Lott’s comments about Australia that I discussed yesterday follow a similar pattern to those of many American pro-gunners. First, they greatly exaggerate the restrictions introduced in 1996, claiming that Australia “banned guns” or, in Lott’s case claiming that Australia banned “most guns and [made] it a crime to use a gun defensively.” In fact, semi-automatic long guns were banned and there was no change in the law on self-defence. Next, the pro-gunners will assert or imply that Australians were made defenceless. In fact, the new laws made very little difference there. Finally, they present some cherry-picked crime statistics in an attempt to show that crime went up because of the new laws. The trouble here is that there are lots of different categories and crime goes up and down, so you can usually find one category where crime has increased.

One example of this sort of thing was debunked on the Urban Legends Reference Pages. Another example was an NRA video that was criticized by many people.

Lott’s most dramatic statistic is:

In Sydney, handgun crime rose by an incredible 440 percent from 1995 to 2001.

The source Lott gives for his claim is this article in Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph. They seem to have originally got it from this report., which found that the number of handgun shootings in NSW increased from 9 in 1995 to 42 in 2000. The increase seems much more dramatic when expressed as a percentage, and such small numbers tend to fluctuate greatly. Naturally Lott does not report the dramatic decline that followed in 2002.