Fact Check: 'Australian Police Officer' Does NOT Detail Increase In Homicide Rate A Year After New Gun Control Laws Were Introduced

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: 'Australian Police Officer' Does NOT Detail Increase In Homicide Rate A Year After New Gun Control Laws Were Introduced Misses Mark

Did an Australian police officer named "Ed Chenel" detail an increase in that country's homicide rate a year after new gun control laws were introduced? No, that's not true: It's unclear whether Chenel ever existed but statistics from the Australian Institute of Criminology show that the new laws resulted in a lower rate of homicides nationally.

The claim appeared in a Facebook post on June 25, 2015, under the title "Australian Gun Law Update." It opened:

Here's a thought to warm some of your hearts....
From: Ed Chenel, A police officer in Australia
Hi Yanks, I thought you all would like to see the real figures from Down Under.

It has now been 12 months since gun owners in Australia were forced by a new law to surrender 640,381 personal firearms to be destroyed by our own government, a program costing Australia taxpayers more than $500 million dollars.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Oz One.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Jun 8 14:48:43 2022 UTC)

Similar versions of this post have been circulating for more than 20 years. Lead Stories found one purportedly from "Officer Ed Chenel" that dates back to an online forum from August 21, 2001. A version from 2020 can be found here, and a Google search for "Australian Gun Law Update" returns hundreds of examples of the post through the years.

Much more than a year ago

Although the post says it's been "12 months since gun owners in Australia were forced ... to surrender" their personal firearms, it's actually been about 26 years since a firearms buyback program was instituted. Even when this post was published in 2015, it still would have been 19 years earlier. In 1996 former Australian Prime Minister John Howard helped coordinate the National Firearms Agreement. It included a temporary firearms buyback program that purchased about 640,000 weapons between 1996 and 1997, following the Port Arthur Massacre in April 1996 that left 35 people dead. The Facebook post claims to show "first year" crimes statistics from Australia following the firearms agreement, which it said included an increase in homicides:

Australia-wide, homicides are up 6.2 percent,
Australia-wide, assaults are up 9.6 percent;
Australia-wide, armed robberies are up 44 percent (yes, 44 percent)!

The Australian Institute of Criminology report, Homicide In Australia 2019-2020, proves the homicide portion of the claim is false. The rate fell about 3 percent. Table A3 of the report shows that homicides occurred at a rate of 1.82 per 100,000 people in 1994-95, then 1.66 per 100,000 in 1995-96 (the period that includes the Port Arthur massacre). Homicides continued to decline in the following two years, to 1.62 per 100,000 in 1996-97 and 1.61 in 1997-98. The homicide rate in Australia has been on a general downward trend since 1994, although it has increased in the two most recent years data were available:

Homicide chart.png

(Source: Created in Canva using data from the Australian Institute of Criminology -- rate per 100,000)

The homicide rate in Australia is quite low compared to the United States, which saw a 30 percent increase in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center, which used Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures:

There were 7.8 homicides for every 100,000 people in the United States in 2020, up from six homicides per 100,000 people the year before.

For Australia, the 2019 to 2020 homicide rate was 1.02 for every 100,000 (Table A3).

Assaults and armed robberies

The numbers for assaults were also inaccurate but closer to the mark. While the post claims that assaults were up 9.6 percent in the year after the gun law changes, the Australian Bureau of Statistics data (page 42) shows there was an 8.6 percent increase in assaults from 1996 to 1997 and a 6.8 percent increase in assaults between 1997 and 1998 (page 38).

The claim of a 44 percent increase in the number of armed robberies (page 67) from 1996 to 1997 is accurate, though. There was an 18 percent increase (page 10) in the number of victims of armed robbery from 1995 to 1996 and a 20 percent increase (page 9) from 1997 to 1998.

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  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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