Australian Institute of Criminology

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Gun deaths down - high level of gun suicide by elderly men of concern

Media Release

22 November 2000

22 November 2000

The number of firearm-related deaths in Australia is about half the number of a decade ago. Latest figures show that there were 328 firearms deaths in Australia in 1998, compared with 696 in 1988, 713 in 1987, 697 in 1986 and 714 in 1985.

Dr Adam Graycar, Director, Australian Institute of Criminology, said "the big drop was in suicides by firearms - 8.8% of all suicides in 1998 involved a firearm, compared to over 30% in the early 1980s."

Dr Graycar outlined these figures in the opening address to the National "Injury 2000" Conference in Canberra (Dr Graycar is giving the opening keynote at 9 am on Thursday, 23 November 2000).

Dr Graycar told the national and international audience that the decline was a mixture of both demographics and policy. Restrictions, screening, licensing and registration have certainly had some impact.

Australian Institute of Criminology research found that fewer than 10% of firearm homicides in the last three years have been committed by licensed firearm owners.

"The suicide story" he told the Conference, "has a sad demographic twist. Men over the age of 65 had a firearms suicide rate of 5.5 per 100,000 - more than double the rate of men aged 25-34 (whose firearms suicide rate was 2.6 per 100,000). Disaggregating firearms suicides of those aged over 65, there were two peaks - men aged 65-69 had a firearms suicide rate of 6.3 per 100,000 while those aged 85 and over had a firearms rate of 7.2 per 100,000. (Note, the number of men over 85 is small)."

"We all need to work in partnership to promote and enhance firearms safety," said Dr Graycar. "We need to work across a spectrum of policy, technological innovation, community support and mutual respect to broaden the ways of making our society as safe as possible."