The debate on gun control is only gaining momentum. On Thursday, Senator Diane Feinstein outlined her plans to introduce sweeping legislation that includes fingerprinting and registration of all those who currently own so-called semi-automatic “assault” weapons.

Those in favor of a total ban on firearms often point to countries like England and Australia where firearms are banned or virtually impossible to possess. A look into the statistics might offer some clarity, though, about how safe such a move actually makes a country.

Let’s start at home. From 2009 to 2011, homicides overall declined slightly according to a 2011 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report, with a corresponding drop in homicides by firearms.

In fact, the report says homicide is not among the top 15 leading causes of death in America. (As recently as 2009, the CDC reported that homicide was in the top 15 at #15.) Instead:

  • Accidents (unintentional deaths) were #5 and Suicide (intentional harm) has held solid as the 10th leading cause of death for several years.
  • The stats from 2009 show that homicides totaled 16,799, with 11,493 of those attributed to guns.
  • During that same year, motor vehicle deaths were nearly triple that of gun-related deaths — 34,485 vs. 11,493.
  • Death from accidental falls totaled 24,792, almost double the firearms homicide total.

The stats for gun deaths have actually shown some significant declines in the past two decades.

Homicide and Gun Statistics from England and Australia Show Banning Guns Doesnt Work

Image: National Institute of Justice

Looking at the above graph, it is worth noting that deaths caused by “other guns” has been relatively flat since 1985. The assault weapons ban was in place from 1994-2004.

And what about the argument most often made by the Left quoting the success of oppressive gun laws in countries like Australia and England? A recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal by Joyce Lee Malcolm shows that argument to be hollow: “After a school massacre, the U.K. banned handguns in 1998. A decade later, handgun crime has doubled.”

Malcom’s article details what happened after Australia banned many guns following a 1996 mass murder of 35 people by a madman with assault rifles. The country tightened registration laws, banned assault rifles, pump-action shotguns, and also forced a buy back of more than 600,000 guns. What effect did this have on crime?

“A 2003 study published by the Brookings Institution, found homicides “continued a modest decline” since 1997. They concluded that the impact of the National Firearms Agreement was “relatively small,” with the daily rate of firearms homicides declining 3.2%.”

During the same period in America, deaths attributed to firearms dropped by nearly ten times the decline seen in Australia. Restricting or confiscating handguns seems to have had almost no effect on homicides in Australia and the stats also show that the law had no real effect on suicides.

“Suicides with firearms went down but suicides by other means went up,” Malcom notes.

And what about the oft-cited British gun laws? Have they done the job?

Restrictive gun laws have been around for almost 100 years in England, and Malcolm reports that getting a permit requires proving to police that you have a “good reason” for needing a gun. Self defense is not considered to be a good reason in England. Following a 1987 shooting in the British town of Hungerford, the Brits enacted stricter controls. And in 1998, a near-total ban on gun ownership followed another mass shooting. Were these moves a success?

Within a decade of the handgun ban and the confiscation of handguns from registered owners, crime with handguns had doubled according to British government crime reports. Gun crime, not a serious problem in the past, now is. Armed street gangs have some British police carrying guns for the first time.

There is little doubt that the Senate will soon put forth new legislation regarding gun ownership, especially as it relates to so-called assault weapons. However, those making the argument that banning guns has worked in places like Australia and England might be advised to check the statistics or risk looking foolish if they encounter someone armed with the facts.

(H/T: Weasel Zippers)

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Follow Mike Opelka on Twitter @stuntbrain