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Australia. 1997 ‘Gun Deaths Show Steady Fall.’ The Australian. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra. 27 February

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Gun deaths fell by 46 per cent during the past 15 years before tough new firearm legislation introduced after last year's Port Arthur massacre, according to figures released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The study period from 1980 to 1995 did not cover last year's Port Arthur massacre, in which 35 people were shot dead.

A spokesman for the bureau, Mr David Povah, said gun deaths fell from 700 in 1980 to 479 to 1995.

"The figures clearly show that the absolute numbers of deaths, and the rates of deaths, had been steadily declining before Port Arthur," Mr Povah said.

"Also the pattern of gun deaths declined right across the board, from suicides to homicides and accidents."

More than 15,000 people died in gun related incidents -- 0.5 per cent of all Australian deaths - during the 15-year period.

While a spate of shootings over the period had received considerable attention - notably massacres in Melbourne and Sydney in 1987 and 1991 - the nation-wide analysis found that gun-related deaths actually decreased from 4.8 deaths per 100,000 in 1980/82 to 2.6 deaths per 100,000 in 1995.

The Federal Government has paid $155 million compensation to shooters for the 313,817 firearms they have surrendered in Canberra's gun buy-back scheme. The scheme, which started last April, will run until September 30.

The most likely candidate to die in a shooting is a male aged between 15 and 34-years-old who lives in Tasmania or the Northern Territory.

While young men were at greatest risk, 210 children under 15 were killed in firearm-related incidents during the sample period.

Nearly half (46 per cent) of child firearm deaths were homicides and a further 30 per cent were the result of accidents.

The majority of firearm deaths, 78 per cent, were suicides and homicides accounted for 15 per cent. Two per cent of all deaths resulted from the "accidental discharge of firearms".

Men are more likely to be killed or kill themselves with a gun; 93 per cent of all suicides and 64 per cent of all homicides were men.

ID: Q1935

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