I’ll make this simple for you, the answer is no. Recently someone posted a meme on Facebook regarding death rates and then someone else followed up on murder rates and so I took the time to look into the CDC and FBI statistics and found both to be flawed. I also found the CDC and FBI data didn’t correlate, but that is fodder for another blog post. While presenting the data I mentioned how many firearm related deaths were suicide and someone said the suicide rate in Australia plummeted after the 1996 gun buyback so I went to find some data to support or dispute that claim and that is my blog entry for today.
So if the Australian buyback program of 1996 lowered suicide rates we should see a decline in them in 1997, 1998, etc, correct? If we look at the overall suicide rate for Australia from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, we see the suicide rate increase after 1996. Now I would guess the number of firearm related suicides might have decreased, but they didn’t stop anyone from committing suicide, they may have stopped them from using a firearm as their method of choice, but in the end it didn’t change the rate.
One of the gentlemen in the discussion provided a source for his argument that suicide rates decreased. It was by Andrew Leigh and entitled Do Gun Buybacks Save Lives? Evidence from Panel Data and I believe the passage on page 3(511) sums it up best (emphasis added), “may also lower overall death by suicide and homicide.” The article is not based in fact, if it was, there could be an absolute statement, not something as wishy-washy as this. All Andrew had to do was look at the data to see his assertion was false. I really, really despise things like this. I guess at one time we thought the world MAY be flat and everyone bought it. I must admit I did not fully read every passage in his paper, but knowing he is wrong on this main point demonstrates the paper may not be worth printing.
So there was another lesser known program to buyback pistols in 2003. One would think if suicide rates decrease after a buyback they would certainly do so after a pistol buyback. Once again the data does not support a dip in the rates. Looking at the 2012 data the number of suicides in 2003 was 2,213. That data shows 2007 had 2,227 suicides and 2012 had 2,535 suicides. The trend is heading in the wrong direction to demonstrate any guy buyback program influenced suicides to decline. I believe someone intent on doing self-harm will do so with whatever means is easiest. If one method is unavailable they will simply choose another. It is a sad fact, but a fact nonetheless. So if someone engages you in a discussion regarding the decline in suicides in Oz following 1996 now you know the truth which is supported by actual data.