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Image From Policy Inertia to World Leader: Australia's ‘Perfect Storm’ of Gun Control

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From Policy Inertia to World Leader: Australia's ‘Perfect Storm’ of Gun Control

From Policy Inertia to World Leader: Australia's ‘Perfect Storm’ of Gun Control

By Philip Alpers and Zareh Ghazarian

In: Successful Public Policy: Lessons from Australia and New Zealand

Edited by Joannah Luetjens, Michael Mintrom and Paul t'Hart.
Canberra, ANU Press pp. 207-233, 30 April 2019

Australian firearm policy had altered very little in 65 years prior to the 1990s. The events in April 1996, however, precipitated 12 days that dramatically changed national firearm legislation. Thirty-five people were killed when a gunman opened fire at the Port Arthur Historic Site in the state of Tasmania.

This chapter explores how these events created a ‘perfect storm’ of outrage, law and leadership that forced policy reform. It considers the political and constitutional challenges the national government faced and details the swift legislative changes implemented following the massacre. With over 20 years of research and data, this chapter describes the attitude adjustments which enabled effective enforcement of firearm legislation and the notable improvements to public health and safety which followed.

Although these changes are widely credited with establishing the nation as a world leader in the prevention of armed violence, unintended consequences of Australia’s gun control laws may contain the seed of their own destruction.

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pdf Alpers Australia Mass Shootings 1971-2018

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Alpers Australia Mass Shootings 1971-2018

Mass Gun Killings in Australia, 1971-2018

 

- Of 108 victims shot dead, 53% were killed by a licensed gun owner

- 91% of the victims were shot by a killer with no previous history of violent crime

- 80% of the victims were shot by a killer with no previous history of mental illness

- All the perpetrators were men

document Alpers GJIA Australian Gun Laws Cannot Work in America For Now

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Australia's Gun Laws Can't Work in America –
At Least Not Yet

Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, 30 March 2018
By Philip Alpers

The United States can, and inevitably will follow the same gun control principles as Australia. Americans already possess the tools needed to do what they've always done – to lead the world in tackling urgent epidemics with proven, evidence-based public health measures. But as in the early days of HIV/AIDS, the first barrier is ideology. This article proposes the most obvious and proven solutions to America's epidemic of armed violence, some of which are bound to be adopted, but not anytime soon.

pdf Fatal Firearm Incidents Before and After Australia's 1996 National Firearms Agreement Banning Semiautomatic Rifles

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Fatal Firearm Incidents Before and After
Australia's 1996 National Firearms Agreement
Banning Semiautomatic Rifles

Annals of Internal Medicine, 13 March 2018
By Simon Chapman, Michael Stewart, Philip Alpers and Michael Jones

This study finds "strong evidence to reject" the hypothesis that the sudden cessation of mass shootings in Australia was a matter of chance, and calculates that the odds against this are 200,000 to 1. If the country's gun control laws had not been tightened and more than a million firearms destroyed, 16 additional mass shootings might have occurred.

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Image Australian Gun Laws

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Australian Gun Laws

Australian Gun Laws

By Philip Alpers

In: The Palgrave Handbook of Australian and New Zealand Criminology, Crime and Justice (Springer); Antje Deckert and Rick Sarre, Eds.

By 1996, Australia had suffered a spate of 13 public mass shootings which claimed 112 lives and ended only on April 28th, when 35 innocents were shot dead in the Port Arthur massacre. The next day, public health and law practitioners ignited a wildfire campaign for gun control which was agreed and adopted by all sides of politics in just 12 remarkable days. In the 20 years which followed, more than a million guns were destroyed. Mass shootings simply ceased, and the risk of an Australian dying by gunshot dropped by more than half. Although cause and effect remain in dispute, the world’s most comprehensive suite of legislation to reduce gun death and injury is now widely cited as an example of best practice.

This chapter shows how and why, along with almost all colonies of European empires, Australia adopted three legislative pillars of gun control; licensing gun owners; registering each of their firearms; and treating private gun ownership as a conditional privilege, not a right. I describe the patchwork of laws and loopholes which permitted one small jurisdiction to undermine the best efforts of seven others until the day it suffered 35 gun deaths in a single massacre. I describe the remarkable two weeks in which law campaigners, the public, and all sides of politics united to replace a jumble of legislation across eight jurisdictions with a single, comprehensive national agreement, but I also recall the hard years of policy slog which made that possible. I outline the provisions of the National Firearms Agreement, its effects, and the legislative backsliding which continues to this day. Perhaps most importantly, I present evidence of the public safety impacts of those laws, now cited around the world. Finally, I credit officials and police with leading two decades of national attitude adjustment to guns and gun owners, reminiscent of the 1980s turnaround in drink-driving enforcement.

Publisher's Web Page

pdf Implementing the Arms Trade Treaty and the UNPoA: A Guide to Coordinating an Effective Arms Control System

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Implementing the Arms Trade Treaty and the UNPoA: A Guide to Coordinating an Effective Arms Control System

Implementing the Arms Trade Treaty and the
UN Small Arms Programme of Action: A Guide to
Coordinating an Effective Arms Control System

By Laura Spano and Philip Alpers

The Centre for Armed Violence Reduction (CAVR) focuses on preventing the flow of illicit conventional arms. This is the second edition of our Implementation Guide for the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and the UN Small Arms Programme of Action (UNPoA). Launched at the United Nations in New York, the Guide is used around the world at international meetings and distributed to government officials. Our aim is to help governments develop an effective interagency coordinating mechanism, to adopt the Arms Trade Treaty and to speed implementation of the UNPoA.

pdf Firearm Legislation in Australia 21 Years After the National Firearms Agreement

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Firearm Legislation in Australia 21 Years
After the National Firearms Agreement

By Philip Alpers and Amélie Rossetti

Four consecutive formal reports have now found that no Australian State or Territory has at any stage fully complied with the 1996 or 2002 firearm resolutions which collectively formed the National Firearms Agreement. In important areas, State and Territory legislation has been blocked or revised to dilute the effect of the NFA. This report, commissioned and funded by Gun Control Australia, finds that on balance, both non-compliance from day one and two decades of political pressure have steadily reduced restrictions and undermined the NFA’s original intent.

pdf Reinvigorating the Narrative: The Broader Benefits of the Arms Trade Treaty

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Reinvigorating the Narrative: The Broader Benefits of the Arms Trade Treaty

Reinvigorating the Narrative:
The Broader Benefits of the Arms Trade Treaty

By Laura Spano and Philip Alpers

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is often misrepresented—by some, mistrusted. Facts and answers can be found in a variety of sources, but until now the treaty lacked a compendium.

Here, the Centre for Armed Violence Reduction and the Government of Australia cover the full breadth of advantages offered by the ATT, along with an accessible description of how it works in a single, thoroughly referenced source.

Preview booklets are available in Spanish, French and English

pdf Australia National Firearms Agreement 2017

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The National Firearms Agreement 2017 (Australia)

The National Firearms Agreement constitutes a national approach to the regulation of firearms. The Agreement affirms that firearms possession and use is a privilege that is conditional on the overriding need to ensure public safety, and that public safety is improved by the safe and responsible possession, carriage, use, registration, storage and transfer of firearms.

This Agreement sets out minimum requirements in relation to the regulation of firearms. Nothing in this Agreement prevents jurisdictions from adopting additional - including more restrictive - regulations.

Having regard to the National Firearms Trafficking Policy Agreement, first agreed in 2002, jurisdictions agree to establish or maintain substantial penalties for the illegal possession of a firearm.

pdf Alpers Australia SSAA Finances

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Australian Gun Laws May Seed Their Own Destruction

In a public safety consequence loaded with irony, state laws now guarantee a multi-million-dollar annual income stream to Australia's pro-gun lobby, the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA).

pdf Australia - Firearm Smuggling and the Origin of Crime Guns

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Where Do Australian Criminals Get Their Illegal Firearms?

For more than a decade, authorities whose job it is to seize and to trace crime guns have steadily contradicted the unsourced, evidence-free opinion that most illicit firearms are smuggled into the country.

Periodically updated since January 2010

pdf CrimTrac Firearm Figures Lack Credibility

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Latest Government Gun Figures Lack Credibility

Newly released gun owner licensing and firearm registration data from CrimTrac could be misleading, and require explanation.

pdf South Sudan Firearms Bill 2016

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South Sudan Firearms Bill 2016

Includes firearm registration, gun owner licensing, safe storage, armed security guards, hunting and sport shooting. Unofficial translation from the Small Arms Survey, Geneva.

As of April 2016, no date had been set for parliamentary review.

pdf Chapman Alpers Jones JAMA Australia Gun Law Reforms and Gun Deaths

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Australia 20 Years After Gun Reform

No mass shootings, declining firearm deaths

Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) - Chapman, Alpers and Jones (2016)

In the 18 years before Australia banned semi-automatic long guns there were 13 mass shootings. In the 20 years following the ban no mass shootings occurred, and the decline in total firearm deaths accelerated.

Banning rapid-fire firearms was associated with reductions in mass shootings and total firearm deaths.

pdf Australia - Firearm Amnesty Buyback and Destruction Totals

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Australia - Firearm Amnesty Buyback and Destruction Totals

Australian Firearm Amnesty

Buyback and Destruction Totals

From 1988 to 2015, Australia ran 41 state, territory and federal firearm amnesties for a combined total of 3,274 weeks. From the reports in which numbers were published, a minimum of 1,121,577 firearms were surrendered to police for destruction. For an additional 44 months, collection figures are unknown.

This table shows official tallies and reported numbers.

pdf Alpers Australia Gun Imports Climb - The Conversation.pdf

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Australia's Gun Numbers Climb

Men who own several buy more than ever before

The Conversation, 28 April  2016
By Philip Alpers

For the first time in 20 years, Australia's national arsenal of private guns is larger than it was before the Port Arthur massacre.

pdf Australia - Firearm Imports 1995-2015 (Customs)

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Australian Civilian Gun Imports, 1995-2015 (Customs)

Following a decade of mass shootings, dozens of state gun amnesties and
a massive federal buyback and destruction of newly prohibited rapid-fire
long guns, Australian arms dealers rushed to import more firearms.
Many of these replaced guns destroyed in the buy-back.

This table lists national firearm import totals provided by the Australian
Customs and Border Protection Service for the 19 years which followed
the Port Arthur gun massacre, from 1995/96 to 2014/15.

pdf Australia - Firearm Imports 1988-2015 (ABS)

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Australian Civilian Gun Imports, 1988-2015 (ABS)

In the 27 years from 1988 to 2015, Australians imported more than a million guns. Many of these replaced firearm types prohibited and destroyed during
federal firearm buybacks, or surrendered in dozens of state gun amnesties.

This table lists national firearm import totals provided by the Australian
Bureau of Statistics for the years 1988/89 to 2014/15.

pdf Alpers ANU Policy Forum A Disarming Lesson from the Pacific

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A Disarming Lesson from the Pacific

Policy Forum, 29 January 2016
By Philip Alpers

Australia is often held up as an example in US gun control debates, but America might learn more from a close look at Pacific Island nations.

Republished in The Age, Canberra Times, Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times, WA Today

pdf Alpers Washington Post America Has Lost Control of Guns

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America Has Lost Control of its Gun Infestation, Plague of Armed Violence

Washington Post, 10 December 2015
By Philip Alpers

Similar countries have saved lives by reducing the availability of firearms. Now the world leader in public health interventions has little option but to bite the bullet and to curb gun deaths by following the evidence.

pdf Alpers Gun Deaths and Lawful Gun Owners

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If Lawful Firearm Owners Cause Most Gun Deaths, What Can We Do?

The Conversation, 7 October 2015
By Philip Alpers

In many, perhaps even most gun deaths in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the United States, a lawful gun owner kills with a legal gun.

pdf Alpers Europe Deadliest Non-Terrorist Mass Shootings 1987 2015

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The Deadliest Non-Terrorist Mass Shootings in Europe, 1987-2015

Of 227 victims shot dead, 90% were killed by a previously law-abiding, licensed gun owner, while 97% were shot with a lawfully owned firearm. All the perpetrators were men.

pdf Pacific Lives Up to Its Name with Disarming Success

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By Consensus, a Sprawling World Region
Rejects Guns

The Conversation, 27 February and Newsweek, 10 March 2015.
By Philip Alpers

Nations of Oceania have largely avoided, and at times even reversed the steady proliferation of firearms and death by gunshot.

pdf Targeting Only 'Illegal Guns' Won't Stop Gun Injury

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All Illegal Guns Came from a Lawful Owner

The Star (Johannesburg/Gauteng); The Mercury (Durban); Pretoria News;
IOL News/Independent Online, South Africa, 14 November 2014
By Philip Alpers

Targeting just “illegal guns” to curb the firearm death toll in South Africa is akin to focussing only on “illegal cars” to reduce the road toll.

 

pdf Alpers JHU Ch16 The Big Melt

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Alpers JHU Ch16 The Big Melt

The Big Melt - One Million Guns Destroyed

How One Democracy Changed After Scrapping 30% of Its Guns

By Philip Alpers. In: Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis edited by Daniel Webster and Jon Vernick.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Australia's massive experiment in gun control saw a million firearms, or one third of the nation's private arsenal destroyed, then a million new, but different guns imported. Sixteen years after firearm laws were tightened, gun homicide remains 50-60% lower, and the nation has not seen another mass public shooting.

pdf Gun Control in Australia - Change is Possible, and Fast

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Gun Control in Australia - CNN OpEd

Change is Possible - and Fast

CNN International, 17 December 2012
By Philip Alpers

In Australia, one massacre turned the tide in favor of gun control. Nationwide gun law reform was announced just 12 days after the shootings. The risk of dying by gunshot in Australia quickly fell by more than 50% -- and stayed there.

pdf Krouse CRS USA Gun Control Legislation

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How Many Guns Are in the United States?

United States Congressional Research Service
By William J Krouse

By 2009, the estimated total number of firearms available to civilians in the United States had increased to approximately 310 million.

document Report to the UNODC-INEGI Center of Excellence

By 3225 downloads

Guns in Latin America and the Caribbean

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Mexico's National Institute of Statistics and Geography
By Aaron Karp

In 27 countries across the Caribbean and Latin America, 53.5 million firearms are in the hands of civilians, while another 9.1 million are held by the state.

document GunPolicy.org UN MGE Measurability and Implementation

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Measurability and Implementation

Country-by-country comparions of marking, tracing, record-keeping and other norms

Meeting of Governmental Experts on the Implementation of the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons (UNPoA MGE) at the United Nations in New York, 9-13 May 2011.

document GunPolicy.org UN MGE MTR Reported Implementation

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Marking, Tracing and Record-keeping

Reported Implementation to Date

Published United Nations small arms Programme of Action (UNPoA) and International Tracing Instrument (ITI) national reports, along with small arms legislation analysed from 73 UN Member States, provide preliminary marking and tracing implementation totals.

document Bingham on Alpers New Zealand NZH Staunch in the Line of Fire DOC

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Staunch in the Line of Fire

Working for gun control is a great way to become the target of bitter attacks
(text only)

A partial answer to those who attempt to discredit Philip Alpers by questioning his qualifications.

New Zealand Herald
16 December 2006
By Eugene Bingham

pdf Bingham on Alpers New Zealand NZH Staunch in the Line of Fire PDF

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Staunch in the Line of Fire

Working for gun control is a great way to become the target of bitter attacks
(text & pix)

A partial answer to those who attempt to discredit Philip Alpers by questioning his qualifications.

New Zealand Herald
16 December 2006
By Eugene Bingham

pdf PNG Alpers Surplus Weapon Disposal

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PNG Alpers Surplus Weapon Disposal

Papua New Guinea: Small Numbers, Big Fuss, Real Results

By Philip Alpers. In: Aaron Karp, Ed. The Politics of Destroying Surplus Small Arms: Inconspicuous Disarmament (Routledge).

Faced with continuing thefts of small arms and ammunition from state armouries, followed by surging gun violence and social disruption, Papua New Guinea (PNG) destroyed more than a third of its remaining military firearms. Although on a world scale the numbers were small, this disposal of surplus military small arms by the largest developing nation in the Pacific is shown to have been markedly successful in both implementation and effect. The five-year disposal process was encouraged by catalytic events, simultaneous rationalisation of the PNG defence force, key individuals acting as persistent agents of change – and importantly, a foreign donor government acting in support, albeit behind the scenes at all times.

Publisher's web page

spreadsheet Global Civilian Small Arms Stockpiles

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Counting Privately Owned Guns

In the hard copy version of the Small Arms Survey yearbook 'Guns and the City' (Cambridge University Press 2007), Aaron Karp's Chapter 2 'Completing the Count: Civilian firearms' contains several references to Annexes 1-5. In the printed version at page 67, readers are referred to 'Annexes Online' at a web link since broken. As the author's data tables in support of this chapter seem unavailable online, and in the interests of transparency, GunPolicy.org offers a compressed version of Appendices 1-5.

spreadsheet Global Military and Law Enforcement Firearm Stockpiles

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Guns Held By Armed Forces and Police

In the hard copy version of the Small Arms Survey yearbook 'Unfinished Business' (Oxford University Press 2006), Aaron Karp's Chapter 2 'Trickle and Torrent: State Stockpiles' contains several references to Appendix I and II. In the printed version at page 61, Endnote 1 reads: Appendices 1 and 2 are available at http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/publications/yb_2006.htm

For several years, Karp's appendices were not displayed at this URL. As at January 2013, Endnote 1 had also been removed from the online version of Chapter 2 displayed on the Small Arms Survey web site. In the interests of transparency, GunPolicy.org offers a compressed version of both Appendix I and II.

pdf Warner NCGC 2006 Australia Firearm Legislation a Decade After the NFA

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Firearms Legislation in Australia

A Decade After the Nationwide Agreement

Warner, Kate and Simon Sherwood: A 10-year review of firearm legislation in all Australian States and Territories to gauge compliance with the 1996 National Firearms Agreement. Commissioned by the National Coalition for Gun Control.

Canberra, July 2006.

pdf Pacific Islands Forum Nadi Weapons Control Bill and Notes

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A Model Weapons Bill for Oceania

Since 1996, the sixteen member states of the Pacific Islands Forum have worked to develop a common regional approach to weapon control.
For details, see Pacific Model Legislation.
This download includes the PIF 2010 Revision of the Bill.

pdf Alpers SAS PNG SR5 Gunrunning In Papua New Guinea

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Alpers SAS PNG SR5 Gunrunning In Papua New Guinea

Gun-Running in Papua New Guinea: From Arrows to Assault Weapons in the Southern Highlands

By Philip Alpers. Small Arms Survey, Geneva. Special Report No. 5.

This field study focuses on PNG's Southern Highlands Province, a conspicuous hot spot for armed violence and gun-related injury. It provides a preliminary tally of illegal high-powered guns in parts of the province seen as particularly vulnerable to armed violence, and documents the profound disruption wrought by their misuse.

Tribal fighters, mercenary gunmen, and criminals provide details of their illicit firearms and ammunition, trafficking routes, and prices paid.

The most common illegal assault weapon is the Australian-made self-loading rifle, followed by the US-made M16, both of which are sourced primarily from PNG Defence Force stocks. Many of the remainder are AR-15s obtained from the PNG police.

pdf Gun Violence, Crime and Politics in the Southern Highlands

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Community Interviews and a Guide to Small Arms in Papua New Guinea

Alpers, Philip. Background paper for Gun-running in Papua New Guinea: From Arrows to Assault Weapons in the Southern Highlands.

Geneva: Small Arms Survey, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. June, 2005.

spreadsheet NISAT Firearm Mortality Database 2005

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Global Gun Deaths

Unpublished, undated 'Global Gun Deaths' dataset prepared by the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers (NISAT) for the Norwegian Church Aid
report 'Who Takes The Bullet?: The impact of small arms violence' (2005).

In late 2008, NISAT advised that the 2005 dataset had not been updated since.

pdf Iootty Viva Rio Brazil Gun Law Translation PDF

By 1182 downloads

Brazil Statute of Disarmament Law No. 10.826/03

Final Wording of the Alternative Bill of the House of Representatives for Bill of Law No. 292 of 1999 of the Brazilian Senate, aka the Disarmament Statute.
Unofficial translation by Carolina Iootty, Viva Rio, Rio de Janeiro, 2003. 

pdf Small Arms Control in the Black Sea Region

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A Regional Assessment of Small Arms Control Initiatives in Eastern Eurasia

Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine. Grillot, Suzette R. Monitoring the Implementation of Small Arms Controls Project (MISAC); Eurasia Series No. 2. London: International Alert. December, 2003.

pdf Regulating Weapons in the Pacific: The 'Nadi Framework'

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Developing a Common Approach to Gun Control Legislation in Oceania

A precursor to the Draft Model Weapons Control Bill approved at the Pacific Islands Forum in August, 2003 as the basis for regional model small arms regulation. See also Pacific Model Legislation.

pdf Reconsidering Small Arms in the Solomon Islands - Findings

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Reconsidering Guns in the Solomon Islands

Small Arms Survey policy briefing

There were an estimated 1,010-1,270 illegal high powered and commercial firearms in the Solomon Islands – considerably more than the 500-700 commonly reported. The people of these islands, now gun-free by law, destroyed more firearms than the nation knew it had.

Robert Muggah and Philip Alpers. Geneva: Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. Working Paper, August 2003.

pdf Alpers SAS PIF OP8 Small Arms in the Pacific

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Alpers SAS PIF OP8 Small Arms in the Pacific

Small Arms in the Pacific

By Philip Alpers and Conor Twyford

Small Arms Survey, Geneva. Occasional Paper No. 8

This study reveals the scale and origins of small arms proliferation in the Pacific. It provides the first comparison of the number of firearms in 20 Pacific countries, both legal and illegal, state-owned and civilian. Imports and exports of small arms are tracked from one nation to another, documenting both sellers and buyers. Small arms used in crime, conflict and coups are traced to their source, revealing a single prominent pattern of origin. The study compares each country's gun laws and their loopholes, tracks gun-running routes in the Pacific, discusses regional initiatives and evaluates disarmament processes. Detailed case histories document the impact of small arm-related violence on the region's worst-affected communities.

pdf Injury Prevention Editorial - Americans Are Often Shot

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Yes, Americans are often shot—and so are many others

The public health community is crucial to any solution

Injury Prevention 2002;8:262
By Philip Alpers

If guns were discussed and regulated as matter-of-factly as other vectors of injury and disease, ideological barriers could be moved aside, much as they were in the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

pdf California State Assembly - Firearm Registration and Licensing

By 3128 downloads

Firearm Registration and Gun Owner Licensing - The International Experience

California State Assembly

Select Committee on Gun Violence

Testimony of Philip Alpers. Glendale, California. 1 December, 1999.

pdf Gold Medal Gunslingers - Shoot to Kill at the Olympic Games?

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Gold Medal Gunslingers - Shoot to Kill at the Olympic Games?

Combat Shooting Targets
the Olympics

Competition Rooted in Violent Fantasy Would Pollute Olympics, Legitimize Powerful Non-Sporting Weapons

By Philip Alpers and Josh Sugarmann. Violence Policy Center, Washington DC.

Combat shooting is a rehearsal for urban warfare, and a violent distortion of traditional target shooting. Competitions are built around fantasy scenarios, with humanoid "bad guy" targets to be shot and similar "hostage" targets to be avoided. The Olympic movement is dedicated to non-violence, yet combat shooters seek acceptance for a 'shoot-to-kill' Olympic event.

pdf .22 Calibre Rabbit Rifles Kill More People Than Any Other

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"Harmless" .22 Calibre Rabbit Rifles Kill More People Than Any Other Type of Gun

Contrary to their popular image as low-powered "bunny guns," .22-calibre rifles are commonly used in multiple shootings. In seven mass killings involving .22 rifles in Australia and New Zealand alone, 54 people died by gunfire.

Auckland, 1 March 1998.

pdf The Right to Keep Secret Guns

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The Right to Keep Secret Guns

Registering Firearms to Reduce Gun Violence

A Report Commissioned by the New Zealand Police Association.

Wellington, July 1997.