At an event in October, Hillary Clinton talked a bit about preventing gun violence, and referenced a notable international example.
“The Australian government, as part of trying to clamp down on the availability of automatic weapons, offered a good price for buying hundreds of thousands of guns, and then they basically clamped down going forward in terms of having, you know, more of a background-check approach, more of a permitting approach,” Clinton said at the time.
It’s led some on the right to make Australia the basis for a new pitch to conservative voters. The Hill reported last week:
The National Rifle Association is tying President Obama and Hillary Clinton to Australia’s gun buy-back program, arguing the two Democrats want to confiscate American guns.The video, released by the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, includes clips of Obama and Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, offering positive comments about the Australian gun “confiscation” program.
As part of the launch of the video, the far-right group warned the public, “Don’t let what happened in Australia happen here.”
What the p.r. offensive fails to explain, however, is what exactly “happened in Australia” that Americans should be so eager to avoid.
Around the same time as the push from the NRA’s lobbying arm, Ted Cruz talked with conservative host Hugh Hewitt, who asked the Republican White House hopeful about President Obama referencing Australia during a recent town-hall forum.
“Listen, it’s not complicated why he brings up Australia all the time, because the President believes in confiscation…. The president wants to confiscate handguns,” Cruz argued, adding, “And as you know, Hugh, after Australia did that, the rate of sexual assaults, the rate of rapes, went up significantly, because women were unable to defend themselves.”
Is that true? Did the number of sexual assaults in Australia increase “significantly” while gun violence decreased?
Actually, no. The Washington Post did some fact-checking yesterday.
The rate of sexual assaults in Australia has increased slightly between 1996 and 2014, but there was no significant spike or drop after the 1996 legislative changes or buyback program. The increase likely is affected by the increase in reporting, and there wasn’t prevalent use of handguns for self-defense before 1996, as Cruz suggests. There was no blanket exemption allowing people to use handguns for self-defense prior to 1996, though the explicit prohibition came through the 1996 changes. […]Despite the litany of caveats, there was a gradual increase in sexual assault rates over a decade after the 1996 changes – which places his claim in the range of Three Pinocchios. But the rates didn’t go up “significantly” after the buyback, and there’s no evidence that changes to gun laws in Australia affected sexual assault rates or jeopardized the ability of women to protect themselves.
I’ll gladly concede that analysis of Australia’s gun policies is complicated, and making an apples-to-apples comparison to the United States is difficult. But even putting all of that aside, Cruz’s claims just aren’t supported by the evidence.
And I’m still unclear why the right believes we can’t “let what happened in Australia happen here.”