These 4 countries have nearly eliminated gun deaths — here’s what the US can learn

No country around the world is a perfect analog of the US, but several have taken steps on gun control that worked for them — here are their insights

Business Insider | By Chris Weller

On Tuesday, November 14, a gunman went on a shooting spree at the Rancho Tehama reserve in Northern California, killing five people and injuring three children.

A week before, a man in Sutherland Springs, Texas stormed a church with a semi-automatic rifle, killing 26 people and injuring 20.

A month before that, a gunman in the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, in Las Vegas, shot and killed 59 nearby concertgoers and injured 546.

As mass shootings like these seem to escalate in the US, so do questions about gun control. Americans who fear their town or city could host the next attack wonder what strategies, if any, the US could take to reduce rates of gun violence.

No country around the world is a perfect analog of the US, but several have taken steps that worked for them — here are their insights.

 

Australia paid citizens to sell their guns to the government

Following a deadly 1980s and ’90s, culminating in a 1996 gun-driven massacre that left 35 dead, Australian Prime Minister John Howard convened an assembly to devise gun-control strategies.

The group landed on a massive buyback program costing roughly $500 million that bought and destroyed more than 600,000 automatic and semiautomatic weapons and pump-action shotguns.

Almost overnight, gun death totals got cut in half. Firearm suicides have dropped from 2.2 per 100,000 people in 1995 to 0.8 in 2006. Firearm homicides have dropped from 0.37 per 100,000 people in 1995 to 0.15 in 2006.

A US buyback would mean destroying 40 million guns, but on a statewide level the undertaking might not be so massive.

Australia gun deaths statistic
Andy Kiersz / Tech Insider

Japan puts citizens through a rigorous set of test

Japan seldom has more than 10 shooting deaths a year in a population of 127 million people, due to its strict laws for obtaining firearms.

If Japanese people want to own a gun, they must attend an all-day class, pass a written test, and achieve at least 95% accuracy during a shooting-range test. Then they have to pass a mental-health evaluation, which takes place at a hospital, and pass a background check, in which the government digs into their criminal record and interviews friends and family.

Finally, they can only buy shotguns and air rifles — no handguns — and every three years they must retake the class and initial exam.

Unlike the second amendment in the US, Japanese law began from the point of outlawing guns, with amendments gradually loosening that ban. Still, the wisdom from Japan seems to be that tighter regulations keep guns confined only to those fit to use them.

 

Norway exemplifies the power of social cohesion and trust

Despite having roughly a third of the guns as the US, Norway has about a tenth of the gun deaths. Sociologists who study the Nordic model have found social cohesion, between citizens and between citizens and their government, goes a long way toward ensuring a (mostly) peaceful society.

In Norway, for example, police officers fatally shoot people fewer times in nine years than US police do in a day. Gummi Oddsson, a cross-cultural sociologist from Northern Michigan University, has found that Nordic governments go to great lengths to build trust in local communities.

He told Business Insider that US states could look to strengthen their own sense of trust through measures like community policing. People may begin to feel more safe around the police, and the police will have a better grasp of the neighborhood’s makeup.

 

The UK took a multi-pronged approach

The UK has taken an approach that combines elements of the other three countries.

Around the time Australia passed its gun regulation, Parliament passed legislation banning private handgun ownership in Britain and banned semi-automatic and pump-action firearms throughout the entire UK. It also required shotgun owners to register their weapons.

A $200 million buyback program led to the purchase and destruction of 162,000 guns and 700 tons of ammunition. Today, there are roughly 6.5 guns per 100 people. The US, meanwhile, has 88 guns per 100 people.

The result has been a country of 56 million that has roughly 50 to 60 gun deaths each year. Compare that to the US, a country six times as large, but with 160 times as many gun-related homicides.

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This article originally appeared in the Business Insider

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These 4 countries have nearly eliminated gun deaths — here's what the US can learn
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These 4 countries have nearly eliminated gun deaths — here's what the US can learn
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No country around the world is a perfect analog of the US, but several have taken steps on gun control that worked for them — here are their insights
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