SYDNEY, Australia -- Australian officials demanded Wednesday that the National Rifle Association pull a video airing on its Web site claiming that the nation's gun reform laws had backfired.
The video, presented as a television news story, says that crimes involving guns have increased in Australia since the laws, which ban all semiautomatic rifles, semiautomatic shotguns and pump-action shotguns, were introduced.Federal Attorney General Daryl Williams said the NRA was using inaccurate statistics and urged the group to remove "any reference to Australia" from its Web site.
"I find it quite offensive that the NRA is using the very successful gun reform laws introduced in 1996 as the basis for promoting ownership of firearms in the United States," he said.
Williams sent a letter Wednesday to NRA president Charlton Heston, asking for the immediate withdrawal of misleading information.
Australia's gun-related homicide rate was 0.28 per 100,000 people in 1998 compared to 4 per 100,000 in the United States, Williams wrote in the letter.
"There are many things that Australia can learn from the United States," he wrote. "How to manage firearm ownership is not one of them."
Australia adopted the gun laws after an April 1996 rampage by Martin Bryant, who opened fire with military-style rifles at the Port Arthur historic site in the state of Tasmania. Bryant, who killed 35 people and injured 19, is serving a life sentence.
More than 640,000 firearms were removed from the Australian community under a buyback program. The NRA video shows footage of guns being sawed to pieces and thousands of destroyed guns piled on scrap heaps.
South Australia's Attorney General Trevor Griffin -- who is seen in the video talking about crime -- said he was not interviewed by the NRA and a quote from him was taken from a previous interview and used out of context.
The video claims that after the gun laws took effect, armed robbery in Australia went up 69 percent, assaults involving guns rose 28 percent, gun murders increased 19 percent and home invasions rose 21 percent. It does not give a source for the data.
Dr. Adam Graycar, director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, said the statistics were misleading.
He said the latest annual crime figures, for 1998, showed that assaults had increased but that most attacks did not involve guns. He said homicides decreased and were only rarely committed with guns.
Because there were so many other factors involved, such as population change, it was "enormously difficult" to draw conclusions about what effect the gun laws have had on the level of crime, Graycar said.
"It is a very long bow to draw," to claim the ban led to an increase in crime, he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
"What we've got here is an American group with a heavy gun culture -- guns figure very significantly in crime in the United States -- trying to transpose that into Australia. There is no comparison," Graycar said.
On the Net: NRA site www.nra.org
Australian government's site: www.fed.gov.au