On April 28, 1996, in Port Arthur, Tasmania, a gunman opened fire on tourists. It was the worst mass murder in Australia’s history, ending with 23 people wounded and 35 killed. But because of actions taken by the Australian government, there hasn’t been a mass shooting in the nearly 22 years since.
Twelve days after the Port Arthur shootings, Australia’s politicians, led by conservative Prime Minister John Howard, announced bipartisan gun-control regulations. New gun laws required that all firearms be registered to their owners, required that gun buyers provide a “genuine reason” for needing each new gun they purchased (self-defense wasn’t an allowable reason), and a massive buyback of more than 600,000 semi-automatic shotguns and rifles.
Not only did this lead to an end of mass shootings, but other gun crimes were also drastically reduced. Between 1995 and 2006, homicides by firearms dropped 59%. And unlike what NRA bought American politicians would have us believe, there was no corresponding increase in non firearm-related homicides. Suicides by gun dropped by 65%, robberies dropped significantly, and home invasions did not increase.
Following a visit to the US shortly after the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, former Prime Minister John Howard wrote an op-ed for an Australian paper, lamenting America’s lack of desire to change gun laws. Howard wrote:
“There is more to this than merely the lobbying strength of the National Rifle Association and the proximity of the November presidential election… So deeply embedded is the gun culture of the US, that millions of law-abiding, Americans truly believe that it is safer to own a gun, based on the chilling logic that because there are so many guns in circulation, one’s own weapon is needed for self-protection. To put it another way, the situation is so far gone there can be no turning back.”
Thirty five Australians died in a mass shooting. In response, Australia passed new gun laws, and haven’t had a mass shooting in over 20 years. How many more Americans have to die before our country demands the same?