1996 Australian firearm law on cause-specific mortality. Experimental Criminology (pp. 1–14.Google Scholar